Previewing the 2021 New York Yankees

April 1st can’t get here soon enough. All MLB fans are hungry for a full 162-game set after last season was cut short due to the pandemic.

For New York Yankees players and fans, the 2020 season ended in disappointment. Hit with the injury bug yet again, stars DJ LeMahieu, Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres and Giancarlo Stanton all missed time. The pitching staff also took a hit when Luis Severino and Tommy Kahnle missed the entire season due to Tommy John surgery. Also, James Paxton was limited to just five appearances due to back surgery. Even now, the Bronx Bombers are dealing with injuries before the season even starts. Miguel Andujar is out indefinitely with a right wrist injury. Eighth inning specialist Zack Britton is recovering from left elbow surgery and is expected to be out until June.

However, despite the missed expectations in 2020, the New York Yankees have a lot to look forward to in 2021. Let’s take a look at their projected lineup from top to bottom and see why the Yankees are one of this seasons World Series favorites.

Breakdown of the 2021 New York Yankees Roster

Starting Rotation

The biggest changes for the New York Yankees this season is, without a doubt, their starting rotation. Gone are Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ and James Paxton. In are new additions in Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon. Kluber signed as a free agent in mid-January and is expected to be the number two starter in the Yankees rotation behind ace Gerrit Cole. Tailllon was acquired via trade from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for four prospects: right-handers Miguel Yajure along with Roansy Contreras, infielder Maikol Escotto and outfielder Canaan Smith. 

Both Kluber and Taillon are Yankees GM Brian Cashman specialities: low-risk, high-reward players that can overachieve beyond expectations. However, if the Bombers hope to have any chance of competing for a World Series Championship, both Kluber and Taillon will have to perform well and stay healthy.

Also expected to join the rotation is Domingo German. German missed all of last season due to being suspended for a domestic violence dispute. In 2019, German was arguably the Yankees best pitcher going 18-4 with with a 4.03 ERA and 153 strikeouts in 143 innings of work.

There is a lot to be excited about with these three pitchers. So far this spring, Taillon and German have given up only one earned run and the trio has a combined 36 strikeouts in 28 innings. Also, Jordan Montgomery is 3-0 this spring and has given up only one earned run with seven strikeouts in ten innings pitched. If the rotation stays healthy, the Yankees could boast one of the best pitching staffs in all of baseball. At some point, the Yankees will also have Luis Severino back as well. He could slide in to the rotation if there in an injury/lack of production from one of the other starters. Young righty Deivi Garcia is also waiting in the wings at Triple-A.

Projected Starting Rotation

  1. Gerrit Cole
  2. Corey Kluber
  3. Jameson Taillon
  4. Jordan Montgomery
  5. Domingo German

Bullpen

Always seen as a strength, the Yankees once again reloaded by adding Darren O’Day and Justin Wilson to an already stacked pen. O’Day signed a one-year deal with the Yankees at the end of January. He’ll be an effective pen arm after posting a 1.25 ERA in 21-two thirds innings over the past two seasons. Justin Wilson is in his second stint with the Yankees after having pitched for the Bombers in 2015. He will most likely be the seventh inning guy behind hurler Chad Green.

Zack Britton’s absence leaves an open slot in the Yankees bullpen.The big wild card here is reliever Lucas Luetge. The left-hander hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2015. However, in nine and one-third innings pitched this spring, Luetge has posted a 1.93 ERA while striking out 16 and walking only two. