The 2016 Yankees were not very good, but the season was not a total loss. Here’s what went right and what went wrong
What Went Wrong:
Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez had great seasons in 2015, each hitting over 30 home runs. They were being counted on to replicate those numbers in 2016, but instead, each was so bad that they ended up retiring from baseball.
Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury, the two men who are supposed to be catalysts for the offense, batted .261 and .263 respectively, each with zero power and combining for just 36 stolen bases. Getting almost no offense out of the top two spots of the order led to the Yankees being one of the worst 1st inning teams in the major leagues.
Aaron Hicks was brought on to replace Chris Young. And while he showed a good arm in the field, his fly ball routes were often wacky and he failed to contribute at the plate – batting just .217 with 8 HR and 31 RBI.
Brian McCann had a down year, driving in just 58 runs despite hitting 20 HR.
Michael Pineda and Luis Severino began the season pitching HR derby. Severino was eventually demoted to AAA before emerging as a bullpen threat late in the season. Pineda pitched to a 6-12 record with a 4.82 ERA, despite strong whiff numbers (he struck out 207 batters in just 175 innings).
Nathan Eovaldi, coming off of a strong 2015, went just 9-8 and pitched to a 4.76 ERA before blowing out his elbow, requiring two surgeries and likely ending his Yankee career.
What Went Right?
Didi Gregorius had a breakout season, batting .276 with 20 HR and 70 RBI. New acquisition Starlin Castro also had a great year, batting .270 with 21 HR and 70 RBI. Neither member of the keystone combo got on base very much, however, posting on-base percantages of .304 and .300 respectively.
Gary Sanchez has emerged as one of the game’s bright young stars. Sanchez just missed batting .300 (finished at .299) with 20 HR and 42 RBI in just 53 games. He also was outstanding behind the plate and posted a 3.0 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) – good enough for 3rd on the team, despite playing in less than 1/3 of the team’s games.
Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin both contributed after being called up, though Judge got hurt and missed much of September.
Tanaka stayed healthy. The Japanese import posted a 14-4 record with a 3.07 ERA in a career high 199.2 innings pitched and will get some Cy Young votes. The bullpen trio of Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances was terrific, until Chapman and Miller were traded for prospects.
Luis Cessa and Chad Green, the two pitchers acquired from Detroit in the offseason, both contributed and showed flashes of excellence. Adam Warren was great after a mid-season acquisition, as was Tyler Clippard.
The 2017 team may look very similar to the 2016 season, or it may look vastly different. Despite a weak free agent market, GM Brian Cashman will likely try to make moves to bolster the team’s starting pitching and offense. With super prospect Clint Frazier in AAA to start 2017, it would make sense to clear a spot for him in left field, meaning Gardner could be moved for relief pitching depth or more prospects. Greg Bird will be back from injury and will likely be manning first base, while Austin and Judge are sure to improve in their second big league seasons.