BRONX, NY– I want to be an optimist here and with a regular beat covering the Yankees and Mets for Latino Sports, it can be difficult to say this will be a championship season for both teams. Though, I will admit, as is with every team on Opening Day, optimism is in the air.
But this baseball season in New York has some issues before the first pitch, attributed mostly to injuries that occurred during the rigorous spring training period and the unfortunate one to Mets closer Edwin Díaz, celebratory and season ending at the World Baseball Classic.
Be as it is, baseball is a long and rigorous season and you will hear those words from yours truly often. It’s late March and how many months until this all transpires to the postseason in October?
Regardless, there is promise in New York and goals of both teams playing deep baseball in October. Subway World Series to be determined? The chances of that occurring are strong, then again factor in those unfortunate injuries and the complexion of rosters changing and it’s difficult to project.
Chances, though, the late October World Series meeting of New York teams, and first one since the year of 2000, will not occur. It’s simple to say the Mets have improved. Also easy to understand, the Yankees, with exception of a few additions, may not have enough to beat out 14 other American League teams and reach their quest of a 28th World Series championship.
Basically and with rule changes of a pitch clock, bases as big as a pizza box, and elimination of the shift, the complexion of baseball sees a change. Pitchers will deliver rapidly, hitters more alert in the box, batting averages should increase, and there should be a proficiency of more stolen bases.
And all of this will have an impact with the New York teams. The Yankees known for hitting the home run ball, Anthony Rizzo finally getting his share of hits to the left side and the home run. The Mets benefit is a healthy Starling Marte and possibly leading the league again in stolen bases.
But the Yankees won’t forget the October sting of an Astros sweep in the ALCS and some of the names have changed as they open their 2023 season with the Giants in the Bronx Thursday afternoon. Their fans at Yankee Stadium still have that sweep in their minds and the Astros are the team to beat.
The Mets, also looking to replicate their 101-win season and succumbing to their NL East divisional rival Braves, now with the highest payroll in baseball. They begin with optimism of overcoming the hump and forget a NL Wild Card loss to the Padres. They begin the process Thursday with an opening series in Miami with the Marlins.
Constructed, though, the Yankees and Mets are built to win. But the overall consensus is the Mets had the better offseason in fulfilling needs to fill gaps, a spending spree that includes constructing the largest video screen unveiled at Citi Field next Thursday during their home opener.
Of course there has to be adversity and that pertains to 28 other teams with injuries, the Yankees and Mets sustained a few during the spring which impacts their early season rosters. The Yankees again without Luis Severino in the rotation as his recurring injuries continue.
Carlos Rodón, recipient of the 2021 AL LatinoMVP Pitcher Award, the Yankees major spending spree for the pitching rotation was to follow the ace Gerrit Cole. He who won’t be on the mound anytime soon, a void and gap for sure and the Yankees have their contingency plan with Domingo German (San Pedro de Macorís, DR), Clarke Schmidt, and 25-year old right-hander Jhony Brito (Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic) getting an opportunity, this after four strong spring starts (2-0, 2.08 ERA, 13.0 innings).
Regardless, the Yankees are banking on Cole and a Cy Young Award season, despite leading the league last year with 33 home run balls as teams tend to jump on his four-seamer. He will get his fourth Opening Day start and coming off a 2022 season (13-8, 3.50 ERA, MLB leading 257 strikeouts.)
“It’s about Cole and keeping the ball in the yard,” said a longtime scout. “The Yankees will await Rodón and with Cole have that one-two punch that amounts to winning a good number of ball games. If not then there will be many questions as they move on this season.”
Get the ball to the bullpen and the task belongs to Wandy Peralta (San Francisco de Macorís, DR), Michael King, Jonathan Loáisiga (Managua, Nicaragua), recipient of the 2021 AL LatinoMVP Relief/Closer Award, and Ron Marinaccio.
The closer, no longer the departed Aroldis Chapman and in hands of a healthy Clay Holmes, who recorded 20 saves and a 2.54 ERA. Righty Lou Trevino is unavailable with an elbow ligament strain, a main cog obtained last year at the trade deadline.
And the Yankees should score lots of runs, home runs again will be their arsenal with Anthony Rizzo, a hopeful and injury free Giancarlo Stanton. And the Captain Aaron Judge, a nine-year, $360 million contract with a prevailing question, can he do it again 62 or more home runs?
Anything is possible, but difficult to replicate for Judge. Remember, he is human and as former Mets skipper Terry Collins used to say: “They are not robots.”
