New York Yankees: A year makes a difference; view 2022 top prospects

New York Yankees, Jasson Dominguez

The New York Yankees are blessed with one of the best lists of prospects in both leagues. One of the reasons is that they have made good use of the international markets. This year they have picked up the number one international prospect in Rodrick Arias, yet another shortstop to bolster the minor league position. In 2019 they acquired phenom Jasson Dominguez, their number one prospect since then. But as time marches on, so do those rankings.

Here is a look at the rankings from FanGraphs in February 2021:

  1. Jason Dominguez, center fielder. Age 17.10, expected arrival 2025, FV 50.
  2. Deivi Garcia, starting pitcher. Age 21.7, expected arrival 2021 FV50.
  3. Oswald Peraza, shortstop. Age 20.6, expected arrival 2022 FV50.
  4. Clarke Schmidt, starting pitcher. Age 2025, expected arrival 2021 FV50.
  5. Alexander Vargas, shortstop. Age 19.3, expected arrival 2023 FV50.

Since then, there have been some significant changes. Jasson Dominguez has slipped out of first place and now sits at number four on the list. The main reason for the slip is that he didn’t have an overwhelming 2021 at the Tampa A level, even though he remains a powerful hitting from both sides of the plate.

Deivi Garcia slipped from number two to number ten. After a promising season at Scranton and at the Stadium, he had a horrible season at the AAA Railriders in 2021. So here are the 2022 FanGraph rankings.

  1. Antony Volpe, shortstop. Age 20.7, expected arrival 2024 FV60.
  2. Oswald Peraza, shortstop. Age 21.6, expected arrival 2022 FV50
  3. Luis Media, right-hand pitcher. Age 22.7, expected arrival 2022 FV50.
  4. Jasson Dominguez, center fielder. Age 18.9, expected arrival 2025 FV50.
  5. Alexander Vargas, shortstop. Age 20.2, expected arrival 20.2 FV50.

The 2022 list is quite a turnaround from just a year ago. Anthony Volpe wasn’t even in the top ten last year and now sits at the best the Yankees have to offer. He had a stellar year between two teams, Tampa Tarpons and the Hudson Valley Renegades; he hit 27 homers driving in 86 and with a .294 batting average while remaining a good defender at short.

Also, Oswald Peraza and Luis Media had good years last season as well. Peraza advanced three steps to AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre. He hit 18 home runs between the three teams, driving in 57 with a .297 batting average. Luis Media had a 6-4 record with an ERA of 3.81, with two teams advancing to the Somerset Patriots.

My only problem with these rankings is that they placed Deivi Garcia ahead of Luis Gil. Gil made great strides for the Yankees last season, striking out more hitters than Garcia. Gil pitched in six games with an ERA of just 3.07 and a higher (0.4) WAR than Garcia. Look for other Yankees prospects to make an impact this season. You will surely see Clarke Schmidt on the mound sometime this season. You may also see Stephen Ridings on the mound.

New York Yankees active with several international signings

The New York Yankees can’t deal for any major league player due to the MLB lockout imposed on December 1, 2021, when the players and owners couldn’t agree on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that halted all major league transactions. But that doesn’t mean the Yankees have been sitting on their hands during the period.

The Yankees have been able to make moves on minor league players that are not on a 40 man roster. They, to date, have made several acquisitions to the minor league Yankee teams, some with major league readiness, while others will start the season in the lower affiliates.

They also have been active on the international front when international signings started on January 15th. So far, according to Baseball America, they have acquired several shortstop prospects, including Roderick Arias, Luis Suarez, and Xabier Marte.

To add to the possible shortstops, they added Abraham Ramirez, a utility player who plays in both the infield and outfield. They signed a deal with catchers Diomedes Hernández and Enyer Ureña Enyer, and RHP Enmanuel Tejeda.

The group’s prize is Roderick Arias, the aspiring shortstop that has been named the number one prospect on the international market. The Yankees signed him to a $3.5 million contract. Arias is a switch-hitting Dominican native that is just 17 years old. He has tremendous assets with his excellent arm and range at short. He also has an explosive bat. The Yankees have Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe in the wings that might showcase them in the majors at sometime this or next season. Now they have a great backup should neither of those fail to prosper.

