I wrote a column back in March on the New York Yankees with the headline “Yankees Aim For Success in 2018 With Young Core.” I ended that same column by saying, “The 2017 Yankees don’t have the depth that can compete for a championship, but they have young talent that can develop another year and gear up for a championship contending run in 2018.” I’m very glad that I was wrong about this.
The 2017 Yankees has been a fun group to watch, as some of their young players have exceeded expectations. Who expected Aaron Judge to break the rookie home run record with 52 this year? Despite his bad outing in the Wild Card Game, how about the season Luis Severino has had after being relegated to the bullpen during 2016?
Even after missing nearly a month with an injury, Gary Sanchez still had a 30+ home run season as a 24-year-old catcher. Sanchez and Judge combined for 85 home runs in each of their first full seasons in the big leagues.
Going into the Wild Card game against the Minnesota Twins, it would’ve been a major disappointment had the season ended there. Before the season, if you had told me that the Yankees would be one of the Wild Card teams, I wouldn’t have believed you. But here we are getting ready for the ALDS.
Even as Severino was getting rocked by the Twins in the top of the first with the season on the line, I still felt that if they kept the deficit at 3-0, they would have a shot to comeback. I didn’t feel that way in the 2015 American League Wild Card game when the Yankees fell behind by three against the Houston Astros.
One of the unsung heroes for the 2017 Yankees has been relief pitcher Chad Green, who entered the game in the top of the 1st with runners on second and third and the Yanks down 3-0. Green struck out the next two batters to get out of the jam. This brings me to another unsung hero on the team.
After missing the first month of the season due to injury, shortstop Didi Gregorius broke Derek Jeter’s single season Yankees shortstop home run record by hitting 25 long balls. He hit his first career playoff home run at a perfect time with runners on the corners in the bottom of the 1st inning to tie the game 3-3. From that moment on, I knew the Yankees were in good shape for the game.
It was great to hear Yankee Stadium erupt like it did during the Wild Card game. It felt like they were playing at the old stadium with how electric the crowd got when Gregorius, Brett Gardner and Judge went deep. You can tell that the fans have really gravitated to this year’s team.
Up next is a matchup with the Cleveland Indians, who I think are the best team in baseball at the moment. It will be tough for the Yankees to get past them, but they are playing with house money at this point by just being in the playoffs. Having a good offense and a strong bullpen is essential in the postseason. The Yankees have both of these features, which is why they will not be an easy team to play against in October. I unfortunately think the Indians will prevail in this series in five games but hopefully the Yankees can prove me wrong once again.