Yankees Spring Training: 10 storylines for 2017
The 'Chase for 28' continues as the Yankees descend on Tampa for spring camp
Several New York Yankees players will officially report to the team's Tampa, Fla. training complex on February 14, to usher in another season of Bronx Bomber baseball beginning at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
The new year brings with it a host of new storylines to keep an eye on, along with a much different looking roster that features a plethora of young talented players hoping to establish themselves at the Major League level.
The culture in the clubhouse may be different from 2016, but the championship expectations of years past have never changed. The "Chase for 28" continues in earnest on Opening Day 2017.
Here now, we take a closer look at 10 of the most intriguing storylines for the New York Yankees entering the new year:
10 Yankees Storylines to Watch in 2017
10) Who will earn the final two spots in the starting rotation?
Last year, it was Ivan Nova and CC Sabathia battling it out for the fifth and final rotation job. This year, it's likely that Luis Severino, Chad Green, Luis Cessa and Bryan Mitchell will be the final four candidates to round out New York's starting staff. Each one has a chance to lock up the job for themselves with a strong performance in spring camp, so it will be an intriguing position battle to keep tabs on.
9) Which player will secure the starting job at first base?
After the 2016 retirement of longtime Yankees veteran Mark Teixeira, the heir apparent for the future of the first base position appears to be 24-year-old lefty slugger Greg Bird. Joining him in the competition for the starting role is 25-year-old Tyler Austin, who came through in a number clutch situations during his brief 2016 stint in the Majors. Additionally, 2016 NL home run co-leader Chris Carter reportedly signed a one-year deal on February 7, adding more speculation and intrigue over who will ultimately snag the starting job come April.
8) Which player will secure the starting job in right field?
The last major position battle to take place this spring will be in another corner position, however in the outfield. The two front-runners for the starting job are Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks, two young players with immense upside, but have yet to realize their full potential in the Majors. The Yankees are also flush with depth at the outfield position, with guys like Rob Refsnyder, Mason Williams and Tyler Austin able to man right field, not to mention prospects like Dustin Fowler and Clint Frazier who are also knocking on the door.
7) Can CC Sabathia replicate his strong 2016 campaign?
After a tumultuous offseason and inconsistent spring campaign in 2016, veteran lefty CC Sabathia became one of the most reliable and effective starters for the Yankees all season long. He made 30 starts and posted a 3.91 ERA, and would have collected far more than the nine decisions he earned had his run support been more substantial. With his knee brace ready to handle another full season, can the Yankees expect another strong year from their clubhouse leader in the final year of his current contract?
6) How will Aroldis Chapman perform in his second stint with New York?
Coming off an historic World Series run with the Chicago Cubs, dominant lefty closer Aroldis Chapman is back in the fold with the Yankees, whom he initially signed with a year ago before ultimately heading to the Cubs at the August trade deadline. While Andrew Miller might be in Cleveland, New York will enter the new year with two-thirds of its fearsome three-headed monster, as Chapman prepares to hold down the ninth inning alongside his former setup ace, Dellin Betances.
5) What can fans expect from new acquisition Matt Holliday?
The Yankees' first major splash of this past offseason was to sign veteran slugger Matt Holliday to a one-year deal worth $13 million, to help fill in the vacancy of Mark Teixeira at the designated hitter position. Holliday, a former first baseman and outfielder, may see some time in the field if the situation calls for it, but the Yankees will be hopeful he can deliver the goods with his bat, after piling up 295 career home runs in his first 13 MLB seasons.
4) Can Didi Gregorius take the next step toward becoming an All-Star?
After taking on the unenviable task of stepping into MLB legend Derek Jeter's old position in the Bronx, Didi Gregorius has quietly become one of the Yankees' most consistent and well-rounded players. He set career-highs in several offensive categories last season, and has started to put together an impressive highlight reel at the diamond's most crucial defensive position. Is 2017 the year Didi makes the jump to his first career All-Star game? Only time will tell.
3) Will Masahiro Tanaka pick up where he left off in 2016?
While the Yankees' starting rotation has remained one of the team's fluid position groups, Masahiro Tanaka pitched as well as almost any starter in the AL last season. Among qualified starters, Tanaka's 3.07 ERA ranked third in the AL, as did his 1.62 BB/9 rate. Tanaka also led his Yankees staff in wins (14), innings pitched (199 2/3 IP) and batters faced (805), leaving plenty of reason to hope that he can continue to be the proverbial "ace" in the Yankees rotation.
2) Which Baby Bombers might see MLB action in 2017?
You can count on one hand the number of teams that are in the conversation to decide which MLB club has the most talented farm system, and the Yankees are one of them. With one of the sport's best overall prospects - Gleyber Torres - and an organization ranking among the top-three in the game, the Yankees' future is brighter than it's been in decades. Which youngsters might force their way onto the Major League roster this season? Which might be forced into an early opportunity due to unforeseen injury? These questions and more will be answered in 2017, and could offer a clue as to just how high the Yankees could ascend in the near future.
1) What can Gary Sanchez achieve over 162 games?
This list may not be in any particular order, but there's little doubt that perhaps the most exciting storyline to watch in the Bronx this season will be the evolution of 24-year-old catching phenom and 2016 AL Rookie of the Year runner-up, Gary Sanchez. The Dominican native racked up a mind-bending 20 home runs and 42 RBI in just 229 plate appearances in his rookie season last year, and appeared to be as comfortable as any established Major Leaguer during his first everyday experience in MLB.
Sanchez can expect to remain in the heart of the Yankees' batting order from Opening Day to Game 162, as long as injuries elude him and his production remains significant. No one is expecting him to sustain the kind of pace he showed over the last two months of 2016, but opposing pitchers won't be excited to see him step into the box any time soon. As was the case every day from August to September 2016, fans can't wait to see what Gary Sanchez will do next.