Not to be overlooked Luis Suarez, and Xabier Marte, both shortstops, will also be in the mix that could show them advancing in the low minors this season.

The Yankees have been successful in the international market before, signing Jasson Dominguez in 2019. At nearly 19, he hit one home run in every ten games with two Tampa teams. He is a monster at the plate that is still developing. He is an outfielder that is also from the Dominican Republic. Some of the other successful international signings the Yankees have made include Bernie Williams, Orlando Hernandez, Robinson Cano, Hideki Matsui, and of course, the best closer in baseball Mariano Rivera.

The New York Yankees still have much to do when postseason 2.0 starts when the sides reach a new agreement. They still have to decide where who will play and what they will do to acquire or not acquire a stopgap shortstop. Also, high on the list will be replacing Cory Kluber, who is now with the Rays. The Yankees will need that one-two punch with a new starting pitcher. Although still far apart, one has to assume that the two sides in the negotiation should be getting closer to an agreement as spring training is just a month away.

Yankees’ DJ LeMahieu fought through a crazy painful injury in 2021

yankees, dj lemahieu

After an incredible 2019 and 2020 season, New York Yankees star infielder, DJ LeMahieu took a step back in 2021. Some thought maybe turning 32 years old had something to do with his regression, but it was actually a significant injury that hampered his quality of play.

During the second half of the season, LeMahieu dealt with a serious sports hernia, forcing him out for a number of games but trying his best to still make an impact when possible. He finished the year hitting .268 with 10 homers and 57 RBIs. This was his worst batting average since 2014 with the Colorado Rockies at 25 years old.

Yankees officials believe DJ LeMahieu’s lackluster 2021 could be traced to a sports hernia that the infielder tried to play through before finally getting surgery after the season, The New York Post’s Dan Martin writes.

LeMahieu ended up receiving surgery after the season so he should be a full go for the 2022 campaign. However, with general manager Brian Cashman still needing to sign a number of players, including a shortstop and first baseman, LeMahieu’s position could change in the coming months.
DJ has experience at nearly every spot in the infield, including 1B, 2B, SS, and 3B. There is a growing belief that LeMahieu could end up starting the season on the hot corner given the Yankees trade or part ways with Gio Urshela, who is set to earn $6 million this upcoming season.
The former Colorado star has spent 143 games and over 1,000 innings at third base in his career, posting a .945 fielding percentage with a -2 defensive runs saved above average. He’s a below-average defender on the hot corner, but giving him more of a sample size could turn those numbers around.
Alternatively, the Yankees could make DJ their starting first baseman and spend money at third base. It all depends on how they maneuver around Gleyber Torres and if he might be included in a potential trade. A lot of off-season is left for the Yankees after the lockout ends so expect them to move quickly and aggressively for the players and trades they want to execute.

The Yankees might have stumbled upon another underrate bullpen arm

jimmy cordero, yankees

The New York Yankees and the other 29 MLB teams have had their hands tied since Commissioner Rob Manfred imposed a lockout following an impasse in coming to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Unfortunately, that meant that it halted players and teams from even talking together, thus halting all MLB 40 man roster transactions. But that doesn’t mean that the teams can’t make meaningful moves to improve their minor league system, and the Yankees have done just that.

Last season, the Yankees made some acquisitions that turned out to be very helpful during the season. One of those moves was to sign a player that hadn’t played the game in years. He was Lucas Luetge. He turned out to be one of the most reliable arms out of the bullpen. He ended up pitching in 57 games with a 4-2 record with a 2.74 ERA and a 1.13 whip, and he even picked up a save when Aroldis Chapman was down.

The Yankees also picked up, in addition to the little-heralded signing of Luetge last offseason, trades that resulted in getting Wandy Peralta and Clay Holmes to bolster the bullpen. Later at the trade deadline, they picked up Joely Rodriguez in the Joey Gallo trade. All of these pitchers were impactful during the 2021 season.

