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  • Writer's pictureAndy Singer

SSTN Mailbag: Predictions, The Berti Trade, And Luis Gil!



Happy Opening Day (okay, I'm a day late, but you get the idea)! While this off-season did not feel quite as long and tedious as recent off-season's, I still start to get antsy by the end of Spring Training. As always, we had to deal with the usual injury story lines that have become a feature of this group of Yankees, and on the whole, it put a semi-sour taste on the end of Spring Training. Despite all of the negative stories, I saw a lot of positives throughout Spring Training, and I feel significantly better about this roster coming into 2024 than I did in 2023.


The Yankees' first game of the season was an absolute testament to why I feel better about this roster. The first couple of innings were really tough. Nestor had absolutely no fastball command and a seeming lack of trust in his secondary stuff. The Yankees largely worked good at-bats against a tough pitcher, but ended multiple threats by grounding into double-plays. By the end of 2 innings, the team was down 4-0 to the Astros, a team that has given the Yankees fits for the better part of 7 seasons now. The 2023 Yankees would have crumbled and been done after 2 innings.


The 2024 Yankees are different, though. Better yet, it wasn't just a random slugfest to get back into the game. The Yanks got contributions from up and down the order. Some contributions came from names you would expect, like Rizzo and Soto. More importantly, 2 guys that I noted made massive mechanical changes this off-season, Anthony Volpe and Oswaldo Cabrera, were probably the best offensive players in yesterday's lineup. Volpe drew 3 walks (!) and got a critical late RBI-single. Cabrera was the only Yankee with multiple hits, his last a great solo-HR with a sweet looking short stroke. Both players maintained their new, simplified, shorter swings when the games counted. Oh, and Nestor settled down once he changed his gameplan mid-stream, looking like a totally different pitcher in innings 3-5.


Was it just one game? Yes, absolutely, but it was a game that last year's team could not have won. The players who executed yesterday couldn't have done what they did yesterday, particularly Volpe and Cabrera. I have been bullish about both, and I think the changes they have made really work. 2024 looks so much sweeter than 2023. Let's hope the proof continues through a tough opening schedule.


As always, thanks for the great questions and keep them coming to SSTNReadermail@gmail.com. In this week's SSTN Mailbag, we'll discuss my final season predictions, analyze the trade that brought Jon Berti to New York, and take a look at Luis Gil's emergence! Let's get at it:


Brian asks: The season is about to start - can you give us some predictions about the team's performance and your predictions for some individual players? If it's better to get in before the mailbag, that's fine too.


Unfortunately, real life didn't allow me to write a predictions post prior to the first game of the season, but I promise you that these predictions were made prior to the start of games. Here are my predictions for the 2024 Yankees:


  • The Yankees will win 95 games and surprise everyone by winning the AL East. I know that the Orioles are the darlings of the sport after an Astros-style slash, burn, and rebuild effort, but lost in the shuffle is the fact that it took a lot of luck for the Orioles to reach last year's record. Their rotation behind Corbin Burnes is even more suspect than what the Yankees are rolling with, and it's hard to assume that everyone in their lineup will reach their top-end projection two years in a row. The Orioles are good, but I don't see them as a lock for 90+ wins in 2024. By now, all of you know what I think about the Blue Jays, so I see them as 3rd in the division. One of these years, the Rays won't put together enough pitching through smoke and mirrors, and I'd bet on it being this year (they got a bit too cute this off-season). Oh, and the Red Sox are awful. It's a tough division, but I think the Yankees are the best team here.

  • I said last season that the range of possibilities for the Yankees were really wide (in fact, I projected a floor of 81-82 wins in a comparison I wrote to the Mets, and I was bang-on). This season is similar, but I think the floor is 3-4 wins higher, in the 85-win range. If Cole comes back healthy, the team gets some health and performance luck in the rotation, the kids come along well, and Dominguez comes back to prove he wasn't a flash in the pan, the top-end is 100 wins. I don't see either the floor or the ceiling as likely, but from where I'm sitting, I think they'll get closer to the ceiling than the floor.

