If you get off the 4 train outside of Yankee Stadium and listen closely, you may actually hear a pin drop. The Yankees had one of the quietest offseasons in years, adding a left handed bullpen arm in Andrew Miller, trading for Nathan Eovaldi and Didi Gregorius, and re-signing Chase Headley and Stephen Drew. Sounds more like the Cleveland Indians offseason from “Major League” doesn’t it? Nope, it’s the 2015 New York Yankees, primed for mediocrity. Here are your fantasy implications out of the Bronx.
TOP DRAFT PICKS (STUDS)
JACOBY ELLSBURY (OF)
The sole fantasy star for the Yankees is Jacoby Ellsbury. A late second round, early third round pick is a good spot for the multi-faceted center fielder. Entering his age-31 season we should be seeing the end of his prime years. Aside from his HR and RBI total, Ellsbury finished below average in his numbers last year. I expect a return to normalcy in his second season in pinstripes. You can’t go wrong with a player who will steal over 40 bases at a 90 percent success rate who can also flirt with the idea of 20 home runs playing 81 games in Yankee Stadium. I wouldn’t think twice about drafting him.
HIGH UPSIDE (SLEEPERS)
MICHAEL PINEDA (SP):
Like a Morpheus MEME, what if I told you that you can draft a 26 year old starting pitcher who had the following last season: 1.89 ERA, .825 WHIP, with a strikeout to walk ratio of 8.43 in the late rounds of your 12 team league? Well if you draft Pineda you can have just that. Granted there are some things to prove here. Can he finally pitch a full season? That remains to be seen, but seriously who else are you drafting in the 17th round of your draft? Odds are just someone you will drop. Even if Pineda pitches more to his FIP which was 2.71 that is an absolute steal at that point in your draft. Get the highlighter out and mark it.
CARLOS BELTRAN (OF): Before an injury riddled 2014, Carlos Beltran averaged 32 doubles, 26 HR, 88 RBI, 6 SB, while hitting .288 with an OPS of .860 from 2011-2013. All reports indicate that he is healthy again, and as of now he is ranked in the 19th round of standard 12 team drafts. If he can even come anywhere close to his three year average before his elbow injury last year, you are cashing in on incredible value that late in your draft. I would draft Beltran with confidence as long as you don’t go reaching for him earlier than necessary.
HIGH DOWNSIDE (BUSTS)
MASAHIRO TANAKA (SP):
Have you ever played that game “Perfection” where you need to put the different yellow shapes into their slot as a timer is ticking down? The goal is to get all of the pieces in before the board explodes and sends all of the pieces flying everywhere. That is how I feel about Masahiro Tanaka and his elbow this season. There is no question he is an elite starter if he is healthy, and he and the Yankees are claiming just that, but a partially torn UCL? I just don’t see how that is going to hold up for a full season and I eventually think he will need Tommy John Surgery. To me there is way too much risk here to pick him; let him be someone else’s gamble.
BRETT GARDNER (OF):
Gardner is a solid baseball player. He is an excellent defensive outfielder, a decent hitter who has long at bats, and a speedster who can steal some bases and score a lot of runs. The problem is that doesn’t always translate greatly for fantasy purposes. Depending on how your lineup is looking as you enter the ninth round, you may have better choices here. Gardner will be 32 years old in August, so we have seen his best baseball already. He will steal you 25 bases and score 90-100 runs but his contributions end there. A low on base percentage player who struck out a career high 134 times last season is not trending in the right direction. He won’t be a terrible pick in an early ninth round slot, but unless you have no steals or runs on your roster, you can do better. I think Gardner has reached his ceiling and can certainly fade into fourth outfielder fantasy territory in the near future, so he’s not worth the risk for me.
DELLIN BETANCES (RP):
The Yankees front office let David Robertson go without thinking twice after a season in which he excelled filling the shoes of the legendary Mariano Rivera. There is only one reason why that happened: Dellin Betances. Yes, there has been some debate and discussion about newly acquired Andrew Miller possibly sharing the role, but to me the answer is clear, and Betances will be the Yankees closer now and for the future. Sure, Miller may snag a couple here and there if he has facing two lefties in the 9th inning, but Betances is your guy. He won’t toss as many innings as last year as a result, but he will be a top of the line closer that you can get much later than Chapman and Kimbrel. I love this guy as a draft pick.
IMPACT MINOR LEAGUERS
ROB REFSNYDER (2B): If his 2014 season at AAA was any indiciation, Refsnyder’s bat is major league ready. He hit .300 with an OBP of .389 and has been working tirelessly at second base to improve his defense. The window for Refsnyder to break camp with the Yankees is open, because if either Stephen Drew or Didi Gregorius have a bad spring, he may get the call for the second base spot. With a good spring he can also make the team as a bench player. His 2015 fantasy impact is minimal at best, but he’s certainly someone to keep an eye on for 2016 and beyond if he can bring that kind of stick to a shallow second base position.
LUIS SEVERINO (RHSP): The top pitching prospect in the Yankees organization made his debut Tuesday against the Phillies in exhibition, striking out the first two batters he faced. Scouts love the 20-year old Dominican right hander who carries a 95+ mph fastball that is complimented by an 85 mph change up. His innings will likely be capped at around 150-160, but that doesn’t mean some of those won’t happen at the major league level. If the Yankees need any help this season it will certainly be in the starting rotation, especially if Tanaka’s elbow finally pops. I see Severino having a legitimate shot at the 2016 Yankees rotation, unless they spend big time on the deep upcoming 2016 starting pitcher free agent class.
Catcher Brian McCann can also be thrown in to the sleeper mix. Last season he had the highest line drive rate of his career (24%) but the lowest BABIP (batting average on balls in play) at .231. He made his career best solid contact but found the worst results. I know the defensive shifts come into play but that is some old fashion bad luck right there. McCann is going really late in drafts, and he just turned 31. I expect a nice bounce back from him and that surprising stat makes me see him as a great value pick for this year’s draft.