By Michael Otero
Co-Editor in Chief
The Yankees have been the talk of the town for 20 years. How close are they to winning a championship? It appears now that conversation that was taking place in the Bronx is now taking place in Queens.
The Mets, fresh off a playoff-birth for the first time in nearly a decade and a World Series appearance, are one of the front-runners to return back to the fall classic. How can they not be? They have the deepest rotation in baseball featuring Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz. (All of whom are under contract for multiple years after 2016). Starting pitch will not be an issue for the Mets, even if one of their studs goes down with an injury, but their bullpen is suspect at best. Other than Jeurys Familia, who is a legitimate lockdown closer, the Mets will struggle to bridge that gap between their fantastic starters and their all-star closer.
Pitching will win you games in the postseason, but hitting has to get your there. The Mets offense looks similar to last season with a few exceptions. Postseason hero Daniel Murphy now wears a Nationals jersey and he is replaced with Neil Walker. His double-play partner is now Asdrubal Cabrera. The two are above average hitters and will provide solid defense up the middle which will be an upgrade from last season.
The Mets will lean heavily on Yoenis Cespedes who resigned with the Mets after weeks of negotiations. Cespedes will have to shoulder the offensive load for the Mets and that’s fine with him. Over the last two seasons, the Cuban outfielder has averaged 29 home runs and over 100 RBIs. If he has another season like that and other key contributors like Curtis Granderson and Lucas Duda build on last season, the Mets will be well on their way to October.
If all goes well for the Mets, they will be around a 92 win team and one you do not want to play in the postseason. If injuries start to pile up, then the bottom could cave out. David Wright, the heart and soul of this team, is a huge question mark health-wise and the lack of bullpen depth and consistent offense is what worries fans about this team. At worst, this is a .500 baseball club; somewhere in the 81-84 win range.
Now, on to the Yankees. This is like being in the twilight zone. The Yankees are not the team in New York with all the expectations from the media. Of course their fans still desire a championship and that is what the ultimate goal is from the general manager, but the Yankees are sort of flying under the radar. (If that’s even possible to do with the second-highest payroll in baseball).
Much of the Yankees 2015 group has reconvened in 2016 with a few players acquired via trade. The Yankees upgraded at second base from Stephen Drew, who was barely able to bat .200 last season, to Starlin Castro. Castro is a righty bat who can play three different infield positions and should fare well in a hitter friendly Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees offense is a solid one if they are able to stay away from doctors and stay on the field. Veterans Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann all have the capability to hit 25 home runs and drive in 75 runs and that has been the Yankees offense for years; use the long ball to drive people home. Speedsters Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner are more under the microscope this season after subpar years one year prior; culminating in the Yankees wildcard loss to the Houston Astros. The offense ranked second in the MLB in runs scored last season and there should not be any problems in that department.
The starting pitch is where things get a little shaky. Unlike the Mets, the Yankees rotation is about as inconsistent as they come. The Yankee starters are injury prone to say the least, with four out of the starting five having spent time on the disabled list last season. Fans still hold their breath every time Masahiro Tanaka throws a pitch; fearing he will tear something in his elbow. Michael Pineada has been a frequent visitor to the disabled list, as has recovering alcoholic C.C. Sabathia. The Yankees have a few young arms in the rotation in Nathan Eovaldi and Luis Severino. The duo are good strikeout guys and pack heat as well; constantly hitting triple digits on radar guns.
The strength for the Yankees is their bullpen. Their key to success will be getting just enough length out of their starters to get to their big three of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and newcomer Aroldis Chapman. Betances and Miller have shown what they can do in Pinstripes, (which is pretty darn impressive), but Chapman will be the Yankees closer once he returns from suspension. Chapman has an array of pitches but the most devastating of all is a fastball which topped out at 106 mph. The three men at the back end of the pen will save the Yankees games and get them tightly contested wins.
Best case scenario for the Yankees would be somewhere in the 89-92 win range. That’s if everything goes well though. The Yankees are a very old team on paper and as we saw last season in August and September, this team began to break and wear down. Worst case scenario means the Yankees make a lot of doctor’s visits and they finish around 80 wins.
The Mets will benefit from a much weaker division than the Yankees play in and as a result, I see the Amazin’s beating up on lowly Philadelphia and Atlanta on their way to another NL East crown. For the Yankees, everything needs to bounce right for them and I think it will. They have a tough division and Toronto and Boston are no joke, but they can pull it off if they remain healthy. Ultimately, my gut tells me the Yankees will finish behind Toronto and again be forced to play in a wildcard game.
Is there a Subway Series in October in the making? You never know, but I’ll tell you this. This is the closest we have been to a YankeesMets World Series in a while. Buckle up; this baseball season is going to be fun.