This season so far has been no different; the Yankees have again added hands to the team with minor league moves. However, one of the most interesting moves to date may have been back on December 16, 2021, when they signed 30-year-old right-handed pitcher Jimmy Cordero who last played with the Chicago White Sox.

If Cordero can help the Yankees next season, it won’t be until mid-season, as he underwent Tommy John surgery last March. Cordero has shown promise in the past. In 2019 he had a .0972 WHIP during 36 innings in 30 games with Chicago. However, he faltered in the 2020 shortened season with a 6.08 ERA, albeit a small sample. Cordero underwent Tommy John surgery last March and is expected back by mid-season this year. He’s shown promising signs in the past, mostly in 2019, when he had a 0.972 WHIP in 36 innings over 30 appearances with Chicago.

After a poor 2021 spring training, he elected to have the elbow surgery that ended his season. If he can come back healthy around the All-Star game, he has featured a sinker that’s been effective, and the Yankees have had success with relievers that use that pitch well. The Yankees are hoping he can be the next Lucas Luetge.

Luetge hadn’t pitched in the majors in six years but spent the entire season with the Yankees last year with excellent results. Wandy Peralta also pitched better than he did with the Giants with much-improved control. Clay Holmes was probably the surprise of the year; he dramatically cut down on his walks and had a 0.786 WHIP with the Yankees in 25 games. All of these pitchers flourished under the tutelage of pitching coach Matt Blake, and the Yankees hope the same will be true of Cordero.

The Yankees still have much to do to improve the pitching staff. After the loss of Corey Kluber to the Rays, they will need a number two type starting pitcher. Also, in the bullpen with the loss of Zack Britton for the season due to his own Tommy John surgery, they will look for a bounce-back season from closer Aroldis Chapman who had the worst season of his career.

Yankees Rumors: Cashman could pursue stud utility man Kris Bryant in free agency 2.0

kris bryant, yankees

After letting Tyler Wade and Brett Gardner go this off-season, the New York Yankees need a new utilityman to fill the void. While they could go with someone cheaper and more cost-efficient, it is possible they view kris Bryant as a potential solution at multiple positions, considering his ability to play third base and in the outfield.

The Yankees could get involved in the Kris Bryant sweepstakes:

Via MLB Trade Rumors:

The Yanks have been a sleeping giant so far in this offseason, seemingly pushing major moves until after they could get a look at the new CBA. DJ LeMahieu is the best fit for third base duties at the moment, though he could also defer to Bryant and move over to first base, especially if the club pulls the trigger on a Luke Voit trade. Like the Blue Jays and Red Sox, the Yankees were also connected to Seiya Suzuki, suggesting they could also find a way to work Bryant into the outfield mix, perhaps in combination with a Joey Gallo trade.

Bryant is an intriguing player at 30 years old, hitting .265 during 2021 with the Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants. He also tallied 25 homers, 73 RBIs, and a 23% strikeout rate. While his strikeouts are a bit concerning for a team like the Yankees, who are trying to lower that number, his double-digit home run potential is undoubtedly enticing.

What makes Bryant truly valuable is his ability to play multiple defensive positions, spending time in every outfield spot last season and 55 games at third base and 12 at first base.

Bryant hosts a .950 fielding percentage at third base over 678 games, representing 5,541.2 innings. While that number doesn’t exactly scream efficiency, he only hosts a -4 defense of runs saved about the average, which isn’t an awful number. He is a slightly below-average defender at the hot corner, so if the Yankees wanted to fill that spot, they could look to Bryant as a solution.

Alternatively, he can simply serve as an incredibly valuable plug-and-play utility man. With the vast number of injuries, the Yankees accrue every season, having a player like Bryant would likely be the difference between winning and losing games considering who they had at their disposal last year.

However, Bryant is projected to earn upward of $23 million per season, which might be a bit too pricey for Brian Cashman’s checkbook, considering he needs to find a legit stopgap shortstop and starting pitcher.

