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Yankees scouting report for 2018

Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius on Feb. 21,

Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius on Feb. 21, 2018 Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Yankees rotation

The group, led by ace Luis Severino, should be solid again, though there are questions. Among the primary ones: will a career-high 193 1/3 regular-season innings negatively impact the 24-year-old Severino? Were the career-high 35 homers allowed by Masahiro Tanaka an aberration or a foreshadowing? Can 37-year-old CC Sabathia, who posted his lowest ERA (3.69) in five years, stay healthy enough to come close to the 27 starts he made last season? And, like most teams, the Yankees could use some depth should the inevitable injuries occur. GRADE: B

Yankees bullpen

Yankees relievers struck out 653 batters last season, the second-most by a bullpen in 2017 (Houston’s had 662). With the group returning almost in its entirety, including strikeout machines Aroldis Chapman, Chad Green and, inconsistent as he was toward season’s end, Dellin Betances, there’s no reason to think there will be a significant dropoff. Though, as Brian Cashman will caution on occasion, “bullpens can be volatile.” GRADE: A

Yankees middle infielders

Didi Gregorius, teammates are quick to say, is among MLB’s most underrated players. The 28-year-old has gotten better each season since being called on in 2015 to replace Derek Jeter, and he established career highs last season in homers (25), RBIs (87) and runs (73). The 25 homers set a franchise record by a shortstop. It was assumed that switch-hitting veteran Neil Walker, signed midway through spring training, would get most of the time at second base, but Tyler Wade, 23, has been consistently excellent and looks as if he’ll get plenty of reps there, too. GRADE: B+

Yankees corner infielders

Yankees talent evaluators think the 25-year-old Brandon Drury, acquired early in spring training to play third, is on the verge of blossoming, similar to how they felt about a then-unproven Gregorius before the 2015 season. High expectations accompany Greg Bird but, as the 25-year-old first baseman pointed out early in the spring, given the injuries he’s dealt with the last two years, “I’ve got to do it for a full season.” Indeed, on Tuesday Bird required surgery on his right ankle that will keep him out 6-8 weeks. GRADE: C+

Yankees outfield

Aaron Judge will get most of the time in right but Giancarlo Stanton will play there too and could, on occasion, see some action in left, though that experiment has received mixed reviews. Brett Gardner, a Gold Glove winner, will start as the primary leftfielder and will be counted on to provide a spark as the leadoff hitter most nights. Centerfielder Aaron Hicks, 28, had a career-best year in 2017. GRADE: A

Yankees catchers

According to more than a few talent evaluators, both inside and outside the organization, Gary Sanchez is the most complete hitter the Yankees have. Sabathia declared the same earlier this spring. The 25-year-old Sanchez’s defense is a work in progress, but scouts have noted improvement. Backup Austin Romine is as good as they come defensively and has emerged as a clubhouse leader. GRADE: A-

Yankees bench

As of the start of the season, Stanton is slated to be the primary DH. Judge, coming off the offseason procedure on his left shoulder, will get some starts there, as will Sanchez, whom the Yankees don’t want to see wear down. Not a bad trio. Ronald Torreyes excelled last season as a plug-and-play utilityman, and on the days when Neil Walker or Tyler Wade doesn’t start at second, the other will give Aaron Boone a good option off the bench if need be. GRADE: A

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