Let’s face it, the odds of the New York Yankees making the 2016 MLB Playoffs aren’t too good. They currently sit 5.5 games behind the second wild card-leading Baltimore Orioles, but they are only trailing the Seattle Mariners and Detroit Tigers in the overall standings. They’re also sitting behind both the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays in their own division. We know why the Red Sox have a chance at winning the World Series, but there are four big reasons the Yankees will win it all this year. Doubters, don’t hate. The season isn’t over yet.
1. Starlin Castro’s second-half surge
Starlin Castro, the talented second baseman acquired from the Chicago Cubs in the offseason, hasn’t been great with the bat in the early part of his Yankees career. He even recruited former teammate and outfielder Carlos Beltran to help him rediscover his skills, even though the New York Yankees have two batting coaches.
However, what many may not know about the 26-year-old is that he’s become a notorious second-half hitter. In his career, Castro is hitting for a .773 OPS in August and .796 in September versus .723 overall. It’s already begun for Castro, who posted a .688 OPS in the first half of the season but has hit .270/.303/.461 with five home runs since the All-Star break. Castro was integral to the Chicago Cubs’ run to the playoffs with his hot hitting last season. If he experiences a big finish to the 2016 season, it could mean good things for the Yankees, too.
2. Destiny in their own hands
The Yanks obviously have their work cut out for them, even just to make the postseason at this point. But the good news? They have their destiny in their own hands. Among team that they’re chasing in the playoff race — meaning Baltimore, Toronto, Boston, Detroit, and Seattle — the Yankees will play 26 of their final 42 games against them. This means they’ll have their destiny in their own hands.
New York will play Baltimore nine times, Boston seven times, and Toronto seven times, while still facing bad teams such as the Los Angeles Angels and Tampa Bay Rays 10 more times. If the New York Yankees can even achieve a decent record against the teams they’re chasing for a playoff spot, they’ll still be in the race through the final weeks of the season. (They finish with three in Toronto followed by six in New York against the Red Sox and Orioles.)
3. The kids can play
The byproduct of moving a bunch of players — Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran, Aroldis Chapman, and Andrew Miller — off of the roster is the ability for the New York Yankees to bring in new or younger players. As a result, they’ve experienced some strong performances, including Adam Warren and Tyler Clippard taking on roles in the bullpen and the call up of hitting prospects Tyler Austin, Aaron Judge, and Gary Sanchez.
Judge is a monstrous outfielder with a 6-foot-7 frame who was ranked the No. 18 prospect in all of baseball by Baseball Prospectus heading into the season. It’s only been a few games, but he’s on a tear since coming to New York — hitting 7-for-18 with two home runs. Austin is 3-for-12 with a home run as well, and Sanchez is batting .360 with five homers in 53 plate appearances. If the Yankees are going to make a run to get into the postseason, it will be because of these kids showcasing their talent down the stretch.
4. Get in — anyone can win
If the New York Yankees do in fact get into the playoffs, all bets are off. The cliches say everything about the playoffs in Major League Baseball; it’s a crapshoot, any team can win, and the best team doesn’t always win the World Series, for example. New York certainly wouldn’t be the best team to make the playoffs if they do get in, but that doesn’t mean they can’t win it all.
The list of teams that make it with a poor record or as a wild card — ones that get hot and win the World Series — is long. A lot of people doubted the 83-78 St. Louis Cardinals could win the whole thing back in 2006. The same goes for the Minnesota Twins back in 1987 with an 85-77 record and, yes, even the 87-74 Yankees in 2000 when they beat the New York Mets. Are there any teams in the American League that are so great you can’t imagine the Yankees knocking them off in a short series?
All bets are off once the regular season comes to a close and everyone is competing on a level playing field. That’s how the door could remain open for a Yankees World Series win in 2016.
Follow Ryan on Twitter @RyanDavisBP