As we get closer to the start of the season, we are going to spend some time focusing on the opponents on the Red Sox schedule for 2020. In this strange season, Boston will be playing only nine teams, so we will go one by one and look at each individually. Today, we look at the New York Yankees.
As much as it pains me to say it, the Yankees roster looks good. Very good. I know this 60-game season is nearly impossible to predict, but gun to my head I would pick the Yankees to win the American League pennant in October and I may even pick them to win the World Series. They are loaded. Their offense is about as scary as anyone’s in baseball, even factoring in some mild regression from 2019 breakouts. Their rotation has a stud at the top and very good arms behind him. Their bullpen is as deep as ever, and that’s with their top reliever missing some time to start the year. They are the total package, and I hate it a lot.
It doesn’t make any sense, but I think Aaron Judge is a little bit underrated, which doesn’t feel like it should be possible for the best player on the Yankees. It seems like everyone thinks of him as a home run and strikeout player, though, and he’s so much more than that. Yes, he has outrageous power, arguably the most in all of baseball. (Joey Gallo may have something to say about that, to be fair.) Yes, he does strike out a lot, with a career rate over 31 percent. But Judge also draws a ton of walks, with a career rate over 16 percent and a career OBP of .394. Given how often he strikes out, that is absurd, and it’s also boosted by the fact that when he does make contact, it’s loud. That leads to home runs, but also a lot of hits. And while this is offense-focused, Judge is also very good out in right field. Injuries are his biggest issue, but when Judge is on the field he is the best player on his team, and the best player on either team in a good number of his matchups.
Best Starting Pitcher
Speaking of elite, the Yankees big addition from the offseason is that and then some. In yesterday’s writeup of the Mets (linked below), I mentioned that Jacob deGrom is arguably the best pitcher in baseball. If you don’t give that title to deGrom, Cole is probably your pick. After leaving Pittsburgh and heading to Houston a couple of years ago, Cole has turned into an absolute, Capital-S Stud. Since the start of the 2018 season, he is fifth in innings, first in strikeout rate, second in K%-BB%, and third in both park-adjusted ERA and FIP. Maybe there will be some adjustment to a new coaching staff, new division and new home park, but really there’s nothing that we’ve seen from Cole over the last couple of seasons that suggests he’ll be anything besides the American League Cy Young favorite as we head into 2020.
Best Relief Pitcher
Aroldis Chapman tested positive for COVID and is going to start the season on the injured list, which made this exercise really difficult. That’s not to say the Yankees are going to suffer too much, because they have a ton of good relievers. It’s just tough ranking them. I went with Ottavino, who has the best strikeout stuff, but you could make arguments for Zack Britton, Tommy Kahnle and Chad Green as well and I wouldn’t push back on it too much. They are going to shorten a whole lot of games.
I think if there is a weakness on this Yankees roster it is in the rotation, particularly after Luis Severino underwent Tommy John surgery. With him out of the mix, there is some question about what happens after Cole. James Paxton is still a very good number two, but they need the good version of Tanaka for this to be a championship rotation. I’ve always been a fan of Tanaka, though, and I think his tough times last year had a lot to do with the seams on the baseball messing with his splitter. If he can rebound from that, I think he’ll be an above-average mid-rotation starter, and the Yankees will, unfortunately, realize their potential.
Deivi Garcia, Clarke Schmidt, Luis Medina, Estevan Florial
The Yankees are obviously contenders so there are fewer top prospects in their player pool, but these are some really intriguing names. Garcia is clearly the most intriguing, and he is also their top prospect. One of the top pitching prospects in baseball, the young righty has made it to Triple-A and should contribute at some point this summer. Whether it is as a reliever or starter remains to be seen, but he has a fair argument to be the X-Factor as well. Schmidt and Medina are also arms while Florial provides some outfield help.
There are none, which is the way it should be.