This Yankees Core Will be Better than the 90s Team
If the headline wasn’t polarizing enough, then this next sentence should draw you in a bit: The current young core of the New York Yankees could very well be better than that of the 90s dynasty spearheaded by the Core 4. Yeah, it’s bold. Yeah, it is very lofty. And, yeah, it’s definitely attainable, albeit requiring a lot of guys to turn into borderline Hall of Famers. But if this season is any indication, the Baby Bombers are more than on their way to hitting that benchmark and becoming another great Yankee dynasty.
In order to actually see numerically how these guys stack up, you’ve gotta put ’em side-by-side. As lofty as it sounds, I am going to put the projected roster for the 2018 team up against a team that was supposedly good…114-wins good…the 1998 Yankees. Bear with me so far, as I know this is asking a lot. It’s about to get interesting.
2018: Gary Sánchez
El Gary. The Kraken. The Sanchize. These are some of the nicknames the Yankee backstop has earned by just his second year. Sánchez has done nothing but hit the cover off the ball since being called up to the MLB for good. In 140 career games, Sánchez has hit 41 home runs and driven in 101 runs. That’s as good of a start to a career as anyone could’ve hoped. The only knock on Sánchez is his defense; while he has a strong arm and can make a play or two, passed balls have been problematic for Gary, and Joe Girardi has already shown his frustration with that. If Sánchez can start blocking balls consistently, you’re looking at a premier catcher in the game in the class of Perez and Posey.
1998: Jorge Posada
Hip hip, Jorge! A fan favorite throughout his time in New York, Posada was the embodiment of a catcher: gritty, tough-as-nails, and could hit and defend as good as anybody. A 5-time All Star, Posada hit 275 home runs and drove in over 1,000 runs in his career. He also won 5 rings with the Bombers. He also didn’t fade as he got older, hitting .285 in his third-to-last season, and still providing pop to a Yankee lineup that thrived off of his presence. Posada is well-known to be the best friend of Derek Jeter.
Sánchez is already well on his way to being the next Yankee backstop to spearhead a dynasty. It’s just a question of whether he can fix his defense or not.
2018: Greg Bird
Bird showed the world he was ready to play in 2015 by swatting 10 dingers in the place of the injured Mark Teixeira in the midst of a playoff race. He also was the best hitter in all of Spring Training, hitting .451 with 8 home runs. That’s impressive. Unfortunately, the man has dealt with shoulder and foot surgery the past two seasons, and hasn’t been able to remain healthy. The guy is a well-rounded player that could be in the league for a very long time, he just needs to stay on the field.
1998: Tino Martinez
Tino Martinez is still to this day beloved by Yankee fans. If not for Ken Griffey Jr. going absolutely nuts in 1997, Tino would have an MVP added to his already impressive resumé. In 1998, Martinez drove in 123 runs, and was an integral part to the Yankee lineup; he hit a huge grand slam in the World Series. He hit over 300 bombs over his career, and is a borderline candidate for the Hall of Fame.
Conclusion: If Bird can not make regular trips to the DL, while he may not be Martinez, he is and can be a pretty damn good player. It’s just a question of how he performs in relation to his health.
2018: Starlin Castro
Starlin Castro has done nothing but hit since he was first called up. Already with over 1,000 career hits, Castro has been a nice addition to the Yankees the past few seasons. He and Didi Gregorius look to man the middle infield for the next few years in the Bronx. Castro is currently hitting .307 with 12 bombs and 45 RBI in a season where he has spent a good amount of time on the DL. When healthy, though, the man rakes.
1998: Chuck Knoblauch
Knoblauch came over from the Twins in 1998 to form a deadly double play combo with Derek Jeter. Knoblauch also hit a huge home run in Game One of the World Series, the same one featuring Tino’s slam. For the Yankees in 1998, he hit .265 with 17 home runs and 64 RBI.
Conclusion: If Castro can play at the level he played at when healthy, he’s a better option than Knoblauch. His bat is remarkable.
2018: Didi Gregorius
Sir Didi! The man brought in to replace The Captain, Didi has gotten better every year in Pinstripes. I have been saying for over a year that he’s an elite shortstop that should be recognized in the class of Correa, Lindor, and Bogaerts, and now that statement is looking truer and truer by the day. In 2015, Didi hit .265, but it took him a while to get rolling. In 2016, he hit .276 with 20 home runs; well-rounded numbers for a shortstop. However, he’s been elite in 2017, batting .307 with 18 home runs while driving in 58. He also plays really solid defense. Can he continue improving year by year? If the trends hold, yes in-Didi, he can.
