The 2017 MLB season has come and gone, and the Houston Astros were crowned the World Series champions after defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers in an electric seven-game series.
A lot was made of a certain Sports Illustrated article in 2014 that predicted the then struggling Astros would be the 2017 champions, based on old-fashioned scouting and one of the best analytics staffs in the league. The writer, Ben Reiter, was praised for making the correct prediction, and as a result, the Twitterverse ran the “guess who will the World Series in three years” joke into the ground.
Well, not quite.
I’m going to drop my own take in the ring and when I’m right in three years, you can all hail me the genius that predicted the 2020 World Series champions way in advance.
And those champs, you ask? That’s easy. The 2020 champs will be the New York Yankees.
Heck, the Yanks might win quite a few World Series over the next several years with the foundation they’ve built in recent years.
Let’s start with the basics: the roster.
The current roster is brimming with young talent at every position, and will only continue to get better. Catcher Gary Sanchez is a hitting machine with the power to hit home runs in every direction at any park. He may struggle when it comes to blocking at the plate, but he can only get better with more experience and he’ll earn plenty of that over the next three years.
First baseman Greg Bird appears to have put his injury troubles in the past and looks like the type of hitter to wreak havoc on pitchers, especially slotting in behind some other good hitters like Sanchez and Aaron Judge, among others.
The rest of the infield looks set up for success, too. Second baseman Starlin Castro has the potential to get 200 hits a season when healthy for a full season, and shortstop Sir Didi Gregorius has sneakily developed into a .300 hitter with the capability to hit 20-25 home runs a season. Gregorius has always played fantastic defense, but his usefulness has only increased as he’s improved as a hitter, which could continue to happen over the next few years.
Current third baseman Todd Frazier has been invaluable for his impact in the clubhouse as a veteran leader, but his propensity to get on-base or drive in runs in the clutch is something the Yankees will look to keep in-house.
The outfield is led by Judge, the 2017 Rookie of the Year and MVP candidate. Judge proved to be a monster power hitter, with the capability to hit for contact and draw walks. Judge is also an effective fielder in right, as his height makes it easier for him to rob home runs, while his athleticism allows him to make web gems on any given night. Aaron Hicks and Brett Gardner are both respectable multi-tool players in the outfield, but are replaceable, which gets me to my next point: farm system and free agency.
The Yankees, led by GM Brian Cashman, already have an impressive team in the majors, but also have a group of talented players coming up through the ranks in the minors. The Bronx Bombers have the No. 2 farm system in baseball right now, headlined by shortstop Gleyber Torres, the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball. Torres probably won’t unseat Gregorius, but has practiced at third base and could very well turn into a superstar by the time it’s 2020.
Outfielder Clint Frazier has already broken into the major league team, but missed the postseason due to injury. Nevertheless, he could develop into a crucial player that joins Judge in the outfield as a regular starter over the next few years. Joining them in the outfield could be 2018 free agent Bryce Harper.
The Washington Nationals superstar will be looking for up to half a billion dollars in his next contract, and the Yankees are one of maybe two teams that can offer that to him. It’s a match made in heaven for the Yankees, who will look to re-gain their status as a team that attracts only the best stars. But Harper isn’t the only star that could join the Yankees’ movement next year.
It’s been rumored that Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado would join the Yankees after the 2018 season for quite a while now, and Machado’s feud with the Red Sox only adds fuel to the fire. Machado would add yet another stud to the batting order, and reignite the flames in the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry that has kind of quieted down in recent years.
Pitching could be the real key to the Yankees World Series success over the next few years. The bullpen, at least on paper, is second to none as of now. The likes of Aroldis Chapman, David Robertson, Dellin Betances, Tommy Kahnle and up-and-comer Chad Greene makes it extremely difficult to come back against the Yanks once they’ve taken the lead and gives the starters an opportunity to stay fresh throughout the season. If they can keep this core together, the bullpen will be one with the capability to win a ring.
The starters are a little less set in stone. Young arm Luis Severino looks to be a lock to be an ace for the next decade, but after that, arms like Masahiro Tanaka and Jordan Montgomery are less certain. Prospect Chance Adams looks like a top-three rotation guy and could break into the majors next season, but finding other guys to fill out the rotation (and replace the ageless C.C. Sabathia) will be critical to long-term success.
Last, but most certainly not least, the manager. These Yankees are without a manager at this time, after parting ways with long-time manager Joe Girardi. They are rumored to be looking for a manager heavily invested in moneyball and analytics, in the mold of Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch. Whomever Cashman ends up bringing in as manager, he’ll be the guy that develops the Baby Bombers into a roster that will contend for the World Series year after year, much like the Core Four of the late 90s and early 2000s.
Basically, it’s pretty clear. All the pieces are there for the already impressive Yankees. They have the youth. They have the experience. They have the farm system. They have the money in free agency. They have the bullpen. They have the mindset to get a moneyball manager.
The New York Yankees you’re looking at now have the foundation set up to be the 2020 World Series champions, and honestly probably a couple other years as well.
Place your bets now; you can thank me later.