New York Yankees quick hits: Tanaka Time, projections, Girardi and more

HAPPY PITCHERS AND CATCHERS WEEK EVERYBODY! Can you believe it is here? Time to thaw out and get ready, Spring Training games are right around the corner. Baseball is back!

Quite a bit to cover in the New York Yankees Universe, so sit back and catch up in your weekly Yankees quick hits.

1. USA Today pegs the Yankees for fourth place, PECOTA projects 85 wins, ESPN .500

I love preseason projections. They are always so accurate. Remember all the publications that projected the Kansas City Royals against the New York Mets in the World Series last year? How about the Royals against the San Francisco Giants two years ago? Me neither.

I like Baseball Prospectus, but I have to disregard their PECOTA projections. They have the Royals in last place with 76 wins and the Cleveland Indians with an A.L. best 92 wins. They also have Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances valued at four wins. See my point?

USA Today projected the Yankees at 83-79 and in fourth place. I think it’s a fair assessment.

The Yankees have won 85, 84 and 87 games the past three seasons. Masahiro Tanaka is currently an unknown for Opening Day and the rotation — primarily C.C. Sabathia and Nathan Eovaldi — is a wild card. Can Sabathia be half the pitcher he once was? Can Eovaldi improve on his step forward last season?

You also can’t underestimate the relevance of Greg Bird’s injury. While the hope is always that he plays a full season, it’s foolish to believe Mark Teixeira has 162 games in him. That plays a big factor in the lineup.

Do I think the Yankees can win more than 83 games? I do. I think this rotation — if healthy — surprises a lot of people, especially since they only need to go six innings. That bullpen will account for more than four wins, I’ll tell you that.

Wayniac Nation prediction: 88-74, A.L. Wild Card.

2. Joe Girardi is a top five manager.

Nick Cafardo — of the Boston Globe no less — ranked his top managers in baseball and low and behold, there is everybody’s favorite scapegoat, Joe Girardi.

When I left Yanks Go Yard last August, in my final Bronx is Boiling, I recollected what I had learned in my near two years of writing my weekly column. After years of being a Girardi skeptic, I came around and admitted that there were very little managers I trusted handling the Yankees than Joe Cool. Here’s what I said:

Don’t get me wrong, Girardi still mismanages the bullpen. The revolving door between Scranton and the Bronx is annoying. But now that the Yankees are healthy, Girardi is winning.

Girardi had two broken down rosters in 2013 and 2014 and the Yankees were still alive right up to the end of August each year. Now that the team is healthy, they are rolling. Has he possibly cost them a few extra wins with some questionable calls? Perhaps, but he also has them running away with an AL East that many felt the Yankees didn’t have a shot at winning.

There are a handful of managers I wouldn’t mind seeing in the Bronx over Girardi, but there are 20 I would hate to see replace him. It takes a special character to make it several years in the Bronx. Girardi does have a World Series and has never had a losing record with a roster that many a Yankee fan will tell you is full of flaws.

Girardi is the Yankees manager, he’s not going anywhere, and it’s time for Yankees Universe to accept that.

3. Tanaka Time!

The Yankees have their next ace in the making… and it’s not Masahiro:

As a new father myself, I know how happy Tanaka and his wife must be. I send all the congratulations in the world to the happy couple.

The other great news surrounding Tanaka was that mlb.com reported that the Yankees ace threw about 20 pitches off the mound this past weekend and reported no issues. He still is unsure of his timetable, and neither he nor the Yankees have committed to his Opening Day availability, but this is certainly a step in the right direction.

4. Yankees legends spending time with rookies.

Jorge Posada, Darryl Strawberry and Alfonso Soriano are some of the names who have been meeting with some of the Yankees top prospects this offseason.

The Captain’s Camp is a great resource for the Baby Bombers. Dealing with the pressures of being a big league star is hard enough. Doing it on the biggest stage in the country in New York City is even harder. Learning from past players who did it and did it successfully is tremendous.

More importantly, no one is paid to be there. That shows the future Yankees what wearing pinstripes really means. It’s taken very seriously, as a privilege, not a right.

Andy Pettitte showed up over the weekend and threw a couple of pitches to the prospect every Yankee fan is waiting for, Aaron Judge. How did it go?

As he did last year in its inaugural season, Derek Jeter showed up and took the prospects out for dinner.

According to Denbo, Jeter answered questions and offered anecdotes from his early days in pinstripes, including the tearful telephone call in the summer of 1992 when a homesick 18-year-old Jeter wondered if he had made a mistake by signing that first professional contract.

Of course, 3,465 regular-season hits and five World Series rings later, it seemed to work out fine. (Bryan Hoch, Yankees.com).

5. Aroldis Chapman agreed to terms and is ready for Tampa.

While Chapman still has some waiting to do in regards to his off the field issues, he can put the issue of his contract behind him.

According to MLB Trade Rumors, Chapman and the Yankees finally agreed to terms and avoided arbitration. The flame throwing lefty agreed to a one-year deal for $11.325-million which was pretty much right smack in the middle of what the Yankees were offering ($9 mill) and what Chapman wanted ($12.9 mill).

Should Chapman be suspended, the Yankees would ideally want it to be either incredibly short, or 45-games. Should Chapman be suspended 45-games or longer, the ol’ service clock won’t start and he could be on the books for next season.

Should he not be suspended or get a five or ten game suspension, this Yankees team could thrive. If Sabathia only needs to go five or six innings a night, he could return to form and last longer into the season. Eovaldi is notorious for four solid innings to start the game, while usually imploding in the fifth or sixth.

The Kansas City Royals have made it to back-to-back World Series with a decent starting rotation and a deadly three-headed monster at the back end of the rotation. Betances-Miller-Chapman should trump Herrera-Davis-Holland and the maturation of Jacob Lindgren may make this bullpen untouchable.

 

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