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Yankees 2018 season preview: Judge, Stanton look to begin next dynasty

The Bronx Bombers nearly reached the World Series last year, and they’ll aim higher with two MVP-caliber hitters.

Aaron Judge returns as the face of the

Aaron Judge returns as the face of the Yankees, but he's not their only elite power hitter. Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

The New York Yankees don’t stay down for long.

Despite beginning 2017 with modest expectations and a roster rife with young, unproven talent, the so-called Baby Bombers surged all the way to within one win of the World Series. The 91-71 campaign ended a four-year drought since the team’s last ALCS appearance.

After such a strong season, championship expectations are back for the most decorated franchise in professional sports. Overtaking the Houston Astros, who ousted the Yanks in seven games before topping the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Fall Classic, won’t be easy. However, an already potent lineup upgraded over the winter and could be enough to put them over the top.

Read on for a primer on the Yankees’ season, which begins Thursday with a visit to the Toronto Blue Jays, in order for them to hoist their 28th World Series trophy this fall.

Bombs away!

Aaron Judge wowed the baseball world with 30 home runs before the All-Star break, finishing with 52 for the year and earning AL Rookie of the Year and placing second in the MVP vote. New teammate Giancarlo Stanton, acquired from the Miami Marlins in December for Starlin Castro and prospects, launched 33 homers in the season’s second half en route to 59 total and the NL MVP award.

To think that these two towers of power, both of whom stand 6-6 or taller, will be in part of the same lineup for years to come is astounding. Factor in returning regulars Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius and Brett Gardner as well as new second baseman Niel Walker — all of whom hit at least 20 homers in 2016, ’17 or both — and these Yankees could threaten the 1997 Seattle Mariners’ record of 264 team home runs in a season. Bronx Bombers, indeed.

Pocket aces

Masahiro Tanaka was the presumed anchor of the starting rotation to start 2017, but it was Luis Severino who posted a 2.98 ERA and placed third in AL Cy Young voting. Meanwhile, the high-priced Japanese star languished with a 4.74 ERA, by far the worst of his four-year career in pinstripes.

Without question, Severino enters 2018 as the top dog of a pitching staff. Still, it’s possible that both righthanders surrender runs at a much closer rate to one another. Tanaka pitched well in the postseason, and Severino struggled mightily the previous year.

Even if that’s the case, the Yanks still possess a pair of bona fide front-line starters ahead of solid veterans CC Sabathia and Sonny Gray. Most days, each of those four should be able to turn it over to a deep bullpen that features Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances and David Robertson, all of whom have closed games in the past.

New hand at the helm

A surprise run to the ALCS wasn’t enough to keep Joe Girardi in town, as the former manager was let go after 10 years and one 2009 World Series crown.

Instead of a known quantity, general manager Brian Cashman brought in Aaron Boone to skipper the Yankees. The move was quite a gamble, given the one-time All-Star has been in broadcasting since his 2009 retirement as a player.

Only three other active managers accepted their first major league managerial role without previous coaching experience at any professional level. One of those is A.J. Hinch, who guided Houston to glory last season. However, the Astros gig is his second managerial stop.

Boone, whose 2003 walk-off homer against the rival Boston Red Sox put the Yankees in the World Series, is a third-generation big-leaguer. His brother Bret, father Bob and grandfather Ray were All-Star players in their day, and his dad managed the Kansas City Royals and Cincinnati. The club is counting on his baseball DNA to shepherd these Yankees to the next level.

YANKEES PREDICTIONS

Wins: 93

Aaron Judge’s HRs: 46

Giancarlo Stanton’s HRs: 42

Gary Sanchez’s RBIs: 113

Luis Severino’s SOs: 211

Masahiro Tanaka’s ERA: 3.74

Aroldis Chapman’s saves: 29

Gleyber Torres’ call-up: June 14

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