Rob Way / WEBN-TV

By Brian Danuff 3/6/2018

LAKELAND, Fla — In just one calendar year, the New York Yankees went from a team in transition to the undisputed favorites in the American League.

After falling one win short of a trip to the World Series last October, the Yankees kept their star-studded young core in place and added National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton to their lineup.

The Yankees begin this season the way they began so many others: feared by their competition, and expected to win a championship. Fans across the Grapefruit League are coming out in droves to see the Yankees, especially Stanton and Aaron Judge, who many compare to the franchise’s legendary hitting duo of the 1960s: Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.

But if they’re able to capture their 28th World Series, the Yankees believe it’ll be because they tuned all of that fanfare out.

“We still have to go out and play the game,” shortstop Didi Gregorius said. “We can’t try and overthink anything. We just have to go out there and try to do our best.”

As expectations rise, so does the pressure. The Yankees’ last championship came in 2009, and this is the best team they’ve assembled since then. New York is expecting nothing less than a ticker-tape parade, but that won’t stop this young group of players from enjoying playing the game they love.

“You don’t let the pressure exceed the pleasure,” outfield prospect Billy McKinney said. “It’s a game, you just try to have fun.”

A grueling 162 game season isn’t always a joy, but McKinney believes the right guys are in the clubhouse to keep the Yankees’ emotions in check.

“The guys do a great job of staying even-keeled and not getting too high or too low.”

Stay tuned to for more Grapefruit League coverage throughout the week.