Going into the 2017 season, more hype surrounded this New York Yankees roster than any of their rosters of the past five years. This hype, however, was not the normal hype that follows the Yankees. Since the late 90s and the arrival of Derek Jeter, the Yankees and their fans have gone into each season with the expectation of making the playoffs with hopes of adding yet another World Series trophy to their collection. This year, the hype wasn’t about a run for a championship – or even making the playoffs: the hype was about the future of the Yankees. The Yankees have been in a “rebuild” phase for about a season and this was to be the year that the organization and its fan base were going to see a full season of the “baby bombers”, the young group of prospects who are going to lead the organization in a few years to another decade of championship runs. There is only one issue with that – they have already begun doing that. The organization thought it would take a year or two in order for its roster full of rookies and second-year players to find their footing and make an impact, but they wasted no time at all showing their potential. The Yankees are currently fighting for first place in the AL East and have the third-best record in the American League, only behind the Astros and the Red Sox (who are only half a game up).
Leading them in this unexpected year is rookie sensation OF Aaron Judge. Judge has taken the league by storm with his play in every aspect of the game, from his diving catches in the outfield to 496ft home runs. He is currently among the leaders of the AL in each of the Triple Crown categories with 24 homeruns (first place), 54 RBIs (second place), and a .333 average (second place). The 6’7, 280lbs giant has been the biggest surprise of the season. Going into spring training, he was fighting for a spot on the Yankees’ roster and a job in the starting nine. Now, he is leading the MVP race and making the Yankees an exciting team to watch again. But can the rookie keep this up?
The outfielder has power that people are comparing to that of Marlins superstar Giancarlo Stanton, which is quite the comparison. He is on pace for 58 home runs this year, which would crush Mark McGwire’s record of 49. However, rookies come with a learning curve, not only for them, but for opposing teams as well. It may take some time for teams to learn his weakness, because no matter how great one is, every rookie has his weakness at the plate. If he can adjust through teams starting to figure him out, or if teams struggle to find his weak spot, he may lead the Yankees to a playoff spot and possibly even more.
People saw this Yankees team as a middle-of-the-pack team with a promising future. Now, the Baby Bombers are making everyone wonder if they can keep this level of play up. The offense has certainly been given the credit behind this great start, as it leads the majors in runs, average, and OBP. The surprise, though, has been the pitching. Going into the season, the Yankees knew they had an Ace in Masahiro Tanaka, but beyond him, the rotation was a big question mark. C.C. Sabathia is 36 years old and hasn’t had a good season since 2012 where he went 15-6 with a 3.38 ERA, Luis Severino has been a high prospect in the Yankees system for years now but struggled last year to put it all together, and then there is Jordan Montgomery, who came into the year as an unproven rookie. Three months into the season, every pitcher on this staff has produced surprising results. Tanaka hasn’t been anywhere near an ace for the Yankees, Sabathia has turned back the clock six years to his former self, Severino is finally the pitcher who the Yankees thought they had, and Montgomery is showing a bright future for the organization. This rotation, one that many had big concerns about going into the season, has been the true reason that they are gunning for first place in the AL East.
They are second in the majors in ERA, WHIP, and opponent batting average – something nobody predicted. The Yankees have always been a good hitting team, but when they are able to combine that with a rotation that can hold teams to an average of three runs a game, they become a threat. The Bronx Bombers may have been on a losing skid recently, but if this this rotation can maintain its overall form and continue to keep runs off the scoreboard, the Yankees will be a scary team going into October.
The New York Yankees have surprised every single analyst and baseball fan this year. They are in position to potentially lead their division and are showing no signs of stopping with their high octane offense and revived pitching staff. The only way they continue this incredible start and make the playoffs is if their pitching continues to perform. If they can maintain a top of the line rotation with the offensive firepower they have up and down the lineup, the Yankees will be a scary team going down the stretch.