photo credit:AP Photo
Here’s part 3 of 3 of this series.
Part 1 can be found here
Part 2 can be found here
Astros – Brian McCann
Brian McCann is a durable catcher, who fell 3 games short of extending his streak of consecutive 100+ games played per season to 12 years. McCann provides decent offense for a catcher and has hit 20+ home runs in a season 10 times. That said, McCann is 34 which is old by catcher standards. In addition, Bleacher Report author Zachary D. Rymer wrote a thoughtful ranking of the top 20 MLB catchers. McCann failed to even make the list.
Yankees – Gary Sanchez
Gary Sanchez broke out in 2017. He hit 33 homeruns along with 90 RBIs in 122 games. His 4.4 fWAR led all catchers, edging out Buster Posey. In his first 162 MLB games played, Sanchez hit 50 homeruns. Sanchez will likely put up another excellent season, and the aforementioned article about top 20 MLB catchers had him ranked 2nd in the Majors.
Big Advantage: Yankees
Astros – Yulieski Gurriel
Yulieski Gurriel is entering his second full major league season since leaving Cuba. In 2017, he hit .299 with 75 RBIs and 18 homeruns. Gurriel posted a 1.6 fWAR in 139 games, a number that could increase in 2018. His walk rate of 3.9% is very low and means his on base percentage lives and dies with his ability to put the ball in play. This is fine so long as his batting average hovers around .300, but it is something Gurriel should look to improve upon.
Yankees – Greg Bird
There are some people that seem worried about Greg Bird’s slow start to the spring. A year ago, Bird was on fire in the spring, hitting .451 with 8 homeruns and a .551 on base percentage in 51 at bats. This spring hasn’t been terrible, but a .286 on base percentage certainly doesn’t reflect Bird’s true potential. It’s likely that Aaron Boone will sandwich Bird’s lefthanded bat between Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton this season. As Bird gets more repetitions, he should flourish in 2018, outperforming Fangraphs’ Depth Chart prediction of 1.9 fWAR.
Advantage – Yankees
Astros – Jose Altuve
The 2017 AL MVP, Jose Altuve is the consensus best second baseman in the MLB right now. At 5’6” Altuve plays with the heart of a giant. His .346 batting average led the major leagues last year. He had an on base percentage of .410, stole 32 bases, scored 110 runs, and hit 24 homeruns. Altuve, who turns 28 later this season, shows no signs of slowing down and should put up an fWAR above 6.5 for the third consecutive season.
Yankees – Tyler Wade, Neil Walker
The Yankees signed Neil Walker to a one-year deal in March, leaving some to speculate that Tyler Wade would start the 2018 season in Scranton Wilkes-Barre. Coach Aaron Boone announced on March 21 that Tyler Wade had made the 25-man roster. It seems that the two will play a platoon role, though Walker may see time at 1B if Bird’s struggles continue for too long. Walker has shown that he can be one of the best options up the middle, though injuries have caused him to miss over 100 games during the past two seasons. Wade has had a great spring, hitting .286 with an on base percentage of over .400. Four of his 12 hits this spring have been for extra bases, with three doubles and a triple. The duo should perform well this season, but Altuve remains number one at second.
Big Advantage: Astros
Astros – Alex Bregman
Bregman was called up late in 2016 and hasn’t looked back since. Since being called up,Bregman has put up a 3.8 fWAR, placing third among AL 3rd basemen. At only 23, Bregman will only get better, and should outperform the 3.8 fWAR that FanGraphs’ Depth Charts predicts for him in 2018.
Yankees – Brandon Drury
Last season with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Drury saw time at four different positions. Drury gives the Yankees more versatility, as he can fill in for several different players. This offseason, Drury made adjustments that he feels will help to increase his homerun totals. Drury is at his natural position now. He could hit 20 homeruns this year, to complement his stable defense.
Houston Astros – Carlos Correa
After the Astros lost 106 games in 2011, they earned the first overall pick for 2012. With the first overall selection, they drafted Correa. Three seasons later, Correa took over as the everyday shortstop, helping the Astros to their first winning season in seven years. Despite only playing 109 games in 2017, Correa finished 2nd in the American League in FanGraphs WAR with a 5.2, behind Francisco Lindor’s 5.9. Correa’s WAR per 162 would have been 7.7, making him arguably the game’s best shortstop right now.
Yankees – Didi Gregorius
There’s been plenty of gossip about the Yankees acquiring Baltimore Oriole Manny Machado, but Didi Gregorius is no slouch at shortstop either. Gregorius put up a respectable 3.9 fWAR in 2017, to go along with his 25 homeruns and 87 RBIs. At only 28 years of age, Gregorius still has several productive years ahead of him, and should do well again in 2018.
Astros – Derek Fisher
Although Fisher is currently injured, he’s hit well this spring. In 48 at bats in March, he’s hit .292 with a .407 on base percentage. Speed is the name of his game, and some scouts have given him a speed rating of 70. In addition, he also has good power as he hit 26 homeruns between AAA and Houston in 2017.
Yankees – Giancarlo Stanton
Once again, the Yankees made the biggest splash of the offseason. Last season, Giancarlo was one shy of joining the 60 home run club, and narrowly won the NL MVP over Joey Votto. The AL East has several hitter-friendly ballparks, and Stanton could be the first Yankee to hit 60 in a season since Roger Maris.
Big Advantage: Yankees
Astros – George Springer
Springer is yet another young talented player that the Astros drafted during their losing seasons. In four seasons in the majors, Springer has managed to find new areas to improve. Last year he hit 34 homeruns while scoring 112 runs and driving in 85. FanGraphs’ Depth Charts predicts he’ll put up a 4.3 WAR this season, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he posted a WAR of 5 or above.
Yankees – Aaron Hicks
I’ve written before about how Hicks is underrated. Aaron Hicks put up a very solid 3.3 fWAR in only 88 games in 2017. The Yankee center fielder improved in many categories over his 2016 season. FanGraphs’ Depth Charts isn’t convinced, and only predicts a 2.4 for Hicks in 2018, though I think he is far better than that number suggests.
Astros – Josh Reddick
Reddick posted one of his best seasons in 2017, batting .314 with 13 home runs and 82 RBIs. His 3.5 fWAR was 6th best in the AL. FanGraphs’ Depth Charts predicts a 2.3 WAR for Reddick in 2018, which probably isn’t too far off since it’s closer to what he’s normally done in the past.
Yankees – Aaron Judge
Aaron Judge put up video game numbers in 2017 and was near the top of the league in many categories. Not only did he lead the AL in homeruns and runs, he also finished second in on base percent and OPS (on base plus slugging) behind Mike Trout. The Rookie of the Year voting picked Judge unanimously. Additionally, the AL MVP vote chose Judge as its runner up, though we think the vote should have been much closer. The narrative with Judge will continue to revolve around his strikeout rate, but he has the work ethic to silence that.
Big Advantage: Yankees