Despite injuries absolutely ravaging the roster all year long, the Yankees won 103 games last season. Despite battling trash cans and hidden buzzers, they took the Astros to six games, losing two (in Houston) in brutally close fashion.
Now, with a mostly unchanged roster plus some huge additions, this is the year the Yanks win their first World Series since 2009. Here’s why.
Gerrit Cole is the difference maker
The Yankees had one item circled above all else this offseason: Sign Gerrit Cole. It took a historic chunk out of the wallet to do it, but Brian Cashman and Co. got the job done.
Starting pitching was ultimately the Yankees’ biggest weakness during last season’s postseason run, lacking Domingo German and forced to rely on banged-up versions of CC Sabathia and Luis Severino. Going quiet at the deadline ultimately turned out to be a mistake, because it certainly felt like the team was one good starting arm away from a World Series berth.
Cole now joins Severino, James Paxton (once he returns from back surgery), Masahiro Tanaka and J.A. Happ to fill out one of the best rotations in baseball. That, paired with the elite bullpen trio of Aroldis Chapman, Zach Britton and Adam Ottavino means the offense won’t even have to score a lot of runs to win games this season.
The offense will score a lot of runs anyway
A year after plating more runs than any other team in baseball, the Yankees’ lineup looks practically identical to last season — and it will hopefully stay healthier this time around. Yes, Giancarlo Stanton is an injury waiting to happen, but there’s no way Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez miss a combined 116 games … right?
Remember when Aaron Judge demolished 3 homers in back to back to back games against the Dodgers? Glorious 🔥 pic.twitter.com/DLLI8znvgM
— Dillard Barnhart (@BarnHasSpoken) February 11, 2020
Really the only roster departures from a year ago are Edwin Encarnacion and Didi Gregorius. As for Edwin, good riddance. And while my heart literally rips in half every time I see Didi Gregorius in a Phillies uniform, there simply wasn’t much room for him in the current infield.
DJ LeMahieu will continue to rake. Luke Voit and Gio Urshela will set new career-highs in batting numbers across the board. Judge will be Judge, and Sanchez will return to form. Gleyber Torres is only 23. No one wants to face that order in October.
The AL East (and beyond) is wide open
Shout out to the Red Sox for doing everything in their power to destroy any hopes of being a contender for the foreseeable future. Boston will still be a decent team even without Betts and Price, sure, but the Yankees should have no problem running away with the division this season.
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) February 11, 2020
The Orioles remain a free-win machine for AL East rivals. The Blue Jays have some exciting young talent but are still years removed from being a legitimate threat. The Rays, as always, will find a way to win more games than they should and be in the Wild Card race but aren’t near the level of talent in the Bronx.
Looking beyond the division, the Yankees should be the favorites to win the American League pennant. The Twins are good enough to avoid being 4-0ed once again, but lacking a true ace still hurts them. Meanwhile, the Astros lost their ace, their manager and their beloved trash receptacle. I would still slate Houston as the Yankees’ strongest competition in the AL, but offseason developments have firmly tipped the scales in favor of New York — and with a resurgent Angels team, the AL West should be pretty competitive this year as well.
The Yankees can (and will) beat the Dodgers
Heading into this season, it seems like we’re inevitably heading to a matchup between the two biggest markets in the country, in a Yankees-Dodgers World Series. The Dodgers were already the best team in the National League before acquiring Mookie and Price and now are only scarier. They’ll likely be the consensus favorite to win it all this season, and with those two joining Bellinger, Seager, Buehler and Kershaw, it’s not hard to see why.
Potential #Dodgers lineup with their projected wRC+ & fWAR by Steamer:
RF Mookie Betts – 131, 5.9
1B Max Muncy – 118, 2.6
3B Justin Turner – 125, 3.7
CF Cody Bellinger – 147, 6.1
SS Corey Seager – 117, 4.1
LF Joc Pederson – 128, 2.7
2B Gavin Lux – 102, 2.0
C Will Smith – 95, 1.8 pic.twitter.com/l5zX3M1XK9
— Dodgers Index (@DodgersIndex) February 13, 2020
In the considerably weaker league, LA won’t have to work all that hard to get to the Fall Classic. I think that’ll ultimately hurt them, especially when they run into the stacked Bombers in the Series. But even on paper, I’ll gladly take the Yankees roster over the Dodgers.
Ryu is gone, meaning Los Angeles really doesn’t have much in the way of a rotation past their top three. The bullpen remains hittable. The offense, while intimidating, isn’t as deep as the Yankees’ — I mean, we have Miguel Andujar and Clint Frazier coming off the bench.
It was a rough decade for Yankees fans. Fortunately, this new one will start in the best way possible: a 28th world championship.