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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING REPORT: NEW YORK YANKEES

By Michael Wong

Tampa, Fla.--The New York Yankees enter into thee 2018 season among the short list of favorites to win the World Series.  Having seen their "rebuild" sped up by a year when they qualified for the postseason (and won the wild card game and a series), the Yanks then went out and make the move of the winter by acquiring the top slugger in the game in outfielder Giancarlo Stanton to pair with fellow 50-home monster Aaron Judge.  So with that that as the backdrop, let's check out some issues surrounding the team from a fantasy baseball angle this spring.

1.  Can Stanton crack 70 home runs?  That is the ultimate question making the rounds here in Tampa as Stanton comes off a 59-homer campaign in 2017 with the Marlins.  When you consider that the ballpark in Miami is as pitching-leaning as they get and then take into account Stanton will move into arguably the best power park in the American League at Yankee Stadium, it is easy to see a path for another 11 long balls here.  The only issue that would stand in the way is Stanton's history of ill health and that history is filled with some serious injuries.  Many have been of the fluke variety however and so Stanton represents a mid-first round superstar in fantasy baseball terms who should light up runs, homers, and RBI at the very least.  The average has been a hit-or-miss during his career but even there, Stanton has made inroads on his past strikeout issues.  This should be fun to watch.

2.  Speaking of massive sluggers, what can Aaron Judge do for an encore?  What is funny is that Stanton's arrival has overshadowed Judge a bit and that is amazing when you consider he smacked 52 homers, scored 128 runs, and drove in 114 as a rookie.  Judge is as powerful a slugger as there is this side of Stanton and another 50 homers seems like a good bet.  What we have to worry about here though is a potential sophomore slump as opposing pitchers will be much more careful going up against Judge this season and they also figure to attack the holes in his swing which could really hurt the batting average here.  For all the amazing things that Judge accomplished a year ago, his 30.7 K/9 rate was disgusting and a .260 average could be the result if no inroads area made there.  So while Stanton is a locked-in first round pick this spring, Judge may find himself more in the early round 2 realm.

3.  Will the Yankees really go with an all-rookie left side of in the field?  On talent alone, the Yanks have two superb infield prospects in shortstop Gleybar Torres and third baseman Miguel Andujar.  However both guys severely lack experience and that could result in some stark growing pains early on in the season.  Torres is the more lauded of the two and rightly so as he has five-tool potential at shortstop.  Andujar is no slouch though as he has terrific contact skills and power that is beginning to bubble to the surface.  Both guys are major fantasy baseball sleepers this spring but both are far from sure things.

4.  Which Masahiro Tanaka will show up this season?  It certainly was a tale of two halves when it came to the Yankees' ace a year ago as Tanaka was simply brutal the first half of the year (5.47 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 23 HR) and then was an ace again in the second half (3.77 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 12 HR).  The home runs were the big problem here and Tanaka can be a guy who causes a lot of stress in any given start due to the threat of a long ball unraveling a good outing.  Be that as it may, Tanaka's swing-and-miss stuff was a good last season as it was since his rookie campaign and the fact he will come so much cheaper this season in fantasy baseball drafts make him a good buy low candidate.

5.  Can Greg Bird finally stay in one piece?  That is the million dollar question here as Bird has a world of talent but insane injury trouble have ruined each of his last two MLB seasons.  2017 saw Bird have a scorching spring training but then fall prey to a stubborn ankle injury in April that resulted in surgery.  The procedure kept Bird out until September but then he came back and showed the big-time power that made him such a big prospect.  With Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, and Gary Sanchez getting most of the pub, Bird is falling under the radar heading into the 2018 season and this will make him a swell buy in fantasy baseball drafts this spring.  Count us as potential buyers as Judge has 30-home run potential.


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