WATCH: Yankees’ No. 1 international prospect Roderick Arias has an electric bat

roderick arias, yankees

The New York Yankees have been incredibly active in the international market the past few seasons, landing several of the top prospects available. Earlier this week, the Bomber’s secured the rights to Roderick Arias, top international prospect and yet another shortstop to add to the farm system.

The Dominican Republic native is just 17 years old, featuring a switch-hitting bat and phenomenal arm. He can make every throw from any angle with impeccable accuracy, showcasing effortless fundamentals. Pairing that with smooth footwork and range, the Yankees could be looking at their next star shortstop if not for Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza.

MLB.com raved about Arias, who’s a legit switch-hitter with incredible power:

The top international prospect in the class, Arias is an extraordinary talent and the consensus No. 1.

There’s a lot to like about the teenager. Starting on the defensive side of the ball, Arias has plus arm potential. His throws are accurate and effortless, and he’s always in a position to make the throws. His arm is strong from any angle. He also shows good footwork with soft hands and above-average range.

At the plate, he exhibits above-average bat-to-ball skills and strike zone awareness. He shows good plate discipline and doesn’t swing and miss often. He shows power from both sides of the plate, especially by the right side. There’s good opposite-field power from the left side, and the overall package that could develop into a plus-plus hitter.

If Arias’s defensive qualities weren’t enough, check out his electrifying bat. With all the tools necessary to become a star at the MLB level, the Yankees will develop the youngster and refine him into a legitimate talent.

The Yankees have struggled recently with their homegrown players, watching Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, Luis Severino, and Gary Sanchez either plateau or succumb to injury. There is still hope that Torres and Severino can be productive players in the future, but with Sanchez struggling with significant strikeout numbers and porous defense, there’s not much time left for him to prove his worth over a longer time frame.

Yankees News: The moment Anthony Volpe became a phenom, Yankees ‘expected’ to be in Japanese slugger

anthony volpe, yankees

In the bottom of the ninth inning, New York Yankees star minor-league shortstop Anthony Volpe smashed a walk-off homer in a come from behind win against the Bradenton Marauders on June 19 of last year. Volpe launched two homers in the game, contributing a triple off the centerfield wall early in the contest in addition. At the time, Volpe had been enjoying a 15 game streak recording a hit in each. This was the moment he truly put himself on the map on a grander scale.

Check out the walk-off blast below, showcasing his power and eye for the ball in big moments.

Anthony recorded a .294 average with 27 homers and 86 RBIs over 412 at-bats this past season. Having spent the majority of his year with Low-A Hudson Valley and Tampa, expect him to be elevated this coming season once the lockout finalizes.

The Yankees will likely pursue Japanese slugger Seiya Suzuki:

As per The Athletic’s Andrew Baggerly, the Yankees and a few other clubs will be in on Suzuki once free agency opens back up.

From the report: “The Seattle Mariners are known to be among the 10-to-12 clubs that pitched their organizations to him over Zoom. So did the San Francisco Giants, who are coming off a 107-win season and have an acute need for a right-handed hitting outfielder. (“The Seiya Hey Kid”?) The Red Sox are known to have strong scouting links to Suzuki, and in an interview with a Japanese TV station earlier this month, former Boston pitcher Koji Uehara tried to squeeze an admission out of him that he was bound for Fenway Park. The Dodgers, Padres, Yankees, Rays and Blue Jays also are expected to be in the mix.”

The Yankees were reportedly involved in talks to acquire Suzuki before the lockout, and he’s likely still on their radar.

The institution of the lockout suspended the 30-day window Suzuki had to find an MLB team, and considering he fits the mold of the analytics department, he would be a perfect fit in the outfield. This past year with Hiroshima, Suzuki posted a .317 average with 38 homers and 88 RBIs.

The departure of Clint Frazier, Tyler Wade, and Brett Gardner opens up a spot in the outfield, especially with the unreliability of Aaron Hicks. Suzuki has had great health over the course of his career, another positive factor the Yankees will consider in their potential pursuit.

