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Catching up with the AL East: The Yankees

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A look at the Red Sox’ division rivals.

MLB: Spring Training-Atlanta Braves at New York Yankees Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Over the next few days, we will be taking a look at the Red Sox competition in the American League East and digging into what their roster look likes. Obviously the world is throwing a wrench into our normal schedule, but there doesn’t seem like there will be any changes between now and whenever the season does start, so this look should still be relevant whenever the season does start. With that said, given that we don’t know when the season will start I will be taking some liberties when applicable to decide whether or not injured players will be healthy by the time the season begins. We start today with the Yankees.

Offseason Additions

Gerrit Cole, RHSP

The Yankees only made one addition to their major-league roster this winter, but they sure as hell made it count. New York landed the best pitcher on the market and arguably the best pitcher in the game — I think I’d take Jacob deGrom there, but it’s extremely close to the point of being a virtual tie — for a record-breaking nine-year, $324 million deal. The Yankees were looking for a star this winter, and Cole has been their white whale since he decided not to sign with them out of high school. They got their guy, and their rotation turned to elite on paper as soon as pen hit paper.

Offseason Losses

Didi Gregorius, SS; Edwin Encarnación, 1B/DH; Dellin Betances, RHRP; Cameron Maybin, OF

The Yankees did lose some talent this offseason, but they showed last season that they both have the depth on hand to replace them and also are extremely good at identifying diamonds in the rough throughout the league. Gregorius, for example, was out for a big chunk of last year and was not very good upon his return, but that didn’t really put a dent in New York’s season because they had guys like DJ LeMahieu and Gio Urshela play out of their skull when called upon. There is plenty of talent up above, but the Yankees should be able to weather those losses.

Lineup

C: Gary Sánchez

1B: Luke Voit

2B: DJ LeMahieu

SS: Gleyber Torres

3B: Gio Urshela

LF: Mike Tauchman

CF: Brett Gardner

RF: Aaron Judge

DH: Giancarlo Stanton

There are some health concerns with Judge and Stanton, but given the delay between now and the presumed start of the season, it seems they should both be fine once they get underway. If that is indeed the case, this is certainly one of the best lineups in baseball. Judge, Stanton, Sánchez is terrifying in terms of pure power, and LeMahieu and Gardner provide contact. Torres is the real wildcard here. He had a big-time showing in 2019, but there was some swing and miss that could bring that production down in the coming season. Of course, he’s also very young and has all of the upside in the world, so another breakout to true superstardom isn’t out of the question either. Left field is also a bit up in the air, as Clint Frazier could reasonably be penned for this spot as well.

MLB: Spring Training-Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It’s hard to see a scenario where this lineup isn’t very good, but there’s even another gear that can be reached to make it the best group in the American League, and maybe baseball. It should also be mentioned that Aaron Hicks, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, should be ready to return around August.

Bench

Kyle Higashioka, C; Miguel Andújar, 3B/LF; Mike Ford, 1B; Tyler Wade, UTIL

Like I said above, the key to the Yankees success last year was an absurd level of depth, and even after losing a couple of key players in the offseason they should still be solid in that respect. Andújar is the wildcard here. His defense is a question mark no matter where you put him, but as we saw in his rookie year that power is no joke and is a major threat coming off the bench. Ford is similar as he was outstanding in a 50-game taste of the majors last year. Every team is going to be worse when injuries occur, but the Yankees have proven over the last few years that they are better than most at weathering that storm. It doesn’t look like this year should be much different in that respect.

Rotation

1. Gerrit Cole, RHP

2. James Paxton, LHP

3. Masahiro Tanaka, RHP

4. J.A. Happ, LHP

5. Jordan Montgomery, LHP

Had the season started on time, the Yankees were going to be short two of their top three starters, though the delay should get one of those guys back. I talked about Cole above, and there’s not much else to add. He’s incredible. Paxton was on the shelf and due to return in May at the earliest, but the delayed start of the year should have him ready for the new Opening Day, if it comes. He was a little uneven at times last year in his first season with the Yankees, but he still has the talent to be a very good number two. Tanaka is solid as a number three, too. The lowered seams on the ball last year hurt his splitter, but he adjusted to that as the year went on and improved in the second half. The back of the rotation is a bit more of a question. Happ is a serviceable veteran, but at this point you’re probably just hoping for league-average out of that spot. Montgomery, meanwhile, has missed most of the last two years after undergoing Tommy John. He was really impressive in 2017 as a rookie and looked good early in 2018 before the injury, but after missing so much time nothing’s a sure thing on that front.

Overall, this is still a good group but it was potentially great before Luis Severino went down. He’ll miss the entire 2020 season. It should also be mentioned that top prospect Deivi Garcia will likely be ready to help at some point this year.

Bullpen

Aroldis Chapman, LHP; Zach Britton, LHP; Adam Ottavino, RHP; Tommy Kahnle, RHP; Chad Green, RHP; Jonathan Holder, RHP; Jonathan Loasigia, RHP; Luis Cessa, RHP

As always, the Yankees have a bullpen that looks really, really scary on paper. They lost Dellin Betances in free agency, but injuries made him mostly a non-factor last year anyway. That top five they have here in Chapman, Britton, Ottavino, Kahnle and Green is legitimately terrifying, though. Obviously bullpens are always volatile and that’s even more true in a potentially shortened season, but on paper there’s a ton of talent here. Holder is no slouch either, and Loasigiga has been a starter for most of his career but he has the stuff to be a truly impactful arm in relief.

Parting Thoughts

There’s not a whole lot to say here beyond the obvious. If there is a season in 2020, the Yankees will be the favorites in the division, probably the favorites in the American League and potentially the favorites for the World Series.