The Yankees have the talent to end their lengthy World Series drought this season, but their fate will rest largely on the shoulders of these three players.
No one inside the Yankees organization is hiding from the team’s most important goal heading into this season. It might be unfair to call it a World Series title or bust season for manager Aaron Boone, but that’s how things are shaping up in the Bronx.
The team spent big in free agency this year on Carlos Rodon to fortify the starting rotation. Even more cash was utilized to keep Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo in the fold. That doesn’t mean GM Brian Cashman executed a perfect off-season plan.
Yankees: 3 players who will make or break season
Left field is widely viewed as the team’s weak link after Andrew Benintendi spurned the club in free agency. That makes the following veteran’s play in the outfield a massive key for the Yankees heading into Opening Day.
3. Aaron Hicks
Hicks projects as the Opening Day starter in left field more by default than anything else. There’s always a chance that Cashman swings a deal to put him on the bench before Opening Day, but it’s far more likely that New York gives Hicks a chance to show his injury issues are behind him.
In theory, Hicks’ switch-hitting ability and athleticism make him a nice addition to the team’s starting lineup. The problem is that he’s a constant injury concern whose hitting with the Yankees has waxed and waned during his time in the Bronx.
Even if Hicks does defy the odds and stay healthy, he needs to hit far better than last year’s batting average mark of .216 if he wants to maintain his place in Boone’s everyday lineup. If he can perform like an average regular in left it will remove a lot of pressure on Cashman to make a move during the regular season. That might seem like a low bar for Hicks but it’s something he’s fallen short of for several consecutive seasons.