New York Yankee Top 10s: Best Yankee acquisitions in the modern era

In my New York Yankees top 10 series that has covered most aspects of Yankee baseball, today we look at the top 10 acquisitions in the modern era. These acquisitions come from both signings and trades. The Yankees have had many homegrown star players and had to look outside their farm system to fill various needs. Owner George M. Steinbrenner was the first owner to make big moves and set the tone for acquisitions for the future.

This has been the most difficult to complete top 10s so far. Many will disagree with the placements; however, with the Yankees now looking to pounce after the lockout is over to acquire players to improve the team, it seemed appropriate to examine these past acquisitions. Keep in mind that many of the Yankees’ best players were not acquisitions.

10. Ricky Henderson

Henderson was one of the longest-tenured players, playing for 25 years, 5 of them with the Yankees. During his five years, he stole 326 bases, making him the all-time base stealer for the Yankees. He hit .288 and had 78 home runs during the span while having an excellent fielding percentage in all outfield areas. He was an All-Star every year; he was a New York Yankee.

9. CC Sabathia

CC Sabathia was instrumental in the Yankees winning their last World Series in 2009. Sabathia came to the Yankees from the Milwaukee Brewers. In his eleven years with the Yankees, he had a record of 134 and 88. During his Yankee years, he was a workhorse, always giving his best effort for a win.

8. Masahiro Tanaka

Brian Cashman brought Masahiro Tanaka to the Yankees from the Eagles of the Japanese league in 2013 in a seven-year contract that will end this season, whether there is one or not. During his time with the Yankees up to this year, he is 75-45 with a 3.75 ERA. Tanaka has never had a losing season with the Yankees.

7. David Wells

The highlight of David Wells’s career was his perfect game on May 17, 1998, the tenth no-hitter in Yankee history. Wells for the Yankees was 34-14 in his two-year stint; that’s a .706 winning percentage, one of the best for the Yankees. Wells pitched 21 years, all in the American League.

Wells was quite a character that didn’t care much for rules. He has admitted he pitched his perfect game while nursing a bad hangover. In 1998 he would help the Yankees with his 18-4 record and propelled them to the World Series shut out of the San Diego Padres.

6. Reggie Jackson

Yankee owner George M. Steinbrenner made Reggie Jackson the highest-paid baseball player when he hired Jackson from the Baltimore Orioles. However, Jackson was a controversial player as he was a show-off, and Manager Billy Martin didn’t want the Yankees to hire him. It didn’t help when he was quoted as saying, I am the straw that stirs the drink. A phrase that he never said but caused a rift with Yankee catcher Thurmon Munson.

In his five years with the Yankees, Jackson had many memorable moments, including his three home runs that caused him to be called Mr. October. In 1977 in the sixth game of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees outfielder Reggie Jackson hit three home runs off three consecutive pitches from three different pitchers. Jackson batted .284 with 144 home runs while a Yankee.

5. Mike Mussina

Mike Mussina is the one player that often flew under the radar on this list. After being a Baltimore Oriole star pitcher, Mussina became a New York Yankee. He never had a losing season in his eight years with the Yankees, winning 10 or more games every year. Mussina was not only an outstanding pitcher, but he was an excellent defender as any pitcher ever to grace the mound.

On some writers’ top 10 lists, they don’t even include Mussina. For the Yankees, Mr. Steady is one of the Yankees’ most dependable pitchers during his time with the team. The brilliant Stanford grad was a thinking pitcher that adjusted to every situation. His performance never diminished with age. In the last year of his career, he had his first 20 win season, becoming the oldest pitcher to have a 20 win season.

He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum for his pitching with the Baltimore Orioles and the New York Yankees on January 22, 2019; he was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, receiving 76.71% of the vote. Mike distinguishes being the first American League pitcher to win ten or more games in each of 17 consecutive seasons.

4. Alex Rodriguez

Alex Rodriguez is a controversial New York Yankee, to say the least. Many fans cite his performance-enhancing drugs while with the Texas Rangers and ignore his Yankee club performance. But the facts are still the facts. During his 22 years playing the game, he was one of the best in either league.

