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MLB season preview: The next generation of Yankees is here

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Here we are, the start of the new era for the New York Yankees. No Alex Rodriguez. No Mark Teixeira. Heck, Derek Jeter is getting his number retired this season. The Yankees you used to know? They’re old dudes now. The Baby Bombers? They’re here now.

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While some people think the Yankees have an outside shot at a playoff spot this year, that’s not exactly the goal for 2017. This season will be about getting their talented youngsters more reps at the big-league level and prepping themselves for what they hope is another run at a dynasty in a few years.

Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge and Greg Bird all figure to be everyday staples in the Yankees lineup. Clint Frazier is coming soon too. Their development, more than where the Yankees end up in the standings, is what will make this season a success. Veterans are still around to help out — whether it’s CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka in the rotation or newcomer Matt Holliday in the lineup — but make no mistake, this is the dawn of a new era in the Bronx.

ADDITIONS AND SUBTRACTIONS
Additions: Aroldis Chapman, Matt Holliday
Subtractions: Nathan Eovaldi, Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann

All the Yankees’ moves at the 2016 trade deadline seemed to indicate the team was in the middle of the rebuild. Despite that, they went out and spent a record amount of money on Aroldis Chapman. He’s a great reliever, obviously, but you have to wonder how much he’ll help the club this season. Having him around didn’t push New York to the playoffs in 2016. Holliday seems like a solid bounce-back candidate, especially if he can take advantage of the Yankees’ small stadium.

It’s tough to lose sleep over any of the team’s losses. Eovaldi suffered a nasty arm injury, and will likely miss all of 2017 rehabbing. Both Teixeria and McCann were getting old, and the team has natural replacements for both. Greg Bird will try and prove his 2015 debut wasn’t a fluke, while Gary Sanchez will take the reins at catcher after exploding onto the scene in 2016. (Chris Cwik)

Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez is among the youngsters with high expectations. (AP)
Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez is among the youngsters with high expectations. (AP)

KEY PLAYER
CC Sabathia had a better 2016 than anyone expected, bouncing back from a few bad years with a 3.91 ERA in 30 starts and nearly 180 innings. It was his best year since 2012. With the Yankees rotation full of questions, the team needs Sabathia to do more of that. They need someone stable, who can eat innings and keep most starts winnable. If Sabathia provides that, it’s one less thing the Yankees have to worry about. (Liz Roscher)

PROJECT LINEUP & ROTATION
Lineup
1. Brett Gardner, LF (.261/.351/.362, 7 HR, 41 RBI, 16 SB)
2. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF (.263/.330/.374, 9 HR, 56 RBI, 20 SB)
3. Gary Sanchez, C (.299/.376/.657, 20 HR, 42 RBI)
4. Matt Holliday, DH (.246/.322/.461, 20 HR, 62 RBI)
5. Greg Bird, 1B (.261/.343/.529, 11 HR, 31 RBI)
6. Starlin Castro, 2B (.270/.300/.433, 21 HR, 70 RBI)
7. Didi Gregorius, SS (.276/.304/.447, 20 HR, 70 RBI)
8. Chase Headley, 3B (.253/.331/.385, 14 HR, 51 RBI)
9. Aaron Judge, RF (.179/.263/.345, 4 HR, 10 RBI)

Rotation
1. Masahiro Tanaka (14-4, 3.07 ERA, 199.2 IP, 165 K)
2. Michael Pineda (6-12, 4.82 ERA, 175.2 IP, 207 K)
3. CC Sabathia (9-12, 3.91 ERA, 179.2 IP, 152 K)
4. Luis Severino (3-8, 5.83 ERA, 71 IP, 66 K)
5. Chad Green (2-4, 4.73 ERA, 45.2 IP, 52 K)

Masahiro Tanaka heads the Yankees rotation again. (AP)
Masahiro Tanaka heads the Yankees rotation again. (AP)

BEST-CASE SCENARIO
The Yankees young core lives up to the lofty expectations and helps carry them back to the postseason. It sounds wonderful, and it’s possible that’s what happens. There will be growing pains. If they can consistently overcome them, though, there’s no reason they can’t surpass 90 wins and challenge for the postseason. (Mark Townsend)

WORST-CASE SCENARIO
There’s a scenario in which the Yankees young players struggle this season. There’s another scenario where aging veterans like Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner and Chase Headley fail to bounce back. Then there’s a frightening scenario where both come true. If it’s scenario No. 3, the Yankees could settle in the low 80s for season victories. (Townsend)

PRESSING FANTASY QUESTION
Should we pay the freight on Gary Sanchez’s sophomore year?
I’m not going to own any Sanchez shares this year, and for better or for worse, it was the quickest decision of the season. The frame of his 2016 season — and the subsequent pricing into the new season — makes it so.

[More: Read about all the Yankees’ pressing fantasy questions]

Obviously Sanchez was ridiculous in his first extended close-up last year. He clocked 20 homers in just 201 at-bats, slashing .299/.376/.657. His home runs were equally split, home and away.

But it’s hard to balance that ridiculous line against the .275/.339/.460 slash he compiled over seven years in the minors. Even his strong Triple-A resume — .286/.342/.478 — pales to what Sanchez did in the majors. Baseball isn’t supposed to be this easy for anyone; a 40 percent ratio of home runs to fly balls is insane. And I’m not comfortable using a Top 45-55 pick on someone who needs to hit his high range of outcomes to justify the pick. (Scott Pianowski)

BEST FOLLOW
Is there anything more you could want from Twitter than Alex Rodriguez? Who cares if he’s not playing anymore, he’s still very much a Yankees associate.

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The A-Rod family is beyond great, but his Twitter is also peppered with pics of him hard at work at ARod Corp. Each of those A-Rod Corp pictures feel like a moment from a whole A-Rod Office sitcom that we’re just not seeing. What’s it like there? How much time does he spend signing autographs? What are these brainstorming sessions like? What do they get for lunch? Is there a coffee machine? Does it cause hilarious hijinx? (Roscher)

BEST REASON TO ATTEND A GAME
Start saving money now, because it’s Derek Jeter Night on May 14. On that day, the Yankees will celebrate and honor the career of their legendary shortstop. During the ceremony, the team will retire Jeter’s iconic No. 2. Ticket prices for the event have already skyrocketed. Bleacher seats had jumped to $140 to $155 in February. It will cost a lot to be there, but how can you miss out on Jeter’s number getting retired? (Cwik)

ALSO IN THIS SERIES: San Diego Padres, Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Phillies, Oakland Athletics, Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Angels, Atlanta Braves, Minnesota Twins, Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago White Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals, Detroit Tigers, Colorado Rockies, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays, Texas Rangers, New York Mets, Houston Astros, Washington Nationals, San Francisco Giants, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!