Amazin' Avenue: Despite an ever aging roster, the Yankees have had a decent start to their season. What are your expectations for 2015 and does this team have the ability and depth to compete for a playoff spot?
Pinstripe Alley: Everything has to go right for the Yankees to actually remain competitive. The last couple seasons we’ve seen what happens when nearly everything goes wrong. Masahiro Tanaka has looked good so far, Alex Rodriguez has come back hitting better than most believed he could, and there have been no real devastating injuries. Those things have to continue if the team wants to actually be in the running for a playoff spot.
The team does have some depth for the first time in a while, though nothing really on the pitching front. Second base prospect Rob Refsnyder hit really well in spring training and could see major league time later this year. The outfield at Triple-A has gotten off to a fantastic start, which could be important if Carlos Beltran continues to hit like he doesn’t have a pulse. I think that the AL East is wide open enough that this team could sneak into the playoffs, even being only sort of mediocre, but they still need luck on their side.
AA: Former Mets outfielder Chris Young is hitting .368/.442/.816 after looking like toast for most of last season. What sort of black magic did the Yankees use to fix him?
PA: Man, I don’t know. He has been a treat. One of our writers kind of started a bit of a meme before the season that Chris Young would compete for the MVP award and he’s been doing nothing but hitting ever since. His hot start has turned up the heat on Beltran’s incredibly poor start, but we’re all kind of afraid that using him in a bigger capacity would take away the amazing streak he’s on. We’re enjoying every minute of it while it lasts.
AA: Masahiro Tanaka's elbow and dipping velocity has been a big talking point over the last month but he's pitched well enough thus far by the numbers. How does he look and do you think he'll make it through the season?
PA: Tanaka has looked stronger to me in his last two starts, turning in a gem against the Rays and Tigers his last two times out. Not sure how much of that is him becoming more trusting of his stuff or just continuing to shake off the rust of missing a large chunk of time last year and being used conservatively in spring training. I don’t cringe every time he throws a pitch these days, but the concern does exist in the back of my mind. He looks really good, though. As good as we probably could have hoped.
AA: We have to ask about Alex Rodriguez: he's gotten off to a strong start. How does he look at the plate and are Yankees fans rooting for him (for the record, I am 100% on Team A-Rod)?
PA: Don’t throw A-Rod a fastball right now. Or do, please. He has exceeded my expectations by leaps and bounds. His batting eye is also still really sharp, which is comforting. The one place where he looks like a guy who is almost 40 and hasn’t played in nearly two years is on breaking balls. Maybe getting back that particular timing will come with repetition. I hope so, at least.
I think most Yankees fans are absolutely rooting for him. He’s been carrying the offense for the most part, so it’s hard to really find any fault with anything he’s done so far. A-Rod has also been on his best behavior, which doesn’t hurt his case. There are some fans out there who will never root for him and couldn’t care less how he hits. My opinion is that I’ll be rooting for him to hit a home run every time he steps to the plate for as long as he’s in a Yankees uniform. He seems like he’s legitimately having a ball out there right now with so much genuine happiness to just be playing baseball again. Hard to root against that if you’re a rational Yankees fan.
AA: It's obviously way too early to make any conclusions but so far, Didi Gregorius hasn't hit much. What are your thoughts on the heir to Derek Jeter's shortstop throne?
PA: My patience with Gregorius has admittedly worn a bit thin already, but I totally get that the season isn’t even a month old yet. The issue isn’t so much his hitting as it is his fielding at the moment. I could live with a lack of offense if he was playing better defense, but he has made some of the most ridiculous decisions in the field. He seems truly lost out there right now for whatever reason. Maybe the pressure of trying to replace a legend is getting to him? I’m not sure. Hopefully he turns things around at the plate and in the field soon.
When he does make a nice fielding play, it is certainly impressive. Yankees fans haven’t seen that kind of defense out of shortstop in a long time. I’m not old enough to have ever really seen that kind of range (sorry, Jeets). I hope that those plays are more indicative of the Didi we’ll be getting once he settles in than the Didi we have seen to this point.
Thanks again to Tanya Bondurant for giving us a preview of the Yankees! For more on the Yankees, head on over to Pinstripe Alley!