October baseball is much more fun when the Phillies are involved, but the playoffs this year have been exciting to watch nonetheless. As much as it pains me to admit, the most electrifying team to watch for me was the New York Yankees. In the midst of what was supposed to be a stepping stone year in a potential rebuild, they took the Astros to a seven game American League Championship Series, narrowly missing the chance to claim their 28th World Series championship. Not only did the Yankees set themselves up for success this past season, but that success could be sustained for years to come. I, for one, hope that Matt Klentak has been paying attention. If the Phillies can find a way to emulate the type of roster and moves that the Yankees have made, post season baseball could be back in Philadelphia very soon.
So what do the Yankees and Phillies have in common? For starters, they both have a talented core of young position players.
The Yankees were graced with a potential MVP season in outfielder Aaron Judge, who hit an incredible 52 home runs to go along with 114 runs batted in, and was everything that New York could have hoped for. Those type of numbers will be hard to replicate each season, but there’s no reason to believe Judge will be slowing down anytime soon. Two years older than Judge, 27 year old Didi Gregorius figures to be a staple in the middle infield for New York, adding some pop to the line up and coming up in big situations like this in the postseason. His infield partner, and three time all-star, Starlin Castro is also a big piece in the Yankees puzzle. Second to Judge, 24 year old Gary Sanchez is the next biggest star in this Yankees’ offense. Sanchez can flat out mash the ball. He is lacking in his defense, but he makes up for it with his offense, illustrated by his 33 homer 90 RBI season. Additionally, the number one prospect in the organization, Gleyber Torres should be joining the fun next year, after suffering a season ending injury earlier this year.
The Phillies will be looking forward to full seasons from Nick Williams, Rhys Hoskins, JP Crawford, and Jorge Alfaro next season, to go along with Maikel Franco, Odubel Herrara, and Aaron Altherr. This group is not as experienced as the Yankees core mentioned above, but they have shown us flashes that should have us all excited to watch next year.
What do the Yankees have that the Phillies don’t have? Notable veteran presence, an established manager, and most importantly, pitching.
The Yankees have never been afraid to break out the checkbook. Adding guys like Matt Holliday in free agency can be key when you have a young locker room. Holliday isn’t the player he once was, but he contributed with 19 home runs and 64 RBIs, and was surely a help in the clubhouse for a young Yankees team. Another part of the formula to success is having a strong manager. Joe Girardi has proven this season why he should be considered one of the top managers in MLB. After breaking Phillies Nation’s hearts in 2009, Girardi has never won fewer than 84 games in a season with New York and has made five playoff appearances. If you’re in for a change of scenery, Joe, I know a team in need of a manager.
Lastly, but most importantly, the Yankees have an impressive starting rotation topped off with a great bullpen. They had the fifth best ERA in all of baseball during the regular season (the Phillies finished 18th), and had a strong showing throughout the playoffs. The bullpen is anchored by fireballer Aroldis Chapman, who signed a five year deal with New York this offseason. Its a complete staff, headlined by aces in Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Severino.
The Phillies pitching staff is still somewhat in limbo. Aaron Nola is the ace, but behind him there are more questions than answers. Adam Morgan had an unbelievable second half out of the bullpen, but I can’t give him my full endorsement quite yet. The Phillies are early in their search for a manager, but if Klentak can find a guy who has had success on the field and respect in the clubhouse like Girardi, the Phillies will be in good hands.
The Yankees were not afraid of their inevitable success. They saw that they had a talented team and decided to go out there and make a splash in the trade and free agency market to put them in position to make a deep October run. Acquiring guys like Todd Frazier and Sonny Gray not only improves your team, but sends the message to the young players that you believe in them. It will be interesting to see what happens if the Phillies have a promising season in 2018. The Phillies will be in a prime financial position to go after big name free agents, and if I’m Klentak, I’m betting on this young core and trying to add every asset possible to launch Philadelphia back into World Series contention.
Image : Mojahed79 (via Flickr)