For his 12 years with the Yankees, he hit 30 home runs a year, with 1,100 RBIs while hitting .283. He was a seven-time All-Star and a seven-time MVP candidate, winning the prestigious award twice. He would be a first-ballot inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame if it were not for his drug use, he would be a Hall of Fame shoo-in.

I have to admit that I am a writer that does not place as much importance on drug use as many writers do. My stance is that at least dozens of other players used some doping during that period that were never caught; thus, many stats may be in question. However, in the case of Rodriguez, his career wouldn’t have been less impressive even if he hadn’t made the bad decision to break the rules.

3. Paul O’Neill

Paul O’Neil played for only two teams in his baseball career, nine years with the Yankees in the second half of his career. Then, at the end of the 1992 season, the Red traded O’Neill outright for Yankee outfielder Roberto Kelly. He batted .311 with 20 home runs and 75 RBIs in his first year. O’Neill played with such vigor that owner George M. Steinbrenner would give him the nickname the “Warrior,” which stuck.

In his second year, he got the AL batting title batting .359. If O’Neill missed a hit he thought he should have gotten, batting racks and water coolers often felt his wrath. Stick Michael made the trade that would change the face of the Yankees for years to come. Paul made amazing plays in defending the right field. He played fiercely and hurt; he was the ultimate warrior the Yankee fans loved.

2. Roger Clemens

The acquisition of Roger Clemens was one of the best the New York Yankees ever made. In 1996 the Yankees sent Graeme Lloyd, David Wells, and Homer Bush to the Toronto Blue Jays for their ace pitcher Clemens. In his first year with the Yankees, he helped them win the 1999 World Series. In 2000 he almost single-handedly retook them to the World Series with his 20-3 season. The Yankees would win that series as well. Yankee fans never fully embraced Clemens due to his long tenure with the Boston Red Sox.

Also, in 2000, Roger would win the prestigious Cy Young Award at the age of 38.  Roger was one of the longer-tenured pitchers in baseball, pitching for 24 years. With the Yankees, he would win twice as many games as he lost. He went 83-42 in his six years with the Yankees for a .664 winning percentage. It is outrageous that his three-time Cy Young Awards has not propelled him into the Hall of Fame. But his use of performance-enhancing drugs will probably keep him out. Last year he received 72.5% of the votes compared to the 75% needed to be inducted. He has two years left of eligibility.

1. Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth isn’t a modern era Yankee acquisition but must be included in the list as the best move the Yankees ever made in procuring him from the cash-strapped Boston Red Sox. Following Ruth becoming a Yankee, he transformed himself into a great hitting outfielder. He really made his name with the Yankees as one of the best if not the best player to ever play baseball.

Honorable mentions:

David Cone, Starky Lyle, “Godzilla” Matsui, Roger Maris, Tino Martinez, Scott Brosius, Curtis Granderson, and Nick Swisher.

Gerrit Cole could not be included for the Yankee top 10s as he hasn’t had a long enough time or games thrown to prove he belongs on this list. However, he has to be mentioned as he may be in the future proclaimed one of the best Yankee acquisitions in history; only time will tell. The same goes for Giancarlo Stanton, DJ LeMahieu, and Gio Urshela; how they play will tell if they can be included on this list in the coming years.

EmpireSportsMedia.com’s Columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research.  Follow me on Twitter @parleewilliam.

How do the Yankees stack up against the AL East in ZIP projections?

yankees, gerrit cole

The New York Yankees thought they were good enough last season. Their performance proved that to be untrue, even though they reached a Wild Card berth that they lost to the Red Sox ending their season. The Yankees, in their inaction before the lockout, may indicate they feel the same this season. If that is true, don’t expect results that stray from last season’s disappointment. Today we look at the ZIPS projections for the Yankees for the 2022 season.

