February 15, 2019

Lindy's 2019 Baseball Annual: Yankees Predicted To Finish Atop AL East

Lindy's Sports - 2019 Baseball Annual
AL East
Red Sox
Blue Jays
General Comments:
Yankees - As GM Brian Cashman put it, the Yankees were a "fully operational Death Star" during the Hot Stove season, adding James Paxton and courting some of the top free agents, including Manny Machado, to close the gap on the Red Sox. New York was 10-13 against Boston in 2018, with a minus-28 run differential.

Red Sox - The Red Sox re-signed playoff hero Nathan Eovaldi but otherwise had a quiet off-season after toying with the Yankees, Astros and Dodgers in their World Series run. Including their 11-3 playoff record, the Sox were a staggering 119-57, and the entire batting order returns intact. A 100-win season should be a breeze.
[Note: "Courting" free agents will not "close the gap" on anyone. Talk is cheap. Boston's summary sounds much more positive (as do the sections below), yet the MFY are picked to finish first.]

AL MVP: Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees
AL Cy Young: Trevor Bauer, Cleveland
AL Rookie: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays
AL Rookie Pitcher: Jesus Luzardo, Athletics

NL MVP: Paul Goldschmidt, Cardinals
NL Cy Young: Aaron Nola, Phillies
NL Rookie: Victor Robles, Nationals
NL Rookie Pitcher: Alex Reyes, Cardinals

AL Division Winners: Yankees, Cleveland, Astros
NL Division Winners: Nationals, Cardinals, Dodgers
AL Wild Cards: Red Sox, Rays
NL Wild Cards: Cubs, Mets
AL Pennant: Astros
NL Pennant: Cardinals

Red Sox
Is there such a thing as celebration fatigue? With a five-game dismissal of the Dodgers in the World Series last year, Boston notched its fourth title in 15 years.

Scout's Take: The great thing about Dave Dombrowski is that he doesn't worry about what could happen four years down the road and doesn't over-value their prospects. He's all about winning now. A lot of these young general managers, who never want to take a risk, could learn a lot from Dave. ... I'd be worried about Sale. His stuff was not the same in the second half. ... These guys do not give away at-bats when they get to two strikes. They find a way to put the ball in play. Betts is really, really good at that, and he's the MVP. What's that tell you? ... Not sure about their plan to go without a set closer. I understand there is pressure in other innings, but it takes a certain guy to get the last out. The safety net that is there in the seventh and eighth is gone in the ninth.

[Note: There has been absolutely no indication that the Red Sox will be "without a set closer" in 2019.]

Rotation: Chris Sale's fastball/slider combination is so lethal, hitters are challenged to square him up even if they know what's coming. ... [David Price's] fastball usage has declined from 74 percent in 2010 to 46 percent in 2018. ... Rick Porcello, a sinkerballer earlier in his career, threw his slider a career-high 24 percent of the time last season. He needs to do a better job of keeping the ball in the yard after allowing 88 homers over the past three seasons. That's the third-highest long-ball rate in the majors since 2016, behind James Shields and Mike Fiers.

Catcher: [Sandy] Leon's 3.52 catcher's ERA since 2016 leads the AL and ranks second in the majors, behind Yasmani Grandal, in that span. ... [Christian] Vazquez's career 39.4-percent caught-stealing rate (52-for-132) is the best among active catchers (minimum 100 games).

Infield: Of [Mitch Moreland's] 99 hits last season, 67 were up the middle or the other way. ... Xander Bogaerts, the first Red Sox shortstop since Nomar Garciaparra to drive in 100 runs in a season, is a disciplined hitter with a solid two-strike approach, but his defensive metrics are below average. Third baseman Rafael Devers ... is one of seven MLB players since 2000 to have hit 30-plus homers in 175 or fewer games before age 22.

Outfield: [Mookie Betts] ranked sixth in the AL with 4.2 pitches per plate appearance last season, and his 64.4-percent rate of pitches taken was second only to Joe Mauer. ... [Andrew Benintendi] has an impressive ability to control his heart rate and stick to a plan in big spots. His .329 batting average in "close and late" situations and .338 mark with runners in scoring position ranked among the top 10 in the AL last season. Boston's starting outfielders ... stole 68 bases in 78 attempts last year, an 87-percent success rate.