  • I think this is a breakthrough year. I think the Yankees will get over the hump and make it to the World Series. By the time they're there, I think they will find enough pitching to be very competitive. Fun fact: for all of the doom and gloom around Yankee fans this year, Fangraphs and others view the Yankees as one of the most talented teams in baseball - Fangraphs' most recent positional rankings hand the Yankees the best outfield (by far) in baseball, top-3 rankings at 2B and DH, middle of the pack elsewhere, and I think they are weirdly light on the Yankee bullpen. All of that adds up to a competitive team. My final prediction: the Yankees beat the Braves in 6 games to win the World Series.

  • Let's talk about some individual players! Let's start with some good stuff. I think Anthony Volpe turns the corner in his Sophomore campaign. He'll hit .265/.345/.425, his walk rate will improve to 11% (closer to his AAA performance), he'll cut his strikeout rate to 20%, he'll steal 25 bases, and he'll hit 18 HR. He'll play slightly above-average defense at SS, making him a top-8 all-around SS in baseball.

  • Oswaldo Cabrera cements himself as the super-utility guy on the bench. He plays good-great defense at multiple position, brings energy off the bench, and returns some solid offensive performances. I think he'll hit .240/.320/.440 with 15 HR.

  • Austin Wells will prove me wrong and challenge for the Rookie of the Year Award. He'll swat 20 HR, hit .255/.330/.465, and give the Yankees offense at catcher for the first time since Gary Sanchez in his prime. By June, he'll get 70% of the starts at catcher too, playing defense that's just good enough to be passable. Again, that's not how I envisioned things playing out for Wells, but I think he can prove me wrong.

  • Aaron Judge will stay relatively healthy and play 140 games, challenging for the AL MVP with 45 HR while hitting .280/.385/.580. He will play less than 95 games in CF, but when he's there, he will be average defensively. He'll get 20ish DH days and 25ish games in RF, and produce just shy of 8 bWAR. Again, he won't win AL MVP...

  • ...because Juan Soto gives Scott Boras his comeback by winning AL MVP. Soto will also clobber 45 HR, but he'll also hit .305/.450/.675, while walking 140 times and striking out just 100 times. I believe that he's focused a ton on his defense this off-season, and the small confines of RF at Yankee Stadium will suit him beautifully, making his defense average there. Soto will pull off a 10 bWAR season.

  • Gleyber again flies under the radar, but he'll be the perfect compliment to everyone else on the roster, leading off, hitting behind the big boppers, and doing a bit of everything. He'll produce his best offensive season since his rookie year, batting 275/.350/.465. He'll again strike out less than 100 times while walking 70+ times. He'll play average defense at 2B.

  • Giancarlo Stanton gets hurt again, playing 120 games, but he produces enough when healthy, hitting .235/.315/.525 with 30 HR when healthy. His two trips to the IL give Judge some time away from CF.

  • Carlos Rodon regains some status. I don't think he'll be peak Rodon again, but he'll be pretty darn good. I think he'll produce a 3.30 ERA and strike out 9+ batters per 9 innings. He'll throw some duds here and there, but he'll also toss 165 innings, more than anyone could reasonably expect. He'll be a critical part of the rotation while producing 3.8 bWAR.

  • Nestor Cortes is likewise better than last season, but not quite all the way back. He'll toss 150 innings with a 3.55 ERA. Most critically, he battles, and gives the Yankees some quality starts. He'll produce 2.5 bWAR.

  • Marcus Stroman wins over Yankee fans. He'll be fiery and he'll stay healthy, chucking 175 innings of 3.40 ERA ball. He'll produce 3.3 bWAR and ultimately be a more valuable pitcher by bWAR than Jordan Montgomery and Blake Snell.

  • Nick Burdi challenges Clay Holmes for the closer's role. Burdi is electric out of the bullpen, tossing 65 innings with a 1.75 ERA while blowing hitters away. He becomes one of the most important arms in the bullpen.