1998: Derek Jeter
That Jeter guy…sounds familiar…I think he was good at baseball or something…
Not too much to say about one of the greatest to ever don the pinstripes here, but Jeter was a beast in 1998, batting .324 with 19 home runs and 84 RBI, and finished third in the AL MVP voting. As far as his career goes, something along the lines of 5-time champion, over 3,000 hits, a 14-time All Star, 8-time finisher in the top 10 of MVP voting… shall I go on?
Conclusion: Numbers-wise, Jeter is better here. It’s tough to replicate his season from 1998, as well as his career. However, Didi has been much better than Yankee fans initially anticipated when he was acquired, and he definitely has the potential to have a plaque in Monument Park down the road if he keeps this up.
2018: Gleyber Torres
Torres is a very-highly regarded prospect throughout baseball. Acquired in the Aroldis Chapman trade last season with the Cubs, Torres has flown through the minors, and is currently in AAA. He was MVP of the Arizona Fall League, and hit over .400 in Spring Training. He’s also got a solid glove, and can move around the infield. A natural shortstop, the Yankees are hoping he goes the A-Rod route and shifts over. Unfortunately, his season was cut short by injury, but the sky seems to be the limit for this kid.
1998: Scott Brosius
Brosius was a huge bat for the Yankees in ’98, hitting 300 with 19 dingers and 98 RBI. One of my favorite home runs of all time was his shot to tie up the 2001 World Series with Posada on second. He was known for being clutch in the postseason as a whole, as seen here, here, and here. While he wasn’t nearly as successful after 1998, he was a fan favorite for his durability and his knack for coming through in the clutch.
Conclusion: Torres definitely has a higher ceiling than Brosius, and if he lives up to the hype, could be a potential Hall of Famer. He has the chance to be the face of the franchise, and so far, he’s off to a good start.
2018: Clint Frazier
Frazier is exactly what the Yankees need. A good player who hustles out every ball (he thinks extra bases on every hit — you’ve gotta love that) and has a fiery personality. Acquired in the Andrew Miller trade, Frazier has also flown through the farm system, getting a call-up to the MLB on July 1st. He also has a flare for the dramatic…
Man, that was a fun game to be at. Anyways, back to Clint. Not even a month into his career and Joe Girardi has him hitting second. You can expect him to stay in that spot for quite some time going forward.
1998: Chad Curtis
Curtis wasn’t much of a factor in 1998, batting .243 with 10 bombs and 56 RBI. He didn’t hit much during the 1998 postseason, but did win Game 3 of the 1999 World Series with a home run. He’s most known for publicly scolding Derek Jeter; that won’t make you many friends in New York.
Conclusion: Frazier, and it’s not close. His personality is liked in the clubhouse, he hustles his heart out, is a very well-rounded player, and is clutch. Easy pickings.
2018: Aaron Hicks
Hicks was dealt from the Twins for Yankees backstop John Ryan Murphy. Both players struggled immensely in 2016, leading us to believe that both teams lost the trade. However, Hicks woke up. After hitting .217 in 2016, he hit .290 up until an injury. Even after the injury, he’s hit two big home runs against the Red Sox and Mets. He went from liability to weapon in a hurry, and that’s a luxury the Yankees need. He looks to maintain this newfound success going forward.
1998: Bernie Williams
Find me a Yankee fan who doesn’t like Bernie Williams. Seriously. You’re gonna be searching for a looooooong time. Bernie hit .339 in 1998, driving in 97 runs and smashing 26 home runs. A key piece to the Core Four, Bernie stuck around until 2006, winning four titles with New York. He had his number retired in Monument Park in 2015, and is beloved to this day.
Conclusion: Gonna have to go Bernie here, but Hicks is no pushover; he’s a really solid player who seems to be finally panning out. However, for all we know, in 2019, the guy isn’t Hicks in center field. It could be a guy further down I-95…
2018: Aaron Judge
Judge was the best player in baseball for a half, but has struggled in the second half so far. That being said, I think his slump is mechanical, and this video does a great job highlighting why.
