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2019 New York Yankees Season Preview: Evil Empire ready to make run at World Series

Editor’s note: Baseball is back and Yahoo Sports is previewing all 30 teams over the next month. This year’s previews will focus on fantasy and reality, as our MLB news staff and our fantasy baseball crew come together to assess each team before opening day. Next up, the New York Yankees.

The long-awaited New York Yankees 2018 free-agent spending bonanza didn’t quite materialize like people had been talking about for years. Bryce Harper didn’t put on pinstripes. Neither did Manny Machado.

But you know what? The Yankees will be just fine in 2019, so long as injuries don’t take a further toll on them.

Even though their offseason was less “make-it-rain” than the experts had expected for years, the Yankees still added ex-Seattle Mariners ace James Paxton in a trade and once-All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki on a buy-low deal after the Blue Jays released him.

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Fact is, the Yankees have everything they need to go head-to-head with the Boston Red Sox in the AL East, so long as ace Luis Severino isn’t long-term hurt. Shoulder problems have sidelined him, and he won’t pitch opening day, but we don’t know the full extent.

With Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez in the middle of that order, and Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, a re-signed Zack Britton and newcomer Adam Ottavino sitting in the bullpen, the Yankees are as dangerous as they come — either in real baseball or on your fantasy team. There are a lot of people who can help win games in the Bronx, that’s for sure.

New York Yankees stars Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge should have plenty to celebrate in 2019. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

That bullpen may be the biggest advantage the Yankees have over the Red Sox, who aren’t heading into 2019 with an experienced closer. The Yankees, meanwhile, are hoping to bash a lot of homers and lock down the last three innings.

It’s a strategy that could totally work for them. - Mike Oz

Yankees’ offseason grade

Yankees GM Brian Cashman could look like a genius if Paxton stays healthy and Tulowitzki has some of that old Tulo left in the tank. Those two, if things swing the right way, could be huge for the Yankees.

Another big addition is DJ LeMahieu, the former NL batting champ who came over the from Rockies as a free agent. In the crowded Yankees infield, he may just be platooning at first base. Or he could help elsewhere if needed because of injuries. It’s a sign that the Yankees are deep.

Add Britton and Ottavino to the offseason haul and you have a Yankees team whose offseason could end up like a millionaire finding jewels at T.J. Maxx instead of spending $300 million at Louis Vuitton.

Our grade: B — It wasn’t Harper or Machado, but the Yankees got what they wanted and they’ll be good. - Mike Oz

New York’s projected lineup and pitching staff

The New York Yankees projected lineup for 2019. (Yahoo Sports)

What is the Yankees’ biggest fantasy question?

Are we missing a buying opportunity on Aaron Judge? A busted wrist cost him two months last year, and he wasn’t right upon the September return. Let’s be fair; consider what Judge did before the injury. If you apply his first 99 games to a 162-game schedule, you’re looking at .285/.398/.548, with 43 home runs, 115 runs, and 100 RBIs. His age, supporting cast, and ballpark are all points in favor of the stock. Judge occasionally slips into the second round of drafts, when he’s actually worth considering even in the upper half of Round 1. — Scott Pianowski

What big name is New York’s player to avoid?

Aroldis Chapman has become the Stephen Strasburg of closers — speedy and fun when he’s right, but regular maintenance comes standard. Chapman has averaged a mere 57 innings over the last six years, and he hasn’t made it to 67 innings in any season over that span. The Yankees have a deep bullpen, and while Chapman is the unquestioned closer, the team won’t hesitate to shut him down for periodic rest at the slightest bump in the road. For all the heaters over 100 mph and dedicated save opportunities over the years, Chapman has never had more than 38 handshakes in a season — and he’s been a regular on four playoff teams. We’re not saying Chapman is a likely bust, but he has the look of a Tier 2 closer at a Tier 1 price. — Scott Pianowski

[Positional Rankings: Top 300 Overall | C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | P]

Yankees prospect to watch

Jonathan Loaisiga had a bad ERA in his brief 2018 debut, but he’s a promising player. Over 24 2/3 innings, Loaisiga struck out 33 batters. He also walked 12, so there’s work to be done. Whether Loaisiga will find a home as a starter or reliever remains to be seen. He completed for a starting job this spring, but it was only going to be temporary. No matter where he winds up, Loaisiga has the stuff to be effective. Injuries have been an issue in the past, though, so that’s something to watch. - Chris Cwik

Things that MUST go right for New York

1. Luis Severino gets well: On the heels of his $40 million extension, Severino was shut down with a shoulder ailment that will keep him out at least through April. Now the Yankees have to hope this doesn't become a long-term issue for their ace. The Yankees rotation depth will also be tested with CC Sabathia expected to begin the season on the injured list. It all centers around Severino though, because there's no one there who can replace his top level talent and production. He's the go-to guy, and they'll need him at 100 percent to keep up with the Red Sox.

2. Gary Sanchez figures it out: 2018 was an all-around disappointment for Sanchez. He was limited to 89 games due to injury, and when healthy he was constantly under fire for his sloppy defense. Even manager Aaron Boone called him out, which many believe was an eye-opener for Sanchez. The hope is he'll start to embrace blocking balls in the dirt as much as hitting them over the fence. The Yankees need Sanchez's bat in the lineup, and they'll need his defense to improve to keep him there.

3. No sophomore slumps: The Yankees didn't sign Manny Machado this winter and they won't have Didi Gregorius early on following Tommy John surgery. That means Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar will be counted on again to carry a big load offensively. The good news is both were up to the task as rookies, hitting 24 and 27 homers respectively. The concern, as with all young players, is that the league will catch up. If they avoid the sophomore slump, the Yankees offense will be as dangerous as ever. - Mark Townsend

If this team had a walk-up song, what would it be?

The Yankees lineup is enough to leave any opposing pitcher shook. They’re daunting, no doubt about it. So we’ve had this one saved for the Yankees since the start of our series — the menacing Mobb Deep classic “Shook Ones Pt. 2,” which is not only one of the greatest rap songs of all time, it would probably strike fear if the Yankees played as they were coming up to bat. - Mike Oz

More 2019 MLB Previews From Yahoo Sports

Baltimore | Miami | Kansas City | Detroit | Texas | Toronto | San Diego

Chicago (AL) | Minnesota | San Francisco | Pittsburgh | Arizona | Seattle

Cincinnati | Los Angeles (AL) | Oakland | Tampa Bay | Colorado | Cleveland

New York (NL) | St. Louis | Atlanta | Philadelphia | Milwaukee | Chicago

Washington | Los Angeles (NL) | Houston | New York (AL) | Boston