2022 New York Yankees Season Preview

Yankees Preview
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Spring training is wrapping up, and the MLB regular season is almost upon us. That means it’s time to look at what the season might bring for each team. One of the toughest teams to preview for 2022 is the New York Yankees. The Bombers suffered a disappointing ending last year and had a relatively underwhelming offseason. They will be counting on several players to have bounceback seasons in order to contend. Let’s take a look at those returning faces as well as a few new offseason additions. Without further ado, here is the 2022 Yankees preview.

2022 New York Yankees Preview

Catcher

One position where the Yanks underwent upheaval this offseason was at catcher. They traded away Gary Sanchez, whose play had come under scrutiny the last few years, to the Minnesota Twins in a multiplayer blockbuster. One player they got in return was fellow catcher Ben Rortvedt. The 24-year-old had a cup of coffee last year with Minnesota, playing in 39 games. Since he has yet to play a full season, the current plan is for him to platoon with Kyle Higashioka. Ideally, the platoon can provide a bit more offense than the Sanchez/Higashioka combo did last year.

Infield

Despite speculation that the Yankees would land either Freddie Freeman or Matt Olson this offseason, they instead re-signed Anthony Rizzo to patrol first base. The veteran signed a two-year deal with the Bombers after a serviceable half-season with them in 2021. In 49 games with New York, he hit .249 with 8 homers, 7 doubles, and a .768 OPS. He should be a step up defensively over Luke Voit, who was traded to the San Diego Padres shortly after Rizzo was re-signed. Plus, his lefty bat should be tailor-made for the short porch at Yankee Stadium.

For now, the starting second baseman job appears to belong to Gleyber Torres. After struggling at the plate early last season, Torres’ bat (and glove) showed signs of life once he was moved from shortstop (an experiment that just never worked out) back to second. He will likely have one of the shortest leashes of any Yankee position player, especially if his struggles return and/or DJ LeMahieu’s bat wakes up again. The pressure will certainly be on Torres early on to bounce back.

At shortstop, the Yankees will employ another one of their acquisitions in the Sanchez deal, Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Quickly flipped by Minnesota following his acquisition from the Texas Rangers, IKF shows promise as both a contact hitter and a reliable defender, as he won a Gold Glove in 2020.

The Yanks’ other acquisition in the megadeal was the veteran third baseman and former AL MVP Josh Donaldson. He will take over the hot corner from fan-favorite Gio Urshela, who went to Minnesota along with Sanchez. The 36-year-old Donaldson remains a reliable power hitter and run producer. Last year with the Twins, he hit 26 homers, drove in 74 runs, and posted a .827 OPS.

Designated Hitter

At the DH spot, the Yankees are likely to use one of the strongest platoons at any position in baseball. Giancarlo Stanton is coming off one of his best seasons yet as a Bomber. In 2021, he hit .273 with 35 homers, 97 RBI, and a .870 OPS. Although Stanton put up comparable numbers the last time he stayed fully healthy in 2018, last year he came through with several clutch hits to help the Yankees into the postseason. He will likely split time between DH and the outfield.

On days when Stanton plays the outfield, DJ LeMahieu should get some time as a DH. Looking to bounce back from a subpar 2021, LeMahieu will get plenty of at-bats despite being, for now, squeezed out of the everyday second-base job. When he doesn’t DH, LeMahieu can be employed as a super-utility man, playing first, second, or third when the regulars need a day off. Given the fact that LeMahieu finished top four in MVP voting in his first two seasons in New York, it is hard to believe last year’s regression will continue. If LeMahieu gets regular at-bats, expect him to find his groove and get his average back into .300 territory.

Joey Gallo, Gleyber Torres, and Aaron Judge are also viable options to DH occasionally.

Outfield

Now it’s time to preview the 2022 Yankees outfield. Either with or without Stanton, it promises to be one of the more potent in MLB from an offensive standpoint. Joey Gallo will mostly patrol left field on days when Stanton is the DH. Entering his first full season in pinstripes, Gallo is looking to improve on the slow start to his Yankee tenure. Despite hitting 13 homers in 58 games after his trade from Texas, he only hit .160 with New York last season. If he can bump up that average, Gallo will be a major offensive threat. With two Gold Gloves to his name, he should be an asset in the outfield as well.

Gallo can also man center field when necessary, but for now, it appears the Yankees will rely on Aaron Hicks to stay healthy and become the starting center fielder. Hicks has not had a fully healthy season since 2018, a career year in which he hit 27 homers. The hope is he can return to form and become a reliable everyday player.

In right field, for the most part, will be Aaron Judge. His contract extension talks have been a prominent topic all spring, and he wants to get a deal done before Opening Day. Ideally, that will happen and rumors of his departure won’t hang over the regular season. Other than that, the main concern with Judge continues to be his health. Thankfully, he stayed healthy for all of 2021 (aside from a brief COVID bout) and returned to his MVP-caliber ways. If the Yankees decide to put Stanton in right field instead of left on certain occasions, Judge would likely shift to center. New addition Marwin Gonzalez can also be used as a super-utility man in both the infield and outfield.

