The New York Yankees largely sat out free agency when they did not seriously pursue 26-year-old superstars Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, but they did so because they strongly believe they have everything they need in-house.
The Yankees are so confident that they believe they will set the single-season team home run record in 2019 — the one that they set just last season.
After Sunday’s spring training game in which former Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge and veteran Brett Gardner each went deep twice, the two outfielders told reporters that they would top 2018’s mark of 267 bombs.
"Oh definitely,” Judge said, via ESPN. “You get this whole team healthy, we're going to crush the record that we set last year. We've got a good team, a lot of guys that could make a lot of solid contact, and a lot of big boys that when they make contact, man, it goes. We're a team that's primed and ready to do that.”
New York’s record-setting season last year was even more impressive when considering how much time its best power hitters missed. Judge’s broken wrist sidelined him for two months, while Gary Sanchez had two injury list stints due to groin injuries and was not especially effective when he was playing.
It can be tempting to prorate how many more home runs those players would have hit if healthy and add it to last year’s total, although things aren’t quite that simple. Still, the 2019 Bronx Bombers will have a decent shot.
What are the Yankees’ chances of breaking their own record?
Now projections tend to be on the conservative side, especially Steamer, but there’s also plenty of wiggle room. Last season, the Yankees were projected for 250 bombs and tallied an extra 17 homers in real life.
A lot of this will come down to health since the Yankees won’t have much of a shot to break their own record if Judge or Stanton miss significant time. The duo is projected for a combined 79 home runs — or 32 percent of the team’s total.
We already know that shortstop Didi Gregorius will miss the start of the season due to Tommy John surgery, but former Colorado Rockies DJ LeMahieu and Troy Tulowitzki may be able to pick up some of the slack. Otherwise, most of the hitters are still at or reaching their prime. The only starter older than 29 is Gardner (35), who only hit 12 homers last year after reaching a career-high 21 in 2017.
Harper is projected for 36 home runs, while Machado is projected for 33, so the Yankees certainly could have had a more potent offense with fewer at-bats for Gardner, Tulowitzki or LeMahieu. There’s no doubt they’ll have one of the best power-hitting teams ever, but with a little extra spending this winter, they probably could have had the greatest.
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