5 Yankees storylines to watch as 2023 MLB season begins
The Yankees enter the 2023 MLB season looking to make a deep postseason run and reach the World Series for the first time since 2009.
Aside from the journey of the regular season, there are a lot of storylines to watch.
Here are the top five…
Overcoming the injury bug
The Yankees are decimated by injuries, and that’s putting it lightly. It started when Frankie Montas went down with a shoulder injury that could keep him out for the season.
Then Nestor Cortes had to pull out of the WBC due to a hamstring injury (although it looks like he’ll be good to go for the start of the season). And this offseason’s biggest acquisition, Carlos Rodon, will start the year on the IL due to a forearm strain.
In addition, Luis Severino will also start the season on the IL with a lat strain. That’s three starters out of the rotation. While the Yankees have arms like Domingo German and Clarke Schmidt to fill in two of those holes, who can they trust to slot in as the fifth starter?
The offensive side of the ball is relatively healthy with the biggest loss being Harrison Bader (oblique), but with the mounting injuries to starters, can the Yanks start the year on the right foot like they did last season?
In 2022, New York started the season 15-6 in April and went 56-21 through June. That helped them stay atop the AL East and remain in the top two seeds in the league, even after stumbling in August. With all of their injuries, it’ll be hard to duplicate.
Can certain Yankees win back the fans?
There are a handful of names who make Yankees fans’ blood boil heading into the season — Josh Donaldson, Aaron Hicks and Isiah Kiner-Falefa.
All three hitters had subpar years last season but will be looked upon to keep the ship afloat as the team navigates their numerous injuries.
Donaldson is a lock to be the Opening Day third baseman. Not only is his defense still very good, but his contract is too big to keep him on the bench. The Yankees are also convinced he can bounce back offensively after hitting .222 with 15 home runs and 62 RBI in 2022.
While many fans put the former AL MVP in the same breath as Joey Gallo, team brass believes in the veteran.
Hicks will likely have a starting role in the outfield on most days with Bader going down with an injury and no everyday left fielder on the roster. The 33-year-old slashed just .216/.330/.313 last year, but if he can play good defense and find consistency at the plate he could help the team until Bader returns and a better outfield option is available via trade.
And then we have IKF. It’s clear that he lost his everyday-shortstop gig when manager Aaron Boone benched him in the postseason for rookies, but that was mostly for his defensive mishaps. While his numbers weren’t great at the plate (.261/.314/.327) he was clutch, hitting .327 with men in scoring position with 43 RBI. But ever since the Yankees traded for him from the Twins, he was a stopgap for Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza, the two shortstop prospects in the system.
Anthony Volpe and the shortstop position
Now that Volpe is on the big league roster, the baseball world will see why the Yankees held on to him for so long when upgrades were available the last two seasons.
The team’s top prospect, Volpe hit the cover off the ball in spring, and his calm demeanor feels perfect for the bright lights of Yankee Stadium. He also stole five bases this spring, which will translate well in the bigs — especially with the bigger bags.
Volpe has clearly shown he can handle big league pitching — albeit in spring training — and has flashed the leather on the field. He has also shown he can play both shortstop and second base, giving the team flexibility with their lineup.
However this plays out, Volpe’s time in the bigs will be the most fascinating part of the season.
The performance of the co-aces
Carlos Rodon may be New York’s biggest starting pitcher acquisition since Gerrit Cole, and now both will anchor the rotation in 2023.
While Rodon will miss some time to start the season, when both pitchers are healthy and available they are one of the top co-aces in the game. Cole hasn’t had a pitcher with Rodon’s resume since he’s been with the Yankees.
Can Cole replicate his great performance from last year — with hopefully fewer home runs given up? Will Rodon translate well in the New York market and be able to pitch under some of the brightest lights in baseball?
If the Yankees hope to overcome the rival Houston Astros in the playoffs, they’ll need both aces to pitch great.
Can Aaron Judge repeat?
Judge had one of the most historic seasons in 2022 en route to breaking the cherished AL home run record and taking home the MVP award.
So, what will Judge do for an encore? After inking a massive nine-year, $360 million deal this offseason, the Yankees are hoping for more MVP seasons and some World Series rings.
While it’s hard to imagine Judge hitting 60-plus homers again, it has been done before. Sammy Sosa did it in 1998 and 1999, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
However, I’m sure many fans will settle for 45-plus homers if Judge continues to hit above .300 and drive in 120-plus runs. And hey, if he starts to approach his own home run record at the tail end of the season, it’ll make those often sluggish September games must-watch again.
Source: Yahoo Sports