By: Jude Bazerman
NEW YORK- 2020 seemed to finally be the New York Yankees’s year. After three straight seasons of being eliminated from the playoffs by both the sign-stealing Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox, the Yankees seemed to be every expert’s pick to win the World Series on an even playing field. Unfortunately, midway through spring training, COVID-19 found its way to the United States, resulting in a league wide shutdown spanning from March to July.
Once the MLB finally began play, the normal 162 game season was shortened to just 60 games. Nevertheless, the Yankees clinched a spot in the expanded 8 team playoff, and after a first round sweep of Cleveland, they were set up to play a best of five series with the division rival Tampa Bay Rays. In a series that went down to the final innings, the Yankees eventually lost game five 2-1, and the series 3-2.
Yet optimism is high once more at Yankees camp. Though the team parted ways with many key veterans over the course of the offseason, such as notable big game pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, the overwhelming consensus is that the Bronx Bombers gained more than lost. In addition to resigning perennial MVP candidate D.J. Lemahieu and fan favorite Brett Gardner, the Yankees acquired former top draft pick Jameson Taillon from the Pirates and signed former Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber to a one year deal. The bullpen was also addressed in the winter, with relievers Justin Wilson and Darren O’Day both being signed as depth pieces. The roster remained relatively unchanged otherwise, which should be considered a positive considering the Yankees’ top notch offensive output since 2017.
A major theme for the Yankees since the emergence of the “Baby Bombers,” the nickname for a group of hitters led by outfielder Aaron Judge and catcher Gary Sanchez, injuries have plagued the team each and every year. From big stars such as Judge and fellow outfielder Giancarlo Stanton to bench players, every Yankee seems to spend a few weeks on the Injured List every summer. Manager Aaron Boone and the rest of the Yankees coaching staff and players recognized this issue, resulting in a change in workouts for the oft-injured Judge and Stanton. Instead of heaving weight lifting routines, the two instead began to focus more on cardio, with the main goal of staying healthy for an entire 162 game season, plus the playoffs.
Barring any earth shattering events, the Yankees are locked and loaded to make a run at their fifth straight playoff appearance. Once again, the lineup seems to be the Yankees strongest feature. From one through nine, each and every hitter can put the ball in play on a consistent basis and will not drag down the overall team performance. The aforementioned Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are always threats for 45 plus home runs, and a well rounded infield consisting of Gio Urshela (third base), Gleyber Torres (shortstop), D.J. Lemahieu (second base), and Luke Voit (first base), combine solid defense with a well balanced, consistent hitting approach. Catcher Gary Sanchez is also a potent hitter at the plate, and though his play has dipped in recent seasons, 2021 may be the year where he gets back to his rookie year form.
As for pitching, the Yanks are not short on that either. After a successful first year in the Bronx, ace Gerrit Cole is back for round two as the leader of the Yankees rotation, followed by Jameson Taillon, Corey Kluber, Jordan Montgomery, and Domingo German. On top of that, 2x All Star Luis Severino is expected to return from Tommy John surgery by the middle of the summer, adding yet another electric arm to an already formidable staff. Lastly, the Yankees bullpen remains as strong as ever heading into 2021. Though he has gotten a lot of flack for his performance in the past two playoffs, closer Arolids Chapman is still one of baseball’s finest and hardest throwing relievers. Chad Green, who is returning for a sixth season in the Bronx, has been one of the Yankees most overlooked contributors for the past handful of seasons, pitching quietly to a sub 3.00 ERA over the course of the past four years. Zack Britton rounds out the headliners of the Yankee bullpen, and although he is currently injured, his return is expected no later than mid-July.
On paper, the Yankees look to be the World Series favorite for the American League, especially when considering that their main competitors, the Rays and Astros, both lost integral players during the offseason. From top to bottom, the Yankees roster is one of the best in the league, and the team should be very fun to watch once the season begins.
(If you wish to look into the specific numbers and statistics of the Yankees roster, baseballreference.com is a great place to do so)