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Yankees have reason to be optimistic about future

Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees follows

Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees follows through on a seventh inning home run against the Houston Astros in game four of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium. Oct. 17, 2017. Credit: Jim McIsaac

HOUSTON — Brian Cashman, his emotions raw from the sudden end of the season, wasn’t quite ready to look at 2018 and beyond. Still, the Yankees’ general manager couldn’t help but see 2017 as the start of something rather than the end.

“I think there’s a lot of pieces that are here that have a chance to have exciting times ahead,” he said.

The Yankees surpassed just about all of the outside expectations set for the season — most predicted them to be about a .500 team — and made it all the way to Game 7 of the American League Championship Series before losing to the Astros. They led the series 3-2 before managing a total of one run in Games 6 and 7, giving them only three runs in the four games in Houston.

Frustrating as that may have been, it was hard not to see the silver lining of the young core of talent the Yankees are built around. Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, Gary Sanchez and Luis Severino headline a group that gained invaluable experience by playing deep into October — and, for the most part, thriving.

“Obviously, for the young guys, it’s great to get exposure to it,” Cashman said.

And pretty much to a man in the quiet of the Yankees’ clubhouse late Saturday night, that crew already was talking about spring training 2018 and trying to finish the job.

“Getting my first chance to play in front of crowds like that, situations like that, is going to be huge for us going on,” Aaron Judge said. “We have a lot of young guys on this team, and getting as far as we did is going to be beneficial down the road for us.”

Cashman, the GM since 1998 — his contract is up at the end of the month, but he is expected to be back — frequently has said that when it comes to his club, regardless of how things may look, “I’m never comfortable.”

He added, “I think people in my chair, if you’re trying to be good at what you do, you never assume anything. My attitude’s always been, hope for the best but plan for the worst. I think that’s what people in my chair always should do. But I do think there’s a lot of exciting things that potentially could be happening going forward, but they have to play it out.”

As good as the core looks — it includes the likes of Jordan Montgomery, a rookie lefthander who stuck in the rotation after emerging late in spring training to win a spot, and Chad Green, a revelation out of the bullpen who probably will enter spring training as a rotation candidate — the franchise possesses one of the top farm systems in the sport.

As Joe Girardi, whose contract also expires at the end of the month, has said repeatedly: “There’s more coming.”

Some of that talent is on the cusp of the big leagues — think top infield prospects Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, righthander Chance Adams and lefthander Justus Sheffield — and then there is a stock of highly regarded talent spread about the lower levels. That group includes outfielder Estevan Florial, who made Blake Rutherford expendable (he went to the White Sox as part of the David Robertson/Tommy Kahnle/Todd Frazier deal), and righthanders Domingo Acevedo, Albert Abreu and Freicer Perez.

“That system,” one opposing team executive said, “is ridiculously loaded.”

Optimistic as he may be, Cashman has been around long enough not to count on anything. There is always work to be done.

“Ultimately, the future’s never promised,” he said. “That’s why you try to do everything you can in the present, and I’m confident we did that, and looking forward to, obviously, hopefully being a part of the process as we move forward. But that’s for another day.”

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