The Detroit Tigers start a three-game series with the New York Yankees on Tuesday night. For a team that was expected to be in a rebuilding year, the Yankees have outperformed expectations on the backs of some young, talented players. Stacey Gotsulias, editor-in-chief of the Baseball Prospectus Yankees outlet BP Bronx, was gracious enough to answer a few Yankees-related questions to help you get a little more familiar with the team.
BYB: The Yankees are currently sitting in second place in the American League East with a 66-57 record. How has their performance this season measured up to the expectations around the team at the start of the year?
SG: Considering the fact that a lot of prognosticators were calling 2017 a "rebuilding" year for the Yankees, I am thrilled with how it has turned out so far. And if some tough losses had gone the Yankees way during the past two months, they could be in first place in the AL East so it's been kind of a strange season. The last six weeks (of the season) are shaping up to be pretty exciting.
BYB: Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez have emerged as the two young sluggers on this team, but back in 2015, the guy a lot of people were excited about was Greg Bird. He is very close to returning from injury. It's his propensity for injury that has many people concerned. What does the future look like for Bird as a Yankee?
SG: I have no idea what the future holds for Greg Bird. He's a good lefty hitter who hits for power and he's so well-suited for Yankee Stadium, so the past two seasons have been such a disappointment after such a promising glimpse of what could have been in 2015. I just really hope that the surgery he had on his ankle allows him to stay healthy for the rest of the season and for the rest of his career.
BYB: Speaking of Judge, he has displayed great skills in the areas of being gigantic and parking baseballs long distances from home plate. After his torrid first half, I would imagine some regression was expected, but his second half hasn't looked too hot. Is this something Yankees fans should be concerned about?
SG: I really don't know what's going on with Judge. Regression was obviously expected after the insane first half that he had but he has fallen off a cliff. Is Judge as good as his first half? Probably not, but is he as bad as he's been since about July 7? Definitely not. Something's up and Yankee fans will probably find out soon what it really is. There are also whispers about a left shoulder injury that Judge has been playing through that could be causing some issues. I think he just needs some rest and I wish Joe Girardi would just do it already.
BYB: The last game of the series features 2016 Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer for Detroit. I understand Yankee fans had some guy named Sanchez they thought was pretty alright last year. As we approach the end of the second season for Fulmer and Sanchez, if you had to pick one of the two to have on your team for the rest of their career, who do you take?
SG: I'd pick Sanchez but that's just my Yankee bias showing. :)
BYB: After backing up the Brinks truck to pay Aroldis Chapman in the off-season, the team recently stripped him of his closing responsibilities. Soooooooo, what's up with Chapman?
SG: I don't know if you want to get me started on Aroldis Chapman. I loathed the signing from the jump and it's already coming back to bite them in year one. What's it going to look like in year five? (If he's still with the team then which I really hope he's not.) His velocity is there but when you throw straight fastballs, major league hitters are going to be able to hit them no matter how fast they are if they're sitting on them. He's also having some control issues when he isn't throwing straight, lifeless fastballs, which aren't a good thing for a closer. I also think Dellin Betances should be the closer for now. Chapman can work out his issues in a mop-up role.
BYB: Here's your chance to prognosticate. What is your prediction for how this series shakes out?
SG: Detroit won two out of three the last time these two teams met and I can see it going that way again, but you never know. I'll say this. I don't see either team sweeping the series.