The moment the Yankees were eliminated from the 2017 American League Championship Series, the presumption that the team was ready to once again be perennial and legitimate World Series contenders bloomed. In that sense, expectations for the club's new skipper were established well before Aaron Boone was interviewed - let alone hired - for the Yankees' managerial job.
Typically, when deciphering the methodology of a new manager, we can draw on characteristics and decisions made in the minors, or with another organization. Instead, prognostication of Boone's inaugural season as the Yankees manager is purely based on speculation. We only know what Boone has told us about his qualifications, and how the Yankees have described his ability to lead the club better than his predecessor, Joe Girardi.
We have absolutely nothing to point to as far as how Boone will handle situations on the field, or in the clubhouse as the manager. Speculation is that Boone will be a "players' manager" and "great communicator" - so, anti-Girardi - based on his demeanor as a player and his time as an ESPN analyst.
We do know what Boone is expected to accomplish, and it's undeniable that there will be circumstances throughout the season that will test the rookie manager.
Outfield, DH rotation
Having two right fielders on the roster when their names are Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton cannot be viewed as an issue. Nonetheless, the way in which Boone deploys the mashers could become problematic. As much as some say Boone can simply create a rotation between right field and designated hitter, it's not that easy.
I do not expect either Judge or Stanton to bark publicly about such a scenario, yet neither of them is going to be thrilled to be "out of the game" for half the time. Both Judge and Stanton are fine fielders, so finding balance is not merely accomplished by picking the player with the better glove. Ultimately, the strategy will come down to "educated" hunches made by Boone.
Moreover, the Yankees will have to provide others with opportunities to DH, thus scrambling the outfield even more. There is a chance that Judge and Stanton will get some time in left field, which would shift Brett Gardner to the bench or center field (pushing Aaron Hicks to the bench). This is enough of a dynamic, so adding Jacoby Ellsbury to the mix presents yet another layer.
As easy as it may seem, the outfield overflow is going to present Boone with an ongoing juggling act.
Second and third base
Boone's handling of the openings at second and third base will be an immediate test. As of now, we hear the Yankees are willing to hand these jobs over to two of their top prospects - respectively Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar - and I wrote earlier in the offseason that the club can sustain this.
We do not know if Torres, Andujar, or both will win jobs out of spring training, or if the Yankees will hold either back for a couple of weeks (or more) to attain another year of service time. Regardless, it is expected, short of a trade, that both players will see time with the major league club in 2018.
Additionally, the current backup plans in place -- Ronald Torreyes and Tyler Wade -- present their own questions. Torreyes is just fine as a utility infielder, ut once everyday at-bats come his way, the overall offense he provides becomes a problem. While it is not fair to completely judge Wade based on his time with New York in 2017 due to a lack of playing time, the question remains concerning his ability to translate success in the minors to the big leagues.
The Yankees' front office will have most of the say regarding when Torres and Andujar are going to be placed on the 25-man roster, but once those decisions are made, it will be up to Boone to determine the best course of action for deployment (platooning with Wade, for example).
The length of leash he provides the rookies will also be quite interesting.
Finally, Boone's toughest trek on the learning curve revolves around his pitching staff, particularly the bullpen. In this respect, it makes sense that pitching coach Larry Rothschild and bullpen coach Mike Harkey were holdovers from the Girardi regime.
Boone has a tremendous number of high-quality resources at his disposal out of the bullpen, which is a valuable offset to the club's rotation members' proclivity to have difficulty pitching late into ballgames. The relief crew goes six-strong with Adam Warren, Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle, Dellin Betances, David Robertson and Aroldis Chapman back in the fold.
As Girardi mainly resorted to a pecking order of sorts leading to his closer, Boone might decide to navigate his bullpen choices with more out-of-the-box thinking. Fortunately for Boone, the group he will disperse seems open to being used in whatever spot he deems works best for the team.
Boone's ability to deliver his thought process on a daily basis to his relievers is the test. Relievers have their routines just like any other player, so he must use his communication skills to his advantage here in an effort to keep the pitchers satisfied and understand their usage patterns, or lack thereof. This is exactly why Rothschild becomes important as he best understands the pitcher's strengths and weaknesses, while providing substantial experience to fall back on.
Boone has a wealth of talent at his disposal, forcing immense expectations on a rookie manager. The challenges in front of him will begin at the outset of camp and could linger for some time, meaning the quicker he acclimates to the role, the better the chances the Yankees are successful in reaching their goals in 2018.