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Friday, February 15, 2019

2019 FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING REPORT: NEW YORK YANKEES

By Michael Wong

Tampa, Fla.--The New York Yankees didn't sign Bryce Harper or Manny Machado (yet?) but still improved a team that won 100-plus games in 2018 and gave the World Series-winning Boston Red Sox their toughest test in the postseason.  With the rotation serving as a main point of concern, GM Brian Cashman moved quickly to trade for Seattle's ace James Paxton and then re-signed both C.C. Sabathia and J.A.Happ.  While the loss of star shortstop Didi Gregorious until around July is a big loss, Cahsman did his best to fix that issue as well by signing former Colorado Rockie infielders Troy Tulowitzki and D.J. LeMahieu.  It is these and some other issues that confront both the team and those who will garner ownership in terms of fantasy baseball in 2019.

1.  Perhaps the player who carries the most concern/intrigue going into spring training is catcher Gary Sanchez who had a season to forget in 2018 as he battled injuries and was hideous at the dish to the tune of a .186 average.  Despite the horrid year, Sanchez still was the same stud who cracked 33 homers the year prior and expectations remain very high here given that he is still only 26.  With catcher looking as barren as ever when it comes to capable offensive players, Sanchez will continue to demand a high cost at the draft table.  In terms of where he will go from here, a fully healthy Sanchez will surely be nothing but a positive and the fact he dealt with a shoulder problem which is about as bad an injury as there is for a hitter could mean a quick move back to superstar numbers.  Digging a bit deeper, Sanchez' .197 BABIP was comically unlucky last season and his 12.3 BB/9  rate remains supreme.  Those are both very good indicators Sanchez could easily return to hitting .260 or better with all of that natural power.  Again, we always advise avoiding paying the freight for catchers but Sanchez seems worth the bounce back cost if you decide to go that route.

2.  While he heard his name in trade rumors all offseason, the Yankees ultimately held onto third baseman Miguel Andujar which will turn out to be the correct call given how tremendous a natural hitter the kid is.  Coming off a monster 2018 debut when he slammed 27 home runs, collected 92 RBI, and batted .297, Andujar is already a terrific offensive player who is still a few years away from his prime.  30 home runs and 100 RBI with a .300 average is certainly not out of the question here for Andujar this season and this may be the last time he ever comes this cheap.  Get on board.

3.  In one of those rare numbers quirks, there was a strong consensus that slugging outfielder Giancarlo Stanton had an "off" year in 2018 despite hitting 38 home runs, scoring 102, and collecting 100 RBI.  That's what happens when you hit 59 bombs the season prior and then move into an offensive haven that is Yankee Stadium amid great fanfare.  Be that as it may, Stanton took some time to adjust to his new home and the high expectations that come along with it but his numbers overall still graded out very well.  Of course, Stanton's ugly 29.9 K/9 didn't help his .266 average but it is not like he hit .230 either.  Now with a full year in the city under his belt, Stanton could easily sail past 40 dingers this season with his customary 100-plus tallies in runs and RBI.

4.  It will be interesting to see how the numbers are impacting for James Paxton after moving from a prime pitcher's park in Seattle to the launching pad that is Yankee Stadium after coming over in a winter trade.  While he rightfully carries an injury-prone tag due to annual DL stints that all Stephen Strasburg owners would understand, Paxton's extreme strikeout rates (11.68 K/9 last season) make him very attractive for fantasy baseball purposes.  Still, you have to forecast some increase in ERA and WHIP for Paxton given his new park and division and the injury threat won't be going away any time soon which further adds to the risk here.  In other words, don't break the bank for Paxton at the draft table but let him come to you.

5.  First baseman Luke Voit is a bit of a puzzle as the power explosion he put up out of the blue during the second half of 2018 failed to match his minor league rates and evoke some Shane Spencer memories for followers of the club.  Right now Voit has the inside track to the starting job over the forever hurt Greg Bird but the leash may not be as long as you would think here.  While we respect what Voit accomplished last season, you never should pay for career seasons and especially when they are such a shock like this situation.


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