Had it not been for that now-controversial Jose Altuve walk-off home run in the American League Championship Series a season ago, the New York Yankees might have made their first World Series appearance in more than a decade.
Instead, the 2019 season ended in heartbreak, leaving the Yanks without a World Series appearance over the course of a decade for the first time since the 1910s. Yes, the New York Yankees did win their first American League East title for the first time since 2012 with a 103-59 record and went to the ALCS for the second straight season. However, for Yankees fans, ownerships, and players, that’s never good enough.
With the biggest signing in free agency and a lineup that’s still one of the most devastating in all of Major League Baseball, it’s become World Series or bust for the 2020 New York Yankees.
Injuries will give the Yankees outfield a different look to start the season
When the 2020 regular season begins on March 26, the New York Yankees will not be at full strength. That’s just the way it is for now, particularly in the outfield. Giancarlo Stanton, who may end up being the everyday DH anyway, strained a calf on February 25. He has resumed throwing and hitting off of a tee in the past week and is expected to return sometime in April.
A bigger problem could be Aaron Judge, who has a stress fracture in his first right rib. He’ll be evaluated on March 20, but the Yankees are hoping that he’ll be able to resume baseball activities soon and could also come back in April. It is known that Aaron Hicks won’t be back until the summer after undergoing Tommy John surgery this past October.
Until then, it looks like the trio of Clint Frazier, Brett Gardner, and Mike Tauchman will be getting most of the reps in the outfield, with Miguel Andujar subbing in from time to time.
The New York Yankees infield is stacked
New York Yankees shortstop Gleyber Torres is becoming an absolute star. At just 23 years of age, Torres has put up great number in his first two years in the majors. In two seasons in New York, he’s hit .275 with 62 home runs and 167 runs batted. In 2019, he became the youngest Yankee since Joe DiMaggio to hit 30 home runs in a season.
Torres is joined up the middle by second baseman DJ LeMahieu, who is constantly overlooked as one of the biggest threats on this roster. He has three Gold Gloves to his credit at second base over the years and he put up some offense in his first year in New York as well. In 2019, the former Rockies star hit .327 with 26 home runs and 102 runs batted in. Does anybody realize that he finished fourth in the AL MVP race?
Gary Sanchez still needs to get that average up, hitting just .232 in 2019, but he’s still good for some pop and has a new defensive style behind the plate for 2020. Luke Voit dealt with a sports hernia surgery in the offseason but he looks like the Opening Day starter at first base, with Gio Urshela handling duties at third. Urshela impressed last season, leading the Yankees with 34 doubles while producing a solid line (.314, 21 HR, 74 RBI) in 132 games.
Gerrit Cole was a huge acquisition
With Luis Severino out for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery on February 27, the starting rotation for the New York Yankees certainly took a hit. However, the offseason acquisition of Gerrit Cole certainly makes up for the loss.
Cole was magnificent in 2019 for the Houston Astros, going 20-5 with a league-leading 2.50 ERA, also leading the league in strikeouts with a career-high 326. Cole beat the Yankees in Game 3 of the 2019 ALCS, pitching seven scoreless innings to go along with seven strikeouts in a 4-1 Astros win. He’ll be added to a rotation that will also include Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ, Jordan Montgomery, and Jonathan Loaisiga.
If the starters can’t get the job done, the Yankees bullpen will. Relief pitching was one of the strongest tools for New York in 2019. While Aroldis Chapman struggled at times, he still converted 37 of 42 save opportunities. Zack Britton, Luis Cessa, Chad Green, Adam Ottavino, Tommy Kahnle, and Jonathan Holder will handle the majority of the activity in the pen in 2020.
How will the Yankees finish?
Despite some of the injuries that will keep some players out of action at the start of the year, the New York Yankees should be able to get past it and win the American League East. The Red Sox aren’t what they were and the Orioles and Blue Jays will once again bring up the rear in the division. The biggest competition will once again come from the Tampa Bay Rays, who are in a good position to win 90 games.
But the Yankees are the clear favorite in the division and have to be looked at as one of the favorites to reach the World Series, especially with the addition of Gerrit Cole. Aaron Boone has proven that he has what it takes to be a big-league manager and the players all seem to enjoy playing for him. The New York Yankees are on the hunt for World Series title number 28. Anything short of that in 2020 would be considered a disappointment in the Bronx.