A.L. East Prediction: New York Yankees
They’ve got the hitting. Do they have the pitching?
Corey Kluber could be the team’s MVP this year… if he can stay healthy. That hadn’t been a problem before 2019, when he took a liner off his arm. In 2020, a more-concerning shoulder tear knocked him out in July. Kluber turns 35 to start the season and generally players don’t get less injury prone as they get older -especially pitchers. Kluber will be an interesting case study of players who were off last year because of injury or because of COVID-19. Yes they are another year older but they are also without that year of wear and tear. If Kluber can give them 200-plus innings and 17 to 18 wins, I’d be shocked. Coming off an injury like that, you’d hope for 12 and 150. NL East after finishing second last year. This of course is assuming Gerrit Cole posts Gerrit Cole-type numbers.
I’m not sure if Domingo Germán&nbsp;earned his 18-4 record in 2019 given his ERA was over four, but his batting-average-against and walks+hits per innings-pitched were also better than his 4.04 ERA would indicate. When I’ve seen him, he’s looked unhittable… until the three-run homer. He’s another guy who didn’t pitch all of last year. Getting Luis Severino back from Tommy John should be huge. He, Kluber and Cole make up as good a three-starter rotation as you could hope to find.
Will DJ LeMahieu hit .364 and win another batting title? Probably not. But you can still probably pencil him in for his career averages so you can expect something north of .300 with an occasional dinger. Gleaner Torres and Gil Urshela are solid offensively. This will be the fifth season Tyler Wade sees time with the big club. Time to sink or swim.
Speaking of health, the Yankees formidable outfield of Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge could be the modern day equivalent of Ruth and Gehrig. But Ruth and Gehrig played every day and that’s been a problem for these two. Aaron hicks is not the answer. He, Brett Gardner, Mike Tauchman, and Clint Frazier are a giant platoon. Jay Bruce can give you 30 home runs but he’s not judge or Stanton.
The Yankees have had a tendency to start slow and the loss of Zach Britton due to surgery for bone chips in his elbow won’t help. Chad Green (3.16 career ERA) is good, but he’s not elite. Five of the last seven years, Britton posted a sub-2.00 ERA. In 2016 it was .54. Darren O’Day has a career 2.51 ERA. He’ll be called on a lot. I don’t like the rest of the middle relief and this would seem to be where a lot of losses are going to mount early.
At what point do you say “See ya” to a catcher who has hit .189 and .147 in two of the last three years and who has also led the league in errors and passed balls the last two years? Never, apparently. Gawd, it’s painful watching Gary Sanchez play. He is a big hole in the middle of the offense and defense. Is that really worth 35 home runs?
Offensively, the Yankees are good and deep with their stars and okay without them. Middle relief is worrisome and the starting staff is in flux. At best, they flirt with the high 90’s in wins. But I think they come up short of that.