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Tanaka has repertoire to win AL Cy Young

March 29, 2017

TAMPA, Fla. -- A World Series trophy is usually the only hardware you'll usually hear players in the Yankees' clubhouse talking about, but as the dawn of the 2017 season approaches, it could be fun to fantasize about what awards might be heading their way in about eight months.It was

TAMPA, Fla. -- A World Series trophy is usually the only hardware you'll usually hear players in the Yankees' clubhouse talking about, but as the dawn of the 2017 season approaches, it could be fun to fantasize about what awards might be heading their way in about eight months.
It was early in Spring Training that Carsten Sabathia predicted greatness for fellow rotation member Michael Pineda, suggesting that if the hulking right-hander finally puts it all together, he has the stuff to become the Yankees' first American League Cy Young Award winner since Roger Clemens in 2001.
"I always come in and say, 'This is the year he's going to win the Cy Young,'" Sabathia said. "He's just got so much talent and he just needs to put it all together, but he's right there."

The platitudes tickled Pineda, but a better bet to stand as the AL's top pitcher may be Masahiro Tanaka, especially coming off a spring in which he held opponents to one earned run over 23 2/3 innings (0.38 ERA).
A relentless perfectionist, Tanaka was 14-4 with a 3.07 ERA last season, ranking third in the AL behind Aaron Sanchez (3.00 ERA) and Justin Verlander (3.04 ERA). Tanaka's fourth year in pinstripes could be the one in which he receives the AL Cy Young Award or an Esurance Pitcher of the Year Award.
"I think I can go into the season with a better mentality," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "Last Spring Training, I think I gave up a lot of runs. This Spring Training, the results are there."
Gary Sanchez finished second in 2016 for the AL Rookie of the Year Award after hitting 20 homers in 53 games, and it is no stretch to put him in the early conversation for the AL MVP Award. The Bombers haven't had one since Alexander Rodriguez in 2007, and Sanchez is already rated as a top-hitting catcher with a great arm.

Perhaps a Rawlings Gold Glove Award could be in Sanchez's future as well, something Brett Gardner took home for the first time last season. Gardner said that 2016 wasn't necessarily his best defensive year, but it helped that the Royals' Alex Gordon was limited to 128 games.
Greg Bird exhausted his rookie eligibility with more than 130 at-bats at the tail end of 2015, but Aaron Judge remains in play after logging just 84 at-bats last season. Judge's immense power promises to thrill, but as the Yanks seek their first AL Rookie of the Year Award since Derek Jeter in 1996, the best candidate may be in Double-A Trenton.
The Yanks' coaches all agreed that 20-year-old Gleyber Torres looked terrific this spring, continuing an ascent that saw him crowned as the Arizona Fall League's youngest MVP. It was clear that Torres, who is ranked the club's top prospect, would not crack the Opening Day roster, though the Yankees are open to promoting him quickly if his performance merits.

"I think we need to see more," general manager Brian Cashman said. "Gleyber's time, I think, is coming at some point."
Albertin Chapman and Dellin Betances should both be contenders for the AL Reliever of the Year Award, and then there is an award candidate in the dugout. Should the new-look Yanks' season go as they hope, Joe Girardi would receive consideration for the AL Manager of the Year Award, an accolade he won in 2006 while in the National League with a young Marlins club.
"There's some youth in here, so managing expectations for them if they go through a rough period is a little bit different than a guy who's got a huge track record," Girardi said. "With kids, you've got to see how they react."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.