  • Now the bad:

  • The foot injury really does DJLM in. He hits less than .275 with little pop, and Jon Berti takes over more ABs at 3B than ever intended. We end the year trying to figure out what to do with DJ.

  • Jose Trevino is bad enough with the bat that he really only plays once per week by the end of the year, and he'll only catch once or twice in the playoffs.

  • Tommy Kahnle is cooked; his stuff doesn't come all the way back and he can't throw more than 35 innings.

  • Jonathan Loaisiga doesn't return to his status as a shutdown reliever. He's passable, but not a shutdown guy anymore, and he gets hurt again, throwing just 40 innings.

  • Will Warren doesn't perform well in his first big league starts, earning a 5.00 ERA in 6 starts. He's a bit green to produce this season.


Michael asks: What are your thoughts on the trade for Jon Berti trade? Did Cashman get enough back and will we regret the prospect, John Cruz?


Even Brian Cashman's greatest detractors have to give him a ton of credit for this move. Ben Rortvedt was, at best, the 3rd catcher on the Yankees' roster. Cashman turned that into a near-starting caliber infielder that can play SS, makes gobs of contact, runs really well, and can play all over. This was my hope since December, that the Yankees would find a way to add a good veteran utility infielder to the roster, and Cashman exceeded my expectations by a boatload. Any way you slice it, this is a fantastic move.


John Cruz is a super toolsy young prospect, one that's easy for people to dream on. Making it to the FCL at 17 is no small feat either. He has a big body, a swing geared for power, and he already makes loud contact. That all sounds great! However, there is real swing-and-miss in his game, and he already is likely to move out of centerfield because of poor routes and instincts. Cruz is a lottery ticket, albeit one with a couple of carrying tools. Many are comparing him to Kevin Alcantara, who the Yankees traded a few years ago to get Anthony Rizzo, and Alcantara quickly became a top-100 prospect. I don't see this as analogous. Alcantara had a good chance to stick in CF, and he was more polished than Cruz at the time of the trade. Cruz is also more buried on the Yankees' outfield prospect depth chart. The Yankees are hunting for a championship; you trade a prospect who is 3+ years away every time in this situation.


I like Berti quite a bit as well. EJ Fagan's reaction echos much of what I would have written, so check it out. However, I'd like to add to that as well. I've noted the Yankees' struggles against hard fastballs in recent years numerous times. I also noted the trend that the Yankees seem to be engaged in this off-season: acquiring guys who can hit fastballs. Check out where Berti's 2023 ranks in that regard compared to some Yankees:



Berti ranks up there with the Yankees' best hitters against hard fastballs last season. Berti makes the lineup deeper, both when he starts and when he's on the bench as a pinch-hitter. In the short-term, he should get the lions' share of starts at 3B, but I could also see platooning him a bit with Oswaldo Cabrera, given their splits. This is a fantastic move, and Cashman should get a hat tip for this move.


Mikey asks: What are your thoughts on Luis Gil winning the 5th starter spot?


Good for Gil. This spot was not handed to him; in fact, he wasn't even in the running for the spot until he pitched too well to be ignored. Gil's fastball and slider were excellent all spring, but for the first time, so was his change-up. I hope that continues into the regular season. I still think he'll be a reliever long-term, but there's little question but that his stuff is good enough to give the Yankees some good innings early on.


He'll be inconsistent, but he'll also flash some dominating performances. That's a pretty typical 5th starter profile. Long-term? I think he'll stick on the big league roster even when Cole comes back, and it'll force a tough decision about who kicks back to the bullpen. That's a good problem to have.

15件のコメント


Andy Singer
Andy Singer
3月29日

To echo what many of you have written, yes, Trevino makes a lot of sense as a platoon partner for Wells to begin the season, however we also don't want to stunt Wells' development against LHP. It may feel like a lifetime ago, but many scouts believe the Mets ruined Michael Conforto by making him a platoon bat for his first 2+ seasons, and he never learned to hit same-sided pitching (just by way of example). I think if the Yankees truly believe Wells will hit and can catch well enough to be an everyday catcher, then they need to put their money where their mouth is if he proves worthy early on.