You can bank on this for Opening Day: DJ LeMahieu will lead off at DH, Judge follows. Anthony Rizzo is a home run threat and has an advantage without a shift. Stanton in at cleanup, Josh Donaldson coming off a good spring, rejuvenated Gleyber Torres (Caracas, Venezuela) at second (Recipient of 2019 AL LatinoMVP Award). The patience with Aaron Hicks continues in left field and Jose Trevino behind the plate for most of the starts.
And in the 8th hole, the youngest Yankee to start at shortstop since Derek Jeter. Yeah, those Bleacher Creatures are ready to call the name of Anthony Volpe, their Number One and 21-year old prospect earned his spot, the Yankees showing they are willing to go younger and vastly improved in the infield with his speed also to take an extra base.
But be patient. He is a rookie with the pressure of New York on his shoulders. As Boone said, “We have unfinished business to do.” Volpe could be a catalyst at the bottom of their lineup. But finally overtaking the Astros is their goal and the Yankees know that’s a priority.
Prediction: 93 wins but AL Wild Card as AL East division goes to Toronto.
And the Mets without Jacob deGrom, an afterthought now. A dynamic duo of Cy Young Award pitchers, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander that anchor their pitching rotation, and assuming they stay healthy, consider at 39 and 40 years old, this will be interesting to watch.
Regardless, that’s quite a duo and part of the Steve Cohen $344 million payroll, the most expensive team in baseball history. Don’t know what to expect from Carlos Carrasco (Barquisimeto, Venezuela) and Kodai Sega making the transition from Japan with a different mound, baseball, and rotation setup.
“A different rotation but Max and Justin are pitching like two young studs,” commented a longtime NL executive. Manager Buck Showalter needs the depth and GM Billy Eppler had the offseason of assuring there were contingency plans.
Never know what to get from Carrasco. And free agent pickup Jose Quintana (Arjona, Colombia), stress fracture to the rib was an early spring blow, leading to a question about pitching depth. It also opened a spot for left-hander David Peterson, who was projected as starting in Triple-A or relief option out of the pen.
Regardless, here, the Mets are confident with their rotation. Not so much confidence though with their bullpen and losing closer Edwin Díaz (Naguabo, Puerto Rico) to a freak accident at the World Baseball Classic. Perhaps the best closer in the game and now Showalter goes with that committee of sorts of an experienced David Robertson (157 career saves) or Adam Ottavino.
It’s now a predicament the Mets have to deal with, unless they pull a trade or two prior to the deadline in late July.
The keys to their lineup: Pete Alonso, (Recipient of 2019 NL LatinoMVP Rookie Award) and capable of a 45 home run mark, another 100 or more RBI season, a category tied last year for most RBI with Aaron Judge.
With eight consecutive games coming out of the gate and no off day, Francisco Lindor (2016 AL LatinoMVP Award winner) will also anchor the offense with NL batting champ Jeff McNeil. The Mets were fifth in runs scored last year, partly because of Lindor and Alonso and they are a catalyst to October.
Again, the Mets had Carlos Correa for a moment and we know how that transpired. Another potent bat in the lineup with Starling Marte, Mark Canha, and Eduardo Escobar (La Pica, Maracay, Venezuela) would have solidified their standing and perhaps Brandon Nimmo is the best leadoff hitter in baseball.
They go with Omar Narváez, (Maracay, Venezuela) a good acquisition as the starter behind the plate, and Tomás Nido (Guaynabo, Puerto Rico) as the backup.
The Mets had first place most of last year and the Braves found their way to take over the division lead late in September. The Mets won 101 games, difficult to duplicate and the Braves got better. The Phillies without Rhys Hoskins (Torn ACL) and Bryce Harper unavailable until June or July.
Have to like their depth off the bench, free agent pickup Tommy Pham and speed with Tim Locastro, infield depth from Luis Guillorme (Caracas, Venezuela), though the DH role is questioned and a lineup spot that saw limited production last year.
If Daniel Vogelbach fails to produce, one of three prospects gets the call. Mark Vientos, Francisco Alvarez, or Brett Baty, as of now untouchable, but if the Mets need to reinforce teams want those prospects in return.
Baty had a strong spring and it’s a matter of time to fill an injury void or roster spot, this after getting that cup of coffee and brief time in late August and September.
Again, a Mets team that will depend much on Scherzer and Verlander. They have the tools and will be in that dogfight with the Braves and defending NL champion Phillies.
But not enough to win the division.
Prediction: 91 wins, NL Wild card and opportunity to play deep in October.
Play ball. I am here along with co-editor Robert Rizzo at Yankee Stadium, Citi Field, and other ballparks now to the dog days of August and the stretch in September, my 22nd year with Latino Sports. And then there is October to be determined.
Rich Mancuso Senior writer and co-editor Latinosports.com Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso.
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