First, it’s essential to understand the terms used. ZIPS is a system of player projections developed by FanGraph’s Dan Szymborski when he was at Baseball Think Factory. According to a Q&A on the Baseball Think Factory website, ZIPS uses growth and decline curves based on player type to find trends. It then factors those trends into the past performance of those players to come up with projections. Dan uses the last four years in his predictions.

zWAR is, according to MLB.com WAR measures a player’s value in all facets of the game by deciphering how many more wins he’s worth than a replacement-level player at his same position (e.g., a Minor League replacement or a readily available fill-in free agent). Put a z in front of WAR, and the prediction includes all WAR stats. For example, suppose a shortstop and a first baseman offer the same overall production (on offense, defense, and the basepaths). In that case, the shortstop will have a better WAR because his position sees a lower production level from replacement-level players.

Here is where the Yankees stand compared to other AL East foes:

Starting Rotation

The Yankees’ rotation looks pretty good, primarily due to the rotation being led by ace Gerrit Cole; his zWAR is 5.8. He is followed by wins by Jordan Montgomery 2.9, Jameson Taillon 2.1, Luis Severino 2.0, Nestor Cortes Jr. .08, and Domingo German with a zWAR of .06. The entire staff sits at 14.2 zWAR, only behind the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Blue Jays have not been lucky even after acquiring Hyun Jin Ryu and last season Robbie Ray. They have a strong lineup of young players but have been let down by their starting rotation. Their zWAR of 16 leads the AL East. José Berríos 3.8, free agent Kevin Gausman 4.3, Hyun Jin Ryu 3.6, and Alek Manoah (3.2 zWAR) round out a formidable starting rotation.

The Red Sox starting rotation zWAR sits in the middle of the pack with 12.2 zWAR led by Nathan Eovaldi at 3.8. The Red Sox and Tampa Bay sit neck and neck at 12 zWAR. The lowly Orioles sit last in zWAR at 5.3. They are so bad they moved their left-field fence back, so fewer home runs will be hit off of them.

Bullpen

The New York Yankees are expected to repeat 2021 with a stellar bullpen in the last few years. They will lead all bullpens with zWAR at 6.6. Tampa Bay’s bullpen will shine again, coming in second – 5.3, followed by a tie between the Red Sox and Toronto at 4.6. Not surprisingly, the Orioles scrape the bottom with a 2.7 zWAR.

Infield

The Baltimore Orioles and Yankees’ infield situation looks the most unstable. The Yankees actually don’t know who will be playing where going into the new season. The Tampa Bay Rays lead with their strong infield at 19.2 zWAR. The tandem of Brandon Lowe 4.5 and newly-extended budding superstar Wander Franco at 5.1 zWAR has created a double play monster.

The Blue Jays trail, not far behind at 17 zWAR, buoyed by AL-East-leading Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at 5.9 and the Yankee killer Bo Bichette at 4.7 zWAR. Meanwhile, the Red Sox sit middle-of-the-pack at 14.7 zWAR, Xander Bogaerts 3.9, and Rafael Devers 3.5 zWAR lead the Sox.

The Yankees come second to the bottom of the pack with a 13.4 zWAR, with no position producing more than the 2.7 zWAR. . The Orioles are far behind with a 8.3 zWAR. The Yankees surely must upgrade the infield and set some permanent positions for 2022. Giancarlo Stanton is predicted to be the best DH in the East.

Outfield

The Yankees fare far better in the outfield at Yankee Stadium. As messed up as the infield is, the outfield is firmed up and solid. Aaron Judge is projected for a monster 5.7 zWAR season which is best across all AL East outfielders. In addition, ZiPS predicts a bounce-back campaign for Joey Gallo 4.3 zWAR in his first entire season in the Bronx. Even Aaron Hicks is expected to contribute some value at 1.8 zWAR. Altogether, the 11.8 zWAR is head and shoulders above any AL East team.

The Toronto Blue Jays come in second at 6.8 zWAR, with George Springer 3.9 in center, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in left, Teoscar Hernández in right, and Randal Grichuk as the fourth outfielder. Tampa Bay is next at 6.6 zWAR, with Baltimore surprisingly not far behind at 6.2 zWAR. This time, Boston is projected to have the worst outfield in the East, a distant 3.5 zWAR, with Alex Verdugo 1.9 zWAR the only outfielder under contract with even a full projected win zWAR.

