We've heard both from Christina and Pete, so now it's my turn to make my 2016 Yankees predictions:
The Yankees went into Spring Training looking like an improved team. A new second baseman in Starlin Castro, a better fourth outfielder in Aaron Hicks, and a new three-headed monster in the bullpen filled a lot of fans with a lot of optimism. As camp progressed, solutions to the loss of swing guy Adam Warren and lefty reliever Justin Wilson seemed to appear, and by the last week of March, the New York Yankees were looking like a strong contender for the AL East title.
Then the "H" word reared its ugly head. A day after Bryan Mitchell was anointed the heir to Warren, he broke his toe and, depending on what others do in his place, could have lost his spot in the pen. That same day, in the same inning, interim closer Andrew Miller suffered that now infamous chip fracture in his right wrist. Though Miller has vowed to play through it, there is, of course, the possibility that he won't be able to.
So this is where the Yankees are at as Opening Day looms, just three days away. Is it a bad place to be? Maybe. Maybe not. It depends on what happens in several areas.
First area: pitching. With Mitchell out, the Yankees now depend on the unproven arm of Luis Cessa, acquired in the Justin Wilson trade. He will be joined by another unproven arm, that of Johnny Barbato. Both of these kids had good springs, but the regular season is a different animal. Cessa and Barbato, along with Chasen Shreve and, perhaps, Kirby Yates, will make up that all-important middle relief core that will lead (eventually) to Betances, Miller and Chapman.
Right now, that middle core looks pretty weak to me, which is unfortunate, considering how weak the starting rotation looks. Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi and Luis Severino had good springs, but questions about their longevity still remain. Then there is the matter of Opening Day starter Masahiro Tanaka. After a terrible spring, the unfairness of him starting on Monday is palatable. I would have preferred Luis Severino but, of course, he isn't lined up to start then. As for the fifth starter, Ivan Nova has earned the job, but will he get it? Probably not, which is probably a good thing, since he would be a better choice as a reliever than CC Sabathia.
As for the position players, as long as everyone stays healthy, there should be no problems there. However, staying healthy is a big "if," especially since Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran are another year older. Manager Joe Girardi will need to do an even better job of giving these guys rest during the season. It shouldn't be too much of a problem with strong back-up infielder Ronald Torreyes on the roster. If Dustin Ackley finally becomes the player the Yankees think he can be, it will be a very strong infield, indeed. Finally, congratulations to catcher Austin Romine, who finally made an Opening Day roster, as the backup catcher.
Weak pitching and the question of health. Are these two things enough to put the Yankees' 2016 playoff chances in jeopardy? I say yes. When you look at the other teams in the division and how most of them have improved, I say a resounding YES. The American League East will be a VERY hard division to win. I don't think the Yankees can do it. But they'll do something.
My prediction: 89 wins. One of the two Wild Cards.
There you have it. Bring on the Astros. Let's go Yankees!