Starting Rotation

Continuing this 2022 Yankees preview, let’s move on to the pitching staff. Anchoring the starting rotation is ace Gerrit Cole. Cole flirted with a Cy Young Award last season, but he became less effective in September due to a hamstring issue and ended his season with a subpar outing in the Wild Card Game loss to the Boston Red Sox. If Cole can shake off those demons and return to top form, he will remain one of the most feared pitchers in the American League.

The likely #2 in the rotation is Luis Severino. However, that can quickly change given the fact he hasn’t seen much action since 2018 and struggled in spring training. The hope is he begins to approach his performance from 2017-18. In both seasons, he had over 200 strikeouts and finished in the top 10 in Cy Young voting. If he struggles early on, it is possible he will be moved to the back of the rotation or to the bullpen to help him regain his form.

Next up is Jordan Montgomery, who last year proved to be a reliable starter option when healthy. In 30 starts, he pitched to a 3.83 ERA with a career-high 162 strikeouts. The lefty could see a bump up to second in the rotation if Severino’s struggles continue.

Jameson Taillon will likely be the fourth starter. Although he endured early struggles in his first season with the Yankees, he gradually pitched better as the season went on. He also stayed healthy all year following two injury-laden seasons, so if that trend and his steadier pitching both continue, Taillon should give the Yanks a good shot to win whenever he pitches.

Nestor Cortes appears to be the most viable option at the back end of the rotation. He has shown effectiveness in the past both as a spot starter and in relief. He pitched to a 2.90 ERA last season in 14 starts and eight relief appearances. Domingo German could also work his way back into the rotation upon his return from the IL.

Middle Relief

Setup man duty will likely go to either Jonathan Loaisiga or Chad Green. Loaisiga was very impressive out of the pen last season, pitching to a stellar 2.17 ERA in 70 2/3 innings pitched. Green remains a reliable reliever when he’s on his game, but last year he surrendered a series of devastating home runs late in losses. If he can limit that in 2022, he can win back his reputation as a go-to reliever.

As for a preview of earlier relief options for the 2022 Yankees, righties include Michael King, Clay Holmes, Clarke Schmidt, recent acquisition Miguel Castro, and rookie Ron Marinaccio, who impressively made the cut out of spring after his fastball occasionally hit triple digits with Double-A Somerset last season. Lefty options include Wandy Peralta, Lucas Luetge, and rookie JP Sears.

Closer

Aroldis Chapman remains the closer. He is yet another Yankee looking to bounce back from last season. Although he racked up 30 saves in 2021, he surrendered a career-high nine homers and his ERA jumped a full run (3.36) over his career figure (2.36). He did, however, have a stellar April and May, which led to an All-Star nod. When he has good control, Chapman remains one of the deadliest closers in the game. If he can get his ERA back under 3.00 and retain his control more consistently, opposing teams will not look forward to facing Chapman late in games.

Outlook

It wouldn’t be a Yankees preview without some speculation on how the season might go. 2022 could go a wide range of ways for the Bombers. Aside from the blockbuster trade with Minnesota, New York had an underwhelming offseason. The trade left them marginally better, but it is concerning that the Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays both made major offseason moves that should improve both clubs. The Tampa Bay Rays remain formidable as well.

Even so, if the Yankees get the bouncebacks they need from several players and the newcomers excel, there is enough talent on the roster to win the AL East. However, if last year’s issues carry over, they could finish as low as fourth. The Jays finished one game behind the Yankees last year, and are very likely to improve on their record. The Rays remain well-positioned to contend for the division, and the Red Sox could improve upon last year if their pitching holds up. At the very least, expect the Yankees to be playoff contenders. The expanded postseason field could give them a hand. However, the offense needs to improve, the bullpen has to be steadier, and the team must stay healthy. Otherwise, it could be a rough season in the Bronx. But on the other hand, if everything clicks, the Yankees just might return to October glory.

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Players mentioned:

Gary Sanchez, Ben Rortvedt, Kyle Higashioka, Freddie Freeman, Matt Olson, Anthony Rizzo, Luke Voit, Gleyber Torres, DJ LeMahieu, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Josh Donaldson, Gio Urshela, Giancarlo Stanton, Joey Gallo, Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, Marwin Gonzalez, Gerrit Cole, Luis Severino, Jordan Montgomery, Jameson TaillonNestor Cortes, Domingo German, Jonathan Loaisiga, Chad Green, Michael King, Clay Holmes, Clarke Schmidt, Miguel Castro, Ron Marinaccio, Wandy Peralta, Lucas Luetge, JP Sears, Aroldis Chapman