[Note: No heart-rate control stats were provided.]

Dombrowski's emphasis on the here-and-now has put a crimp in a farm system that once ranked among the game's elite. But the Red Sox have enough money - and enough key players under control for the foreseeable future - to buy time as they restock the talent pipeline for the long haul.
A 100-win season, a major league-record 267 home runs and 3.4 million in attendance would typically be cause for euphoria ... but the abrupt ending to the 2018 season left [the Yankees] with an empty feeling inside.

The Yankees were feeling awfully good about themselves after Game 2 of the American League Division Series. ... Aaron Judge [walked] past the [Red Sox] clubhouse ... with "New York, New York" blaring on his boombox. In the world of competitive gamesmanship, this is typically known as "poking the bear." The Red Sox responded with a 16-1 blowout in New York ... and the Yankees were ultimately resigned to watching their historical rivals storm past Houston and Los Angeles for a title.

Scout's Take: Yes, they hit a ton of homers and beat up a lot of No. 4 and 5 starters. But look at what happened to them against Boston in the playoffs. They had no idea how to do anything but take big swings. They were not a good situational hitting team, certainly not as good as Boston. ... If they can keep Paxton on the mound, they've got a No. 1 starter. His cutter is almost unhittable. The problem is his health. He's never had a major problem like an elbow or a shoulder, but it's always something with him. ... Sanchez is a brutal receiver, but I guess they're going to stay with him. It seems like he's always running to the backstop to get the ball. ... They made a good move keeping J.A. Happ. He's smart and knows how to work around not having a good breaking pitch.

[Note: Yep, that all sounds amazing!]

Rotation: Luis Severino was making a strong case for Cy Young consideration last year when ... his 2.31 pre-All-Star game ERA ballooned to 5.57 after the break. The Yankees hope it was just fatigue ... Paxton has averaged 24 starts and 139 innings over the past three seasons, so the Yankees might have to come up with a creative conservation plan to get him through October.

Catcher: Is Gary Sanchez approaching a crossroads at age 26? ... [H]is laissez faire defense became harder to abide when he missed an extended period last season because of a groin injury and slashed .186/.291/.406. The Yankees don't have enough free DH at-bats to go around, so Sanchez is going to have to apply himself and figure it out defensively.

Infield: Didi Gregorius underwent Tommy John surgery last October and probably won't be back until the All-Star break, at the earliest. The Yankees took a one-year flyer on the perennially injured Troy Tulowitzki to fill the void. Tulo didn't play at all in 2018 ... Third baseman Miguel Andujar [is] considered a liability with the glove, but scouts think the raw materials are there for him to become a passable defender.

[Note: Reminds me of the quote attributed to Casey Stengel: "See that fella over there? He's 20 years old. ... In 10 years he's got a chance to be 30."]

Outfield: Judge's ground-ball rate spiked from 35 to 42 percent last year, and he needs to get the ball airborne more consistently ... Injury magnet Jacoby Ellsbury has two years left on his $153 million contract, and the Yankees and their fans are counting the days.

Designated Hitter: [Giancarlo] Stanton [who struck out a whopping 211 times last year] is prone to ungodly hot stretches followed by extended periods of flying open, chasing fastballs up in the zone and looking completely lost. The Yankees have to hope he'll put less pressure on himself ... otherwise they might get a little antsy about the guaranteed $270 million still due him.

[Aaron Boone's first season] ended on a sour note when he was pilloried for sticking with starting pitchers CC Sabathia and Luis Severino too long and failing to show the requisite sense of urgency in the Yankees' ALDS loss to Boston. Through no fault of his own, Boone is being compared with Alex Cora, who steered the Red Sox through his rookie season with barely a misstep. No one said it was going to be easy."

1 comment:

FenFan said...

"Winning the off-season" is as meaningless as tits on a bull. Last year, the MFY were going to blow everyone out of the water and Judge and Stanton were going to break every record in the book. We shall see... but I'm not too worried.