ZiPS projects Yankees for a second-place finish and solid 2024 season

MLB: New York Yankees at Kansas City Royals
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

With projected standings rolling out as we draw closer to the start of Spring Training, the Yankees have been a hot topic as they’ve been projected for a strong season this year. Both PECOTA and FanGraphs have the Bronx Bombers winning the division and finishing with one of the two best records in the American League, but ZiPS is a little more bearish on the team’s outlook. Projecting the Yankees for 88 wins and the third-best record in the American League, it’s still a strong median outcome for New York, but it’s the Baltimore Orioles who they project for a first-place finish.

Concern about the team’s depth alongside a tough division will hold their record back, but as one of the three best teams in the American League, the Yankees are still expected to compete for a World Series title in 2024.

Yankees Expected to Have a Brutal AL East Battle

mlb: new york yankees at kansas city royals, aaron judge
Oct 1, 2023; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) observes the national anthem prior to a game against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees will have a tough battle in the division this season as ZiPS and most projection models believe the AL East will be a bloodbath. While the Baltimore Orioles certainly have question marks, they’re still a young group with an excellent farm system that can boost their production and give them excellent depth on the position player side of things. Jackson Holliday could debut this season and he’s the consensus top prospect in baseball, joining former number one prospects Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson in an emerging core.

Corbin Burnes is a huge addition for the Orioles as well, as he’s one of the three best pitchers in all of baseball and can stabilize the top of their rotation. Surrounding him will be Kyle Bradish and Grayson Rodriguez, who are some of the best young pitchers in the game as well and could provide huge innings in 2024. They’re not the only team the Yankees need to look out for, as the Toronto Blue Jays are projected to remain a dangerous ballclub in 2024. Sure, they missed out on Shohei Ohtani, but they have the core that helped them get to the postseason last season.

ZiPS believes the Blue Jays and Yankees will tie at 88 wins if they reach their median outcomes, although they give New York slightly better World Series odds. Tampa Bay is no slouch either, and they’re always able to find players to compete even when projection systems are a bit low on them, so we should expect another playoff-caliber season from the Rays in 2024. While most of the offseason has been spent laughing at the Boston Red Sox and their slashed payroll, they’re still a solid team and are significantly better than any fifth-place team in the sport.

MLB: San Diego Padres at Chicago White Sox, juan soto, yankees
Sep 29, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; San Diego Padres left fielder Juan Soto (22) bats against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning at Guaranteed Rate Field. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Adding Juan Soto to the mix has greatly improved the Yankees’ lineup, but they’ll need some other guys to step up and hit if they want to overperform their median outcomes. Something that people overlook with projections is that they’re projecting one’s median outcome, and that means that we’ll see tighter distributions for wins and statistics. If the Yankees win 100 games, it doesn’t mean that ZiPS was wrong about them, it just means that they played above their 50th-percentile outcome.

Something that only has a 5% chance of occurring doesn’t make it impossible to happen, and something that has a 95% chance of occurring doesn’t guarantee that it’ll come to fruition. Looking at last year’s projections, the Yankees had a 75.8% chance to make the postseason and the best-projected record in the American League East, but as we know they fell apart due to injuries and regression and found themselves watching the postseason from home and finishing in fourth place.

This season will certainly be an interesting one for the Yankees, who have sky-high expectations, plenty of scrutiny, and a lot of players entering walk years. While ZiPS doesn’t have as rosy of a projection for the Yankees, they still anticipate a playoff berth, and the goal right now for the team is to be healthy for a postseason run and try to finally bring home their 28th World Series Championship.