The guy has made adjustments before, he’ll make them again. You don’t play like a Hall of Famer because you’re lucky. Judge is the face of the franchise, arguably the face of baseball, and will be a superstar for years to come.
1998: Paul O’Neill
The Warrior is still a fan favorite in the Bronx because of his grit. He hit .317 with 24 bombs and 116 RBI in 1998. His consistent play and his dedication to the team, even with the death of his father during the World Series, added to his workmanlike attitude. He was honored by the Yankees with a plaque in Monument Park, but hasn’t formally had his number retired, although it has been unofficially.
Conclusion: Judge has a high ceiling, and I think he can be better than O’Neill. He has the attitude and attributes to be a star.
- Luis Severino
- Sonny Gray
- Justus Sheffield
- Chance Adams
- Dillon Tate
Sevy has proven himself to be an ace in 2017; he’s fourth in the AL in ERA and strikeouts. He has a blazing fastball and good breaking balls. He can be successful for a long, long time.
Gray finished 3rd in the 2015 Cy Young voting, and has proven that he is an elite pitcher when healthy. His only concern is injury; he has spent some time on the DL over the years. He and Severino make up a deadly 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation, a necessity in a short playoff series.
Sheffield came over with Clint Frazier in the Andrew Miller deal. Highly touted with the Indians, he has only been better with the Yankees, pitching to a 3.07 ERA with the Trenton Thunder. He’s also young, and could be a building block for this rotation.
Adams has flown through the rankings here as well, with some arguing he should be with the big club currently. He has been throwing smoke this season, tearing up AA, earning a call up, and doing the same at AAA. He needs to work on his offspeed stuff a bit, but he has a very high ceiling.
Tate was swapped in the Carlos Beltran deal. Originally thought to be a wash in Texas, Tate has settled in nicely to the Yankees’ system. He killed it in A ball, and was recently called up to Trenton.
I realize that we likely won’t see all five of these guys in the rotation at the start of next season. However, I think some combination of them will be up at certain times with the big league club, with the potential to make up the rotation for years.
- Orlando Hernandez
- David Cone
- David Wells
- Hideki Irabu
- Andy Pettitte
El Duque bounced around the league a bit, but pitched to a 3.13 ERA in 1998, and was a key piece to the Yankees’ World Series run. He finished fourth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting.
Cone finished fourth in the AL Cy Young voting in 1998, posting a 20-7 record and won two clinching games in the postseason that year. He threw a perfect game the next year, but after that, his career went downhill a bit. Today, he calls games for the YES Network.
Boomer pitched just two seasons in the Bronx, winning a ring. However, he did throw a perfect game in ’98, supposedly hung over. After the season ended, he was flipped for Roger Clemens and went north of the border to Toronto.
Irabu made his highly anticipated debut with the Yankees in 1997, but struggled during his time in the Bronx. His best season was 1998, pitching to a 4.06 ERA in 173 innings. He bounced around the league after his time in NY, and went back to the NPB.
Pettitte made up part of the Core Four, winning the Fall Classic by shutting out the Padres. His career in New York was long and successful; he was a three-time All Star, five-time champion, and has his number retired by the Yankees.
Conclusion: If the young guys can come through, the Yanks have a rotation that gives them a chance every night. I don’t know if they’re quite better than the ’98 rotation, but they could be pretty damn good.
I’m not going to cover the bullpens, because they are used much differently in today’s game. But, acknowledging that the 1998 team had Mariano Rivera definitely needs to be thrown out there.
Not only can the 2018 team be better than the 1998 squad, the teams of the future could be, too. The statistical breakdowns so far match up very nicely. Clearly, a lot needs to happen in order for everyone to perform to expectations; that rarely happens in anything. But there’s a feeling about these Yankees that there’s really something special going on here. As in, dynasty special.
Not a lot should change with the Yankees as they go forward in time; the pieces to win now and win later are there and only getting better. If guys like Bird can stay healthy, guys like Judge consistently play like superstars, and guys like Adams harness a deadly arsenal of pitches, this team may not lose a game.
I kid, obviously. But do I really?
Big shoutout to my buddy Dom for the suggestion of this piece — one of my favorites I’ve ever done.
Follow me on Twitter: @svdecaps
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