Overall

The New York Yankees actually look in pretty good shape for the upcoming season. Their 44.6 cumulative zWAR leads the AL East, narrowly ahead of Toronto (44.4 zWAR). The Rays 43.1 and the Red Sox 35, with the Baltimore Orioles again at the bottom with a zWar of just 22.5. The entire Yankee season will depend on the lineup hitting, which they didn’t do last season, and acquiring key players after the lockout is over to fill needed holes. There will be much to be decided regarding the Yankees before spring training. 

Predicting the Yankees’ infield for 2022 season: A big move for DJ LeMahieu

New York Yankees, DJ LeMahieu

The New York Yankees will likely have a different-looking infield next season compared to last. After acquiring Anthony Rizzo at the trade deadline, the Bombers made a variety of moves, including shifting Gleyber Torres back to second base and Gio Urshela into the shortstop position.

With inconsistencies and liabilities littered throughout the infield, the Yankees will have to spend money or trade for supplemental players. However, the majority of their infield will remain similar to a degree — expect a few position changes.

Earlier this off-season before the lockout, general manager Brian Cashman made it apparent that addressing shortstop was a priority.

“Shortstop is an area of need. We have to address it,” Cashman said during the press conference to officially announce Boone’s extension, per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.

It is fair to expect that the Yankees will be active once free agency opens back up post-lockout, but in this scenario, they acquire a stopgap option that offers phenomenal defense and home run hitting abilities.

Projected 2022 Yankees infield:

1B: Anthony Rizzo

The Yankees have an interesting decision to make at first base, retaining Anthony Rizzo on a contract extension or making a big play at Freddie Freeman. Freeman is expected to re-sign with Atlanta Braves given they submit to his demands, but Rizzo is a solid player who provided efficient production during 49 games with the Yankees this past season.

Over 173 at-bats, Rizzo posted eight homers with 21 RBIs and a .249 batting average. Over the season (with Chicago and NY), he recorded just a 15.1% strikeout rate, one of the better numbers on the team. Rizzo posted a 112 wRC+ this past season, representing 12% more efficient play compared to a league-average first-baseman. One way or another, Rizzo will cash in this off-season.

The Yankees know what he offers in their stadium, and given a full year, he could hit 30+ homers once again for the first time since 2017.

2B: Gleyber Torres

The Yankees have no choice but to move Gleyber Torres from shortstop, and while he could be involved in a future deal for an external player, he’s had success before at second base.

By most accounts, Torres had a down here in 2021, recording a .259 batting average with nine homers and 51 RBIs. Just two years ago, he recorded a .278 average with 38 homers and 90 RBIs, ranking 17th in MVP voting.

Over his career at second base, he has a .971 fielding percentage, representing -8 defensive runs saved above average, which is still below average in the league. He’s not as much of a liability at the position, so the Yankees would have to deal with his defensive inconsistencies if they want to enjoy his offensive qualities.

SS: Matt Chapman

The Yankees and the Oakland Athletics have been connected frequently this off-season, and the latest rumors involve third baseman, Matt Chapman. Chapman has spent the majority of his career at third base, but the idea of transitioning him to shortstop presented itself recently.

While Chapman hit just .210 this past season, he recorded 27 homers and 72 RBIs. His 32.5% strikeout rate is high, and the Yankees might be looking to lower their average than add to it. However, with impeccable defensive traits, Chapman could hold down the shortstop position for a few years until Anthony Volpe or Oswald Peraza are ready to take the next step.

3B: DJ LeMahieu

One thing that DJ LeMahieu does incredibly well is move positions flawlessly. LeMahieu was a significant help in supplementing injuries to the first base position early in the year, spending 55 games there this past season. Realistically, LeMahieu could be a long-term solution at 1B, but the Yankees want to milk all of his talents and not suppress them.

LeMahieu has spent 143 games at third base in his career, hosting a .945 fielding percentage. He’s had his fair share of struggles at the hot corner, but giving him a full workload may even out those numbers. LeMahieu just needs time to adjust and would likely hold down the spot valiantly. In this scenario, the Yankees deal Gio Urshela, who is preparing to earn $6.55 million next season and could be a trade piece.