MLB ’16 Comeback Candidates: New York Yankees

Can ace Masahiro Tanaka stay healthy for an entire season? (AP Photo Credit: Kathy Willens)Can ace Masahiro Tanaka stay healthy for an entire season? (AP Photo Credit: Kathy Willens)

Never ones to be considered “comeback” candidates, here now are the New York Yankees, suddenly mired in a three-year stretch in which they have not won a single playoff game. They were shutout at home by the upstart Houston Astros in last year’s wild card game, and haven’t been the free-spending Yankees we’ve grown accustomed to. Still, there is hope in the Bronx with a dominant bullpen and plenty of pop in the lineup.

The Lowdown

The Yankees returned to the postseason party in 2015 — sort of — before making an abrupt exit. They looked flat-out unstoppable at times, yet faded in the final week and barely held on to get a home game in the wild card round. There are plenty of question marks, but also much excitement about the three-headed bullpen monster that will come together when Aroldis Chapman returns from his suspension in early May.

Reasons for Hope

The bullpen could be scary good. The Yankees are clearly hoping to follow the blueprint of the Kansas City Royals, shortening games amid concerns about their starting rotation. With Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Chapman, it’s hard to imagine the Yankees squandering any leads after the sixth inning. If Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira are healthy and can still produce the long ball, the offense will be among the better ones in the American League. It would be even better if Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner get on base consistently.

Reasons for Doubt

There are legitimate age concerns, with Rodriguez, Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, and Brian McCann all in the twilights or tail-end of their careers. The rotation could be very good but also may struggle to stay healthy. Masahiro Tanaka is an ace, but what will the team get out of Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi, Ivan Nova, and young Luis Severino? The team tends to be overly reliant on hitting home runs and holding leads into the late innings.

Will they or won’t they?

The Yankees are always in the mix; they have not suffered a losing season since 1992. The American League East is pretty wide-open, so if things go right the way they did last year for New York, it could very well find its way back to the dance in 2016.

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