100 wins in 2018. 103 wins in 2019.
Aaron Boone has led the New York Yankees to the Division Series and League Championship Series in his two years at the helm, but has so far come up short in his mission to take the team back to the promised land. The Bronx Bombers have been unable to overcome the Houston Astros-shaped hump, losing to them in the ALCS twice in the last three seasons. Given what we now know about the scandal drenched Astros, you can bet everything you’ve got that there’s a fire burning in the belly of the Yankees clubhouse, driving them in their desire to win it all this year after going a full decade without winning a pennant. It is the first time in a hundred years that they have failed to at least compete in a World Series over the course of a decade.
The Yankees have been knocking on the door for three years running and they now have reason to believe that they will succeed in 2020, in large part due to one addition to the roster.
Gerrit Cole has arrived, landing a monstrous $324 million contract from the Yankees to be the true ace that they have so desperately missed in recent years. Cole certainly fits the bill. He has hurled over 200 innings in each of the last three years, going over six innings in 29 of his 33 starts in 2019 for a record of 20-5 with a league best 2.50 ERA. He also led the league in strikeouts, meaning he narrowly missed out on the pitching Triple Crown as his teammate Justin Verlander edged him with 21 wins.
Cole has produced the consistency and longevity that the Yankees didn’t have in 2019 and his ability to produce quality starts every time he takes the mound will pay huge dividends to the rest of the pitching staff too, as on every fifth day the bullpen will have a much lighter workload. As illustrated in the playoffs last season, as good as the Yankee bullpen was, it was exhausted and were punished as a result.
Joining Cole in the rotation will be Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and J.A Happ. Paxton is injured and likely will miss three to four months, so Spring Training will provide an opportunity for a player to work their way into the rotation.
Jordan Montgomery returned from Tommy John surgery at the end of last season and his steady performance in 2017 will likely put him at the front of the queue to take Paxton’s spot, especially given that Domingo German is out until at least June as he serves the rest of a suspension for domestic violence.
The Yankees do have depth though, with Jonathan Loaisiga and Luis Cessa also likely to compete for that fifth spot. Top pitching prospect Deivi Garcia has shot up through the minor leagues to a point where it may be hard for GM Brian Cashman to hold him back from the majors for too long.
Aroldis Chapman leads a stacked bullpen also boasting the likes of Adam Ottavino, Zack Britton, Chad Green and Tommy Kahnle. The pen was worked hard in 2019 and ranked 9th in ERA, but given the talent on display there is an expectation that they will improve in 2020.
The Yankee offence delivered in 2019, leading the majors in runs per game (5.8). They also ranked second in homers (306), third in slugging percentage (.490) and third in OPS (.829). All of this while without Giancarlo Stanton for 144 games is impressive and with the hulking outfielder set to return in good health, there is reason to believe the lineup could be even more explosive. The Yankee fans have still not completely warmed to Stanton, but at just 30 years old and having suffered no chronic injuries he is still capable of being one of the best power hitters in baseball. Aaron Judge also missed significant playing time in 2019, so keeping these two players healthy and amongst a lineup including Torres, LeMahieu and Gary Sanchez will be imperative for the Yankees. Opposing pitchers will not be able to pitch around Stanton and Judge knowing the protection they have in the batting order.
Didi Gregorius has moved on to Philadelphia and will leave a hole in the clubhouse, but will be replaced full time at short stop by last year’s breakout star Gleyber Torres. Torres was steady in the field last year but should improve on that upon playing in his natural position every day. Regardless of that, Torres possesses one of the most potent bats in the Yankee lineup, cracking 38 long balls in 2019 to go with 90 RBI. With DJ LeMahieu playing second base every day, the middle infield will be tight and extremely productive on offence too.
After an excellent 2018 that saw him come second in the Rookie of the Year voting, last year was a lost season for Miguel Andujar after shoulder surgery curtailed his campaign in May. He may find himself as trade bait this year as, according to Brian Cashman, third base is “Gio Urshela‘s to lose”. Urshela had a breakout year with the bat in 2019 and possesses a far superior glove to Andujar, so it is understandable that he has the head start.
However, if Andujar can show that his shoulder is fully recovered and he can recapture his form of 2018, his bat will provide excellent depth to the Yanks roster. Andujar has been working hard in the offseason on his glovework, as he is expected to see time both at first base and in the outfield.
World Series or bust
Aaron Boone has impressed in his first two years as manager, racking up a ton of wins along the way but falling just short in the postseason.
In 2020, the Yankees retain a strong lineup, an excellent bullpen and a rotation boosted immeasurably by the addition of arguably the game’s best pitcher. A rare air of patience has been present in the Bronx for the last three years, but with the addition of Cole the expectation will revert back to the norm for the Yankees: nothing less than a World Series will do.