The Los Angeles Dodgers are the consensus best team in baseball. However, the 2021 team projections on FanGraphs, project the New York Yankees to have the highest team WAR in baseball. The Yankees are not just the only team projected to crack 50 WAR, but are ahead of the next-best team by a wide margin. The Yankees projected team WAR stands at 51.5 while the Dodgers are second with 46. The only high-profile move the Yankees have made is re-signing D.J. LeMahieu. Other than that, they have not made any real big moves this offseason, leading them to fly under the radar. Even with some other top teams in baseball making bigger moves, the Yankees remain one of the very best in the sport. Regardless, let’s look at what the projections say about the 2021 Yankees.
Position Player Projections
The Yankees projected cumulative batting WAR is 28.3 with the Dodgers and Houston Astros tied for second at 28.2. What is often forgotten is how deep the Yankees lineup is. However, when healthy, there are no weak spots in the lineup. This is conveyed by these projections. Gary Sanchez and Clint Frazier are the only players who project to post fewer than 2.5 WAR. In fact, this system underscores Frazier’s breakout on both sides of the ball last season as he is only projected for 1.4 WAR. Aaron Judge projects to post a 4.5 WAR, which is the highest among position players on the team. Second and third are Gleyber Torres and D.J. LeMahieu with 4.3 and 4.0, respectively.
Gleyber Torres had a poor 2020 season and it is good that the system projects Torres to return to his all-star level form in 2021. Furthermore, the system projects a very conservative 2.8 WAR for Gio Urshela, who has blossomed into one of the best third baseman in baseball. Giancarlo Stanton is only projected for 2.5 WAR, which seems kind of low, even for a DH. However, he also projects to post a .546 SLG and .367 wOBA which are considered excellent. It is very realistic to see these projections come to fruition if the majority of the lineup stays healthy. The offense is so dynamic, so powerful, and so deep. It makes sense that FanGraphs would project their offense to be the best in baseball.
Pitching Staff Projections
What might come as a big surprise is that the Yankees FanGraphs pitching WAR also ranks first, at 23.3. The New York Mets and San Diego Padres rank second and third with 20.3 and 20.0, respectively. The system is high on the potential of the Yankees pitching staff, and even more pertinent, the health of its starters. The two biggest question marks in the rotation are Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon. Despite this, FanGraphs projects Kluber to pitch 155 innings and post a solid 2.9 WAR.
Meanwhile, Taillon projects to pitch 134 innings with a 2.4 WAR. It even has Luis Severino coming back from Tommy John surgery to throw 104 innings with a 2.3 WAR. To round out the rest of the starters, Jordan Montgomery projects to post a 2.2 WAR, Deivi Garcia with 1.4, and Domingo German with 1.3. Meanwhile, Gerrit Cole still projects to be the best in the rotation, with a 5.6 WAR.
With the loss of Adam Ottavino and Tommy Kahnle, the bullpen figures to be a bigger question mark than in years past. Newest bullpen addition Darren O’Day projects to post a 0.4 WAR over 58 innings pitched. As expected, the three relievers who figure to produce the most are Aroldis Chapman with 1.9 WAR, Chad Green with 1.1, and Zack Britton with 1.0, with each pitching at least 60 innings. The two relievers that project to pick up some of the work left behind by Ottavino and Kahnle are Jonathan Loaisiga and Nick Nelson. Loaisiga’s projected inning total is 55 while Nelson’s is 42, which would both be single-season career-highs.
What is important to consider about projection systems are that they are conservative in nature. As such, there are some players on the Yankees whose projected WAR totals do not reflect their true potential. However, the projections for the pitching staff are very encouraging. The staff is very deep and certainly has the potential to be very good. The Yankees FanGraphs projections make them the favorites in the AL East.
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Players Mentioned: D.J. LeMahieu, Gary Sanchez, Clint Frazier, Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, Gio Urshela, Giancarlo Stanton, Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon, Luis Severino, Jordan Montgomery, Deivi Garcia, Domingo German, Gerrit Cole, Adam Ottavino, Tommy Kahnle, Darren O’Day, Aroldis Chapman, Chad Green, Zack Britton, Jonathan Loaisiga, Nick Nelson.