いいね!
Alan B.
Alan B.
3月29日
返信先

Gotta agree with a lot of what you just said Andy, and with Cole on the shelf, leaving only Cortes who might prefer Trevino to Wells, I see Wells getting a bigger share of the catching time when you throw in the fact that most starting rotations are overwhelmnigly stocked with RHPs...


いいね!

Jeff Korell
Jeff Korell
3月29日

The Yankees biggest need right now is a 9th inning closer. Clay Holmes would be better as a high leverage setup reliever in the 7th inning and/or the 8th inning, but ultimately, a "slam the door", 1-2-3 inning 9th inning closer is still needed.


The perfect thing would be a straight platoon at catcher with Trevino starting against lefties and Wells starting against righties. But if Wells proves to be a dangerous hitter against BOTH, then he could be more the regular catcher with Trevino as his backup.

いいね!

Cary Greene
Cary Greene
3月29日

Geat kickoff to the season Andy! Nice work. I like many of your predicitons and support you fully for going out on a limb, simply to entertain the SSTN faithful!


I'm a leading Cashman detractor and you're right, even I have to commend him on the trade for Berti. He's exactly the kind of player I thought was missing on this team, as he does all of the little things well. He gets on base and he's a very good overall base runner. He'll likely be a spark plug type and if he's need to play starter's innings due to the aging Yankees breaking down, then so be it. He can do the job. What I like most about Berti…

いいね!
Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
3月29日
返信先

Bucky Dent post-trade: 13.1 WAR, 2 WS wins (1 MVP), 1 AL East title, 2 ASG.

Lamar Hoyt career: 12.1 WAR, 1 AL West title, 1 ASG (MVP), 1 Cy Young.


That's a pretty even trade, and a good one for the Yankees who upgraded over the Stanley/Mason platoon, where Hoyt was not going to help them in '77-'78. Hoyt's Cy Young was ridiculous given our understanding of statistics today and based solely on his 23 Wins. His 115 ERA+ was tied for 13th in the AL, and his 3.7 WAR was 19th in the League. Dave Steib, 7.0 WAR, 142 ERA+ (3rd) in 278 IP (2nd) was the best pitching performance that year. He got 0 Cy Young votes.

いいね!

Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
3月29日

I think a healthy Trevino platooning and making all the starts against lefties is a recipe for success. You set people up to succeed by playing to their strengths, and Trevion absolutely can hit lefties. I wish we lived back in the time when there were enough position spots on the roster to have a third catcher (who could also play another position -- Jim Leyritz, Cliff Johnson, Johnny Ellis); then you could PH Wells for Trevino when I righty reliever comes in.

いいね!
Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
3月29日
返信先

I agree -- this is what today's game requires. But I think it was a more interesting game with 10- or 11-man pitching staffs, and 5 or 6 bench guys. It gave managers more platoon/pinch hitting options, which made in-game strategy more interesting.

いいね!

fuster
3月29日

I think he'll stick on the big league roster even when Cole comes back, and it'll force a tough decision about who kicks back to the bullpen.


Gil shows great promise and, if he demonstrates mastery of a third pitch, he'll force his way out of the bullpen to which he's almost certain to be consigned by the possible return of Gerrit Cole.


whether Cole returns and remains healthy or not, this is a team likely to experience a couple of other roster changes before the trade market closes.


I can envision the addition of an additional infielder as well as another pitcher

いいね!
fuster
3月30日
返信先

initial development of the third pitch often produces good results due to surprise

and Gil is likely to use the change to good effect......initially

may greatly aid him for a few starts

and my hope is that he's extremely effective while filling in.


time for further development and greater confidence in a third pitch can only increase his value.

whether he spends that time woodshedding in the pen or in the limelight of the rotation will depend on the requirements of the team


いいね!
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