A New Yorker's View of the Yankees in 2020
Mark Everett Kelly
BarnBurner Sports Writer
Sunday, March 8, 2020
As most of the world learns to handle the suddenly ominous threat of the Coronavirus, the sports world is gearing up for the NCAA Tournament and the start of the MLB season on March 26.
NEW YORK YANKEES
LAST YEAR: 103-59 1st in AL East. Lost in ALCS to Houston Astros, 4-2.
FIVE QUESTIONS PLAGUING THE YANKEES FOR 2020.
Can Aaron Judge & Giancarlo Stanton stay healthy?
While Stanton only played in 18 games last season, he averaged 130 games and 479 AB from 2011-18. While his calf strain is severe enough to not see him on the Opening Day roster, history says he should recover and see significant playing time in 2020.
Judge's situation is more alarming than Stanton's. His rib strain requires rest. The team will re-evaluate his status in a few weeks. However, since his rookie season when he hit a then-record 52 HR (broken by Pete Alonso in 2019) the last two seasons, he averaged just 27 HR and 64 RBI.
Can Gerrit Cole lead the pitching staff?
While there is no doubt Cole is the free-agent prize of the offseason, will his success over the last few seasons continue in the Bronx?
Two things point to a big season for Cole in NY.
- He is an innings eater - Cole has thrown 200 or more innings in four of his last five seasons. Leading this staff, I project him to throw at least 210 innings.
- His strikeout total has increased significantly over the previous two seasons (avg. 13.1 K per 9), while his WHIP has evaporated (0.962).
One slight concern is for Cole is his inexperience at Yankee Stadium. He only has one career start during the regular season in the Bronx but did throw seven shutout innings in his only postseason appearance (Game 3 of 2019 ALCS).
Can they sustain injuries?
The Yankees lost an incredible 2,336 man-games to injury, 253 more than the second team on that list, the Pittsburgh Pirates. Despite that, the Yankees still won 103 games.
Can they expect the same contribution from role players?
A direct result of all those injuries saw contributions from unexpected players. Gio Urshela, Mike Tauchman, Cameron Maybin, and Mike Ford combined for a .880 OPS. Such results repeated in 2020 are unlikely.
Will they miss Didi Gregorius?
While Didi played in only 82 games last season, his presence took a lot of pressure off a position that replaced a Hall of Famer, which will be inducted into Cooperstown this season. Gregorius averaged 20 HR, 75 RBI, and .765 OPS the previous four seasons.
Didi also came to play when it mattered. Over the last three postseasons, only Aaron Judge has more hits (26 to 25) and RBI (17 to 16) than Gregorius among the Yankees.
Can Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar handle the pressure now that Didi is gone?
Yankees should continue to ring the bell
The Yankees led the majors in runs scored (943), and their 306 HR were one shy of the Minnesota Twins who set an MLB record in 2019. With the same cast of players returning, they should continue to post impressive offensive numbers.
Unequaled success in the wild-card era
Since the MLB went to the wild-card format in 1995, no team can equal the success of the Yankees in playing beyond the regular season. Last season saw the Yankees make their 21st postseason appearance over that span (next closest is Atlanta with 16). Their 12 LCS appearances and seven World Series appearances are also the most over that era.
PREDICTION: 100-62 - 1st in AL East.
While the Rays surprised in 2019, the Yankees hated rival, the Red Sox, are no longer the threat they once were. This should find the Yankees in the postseason again in 2020.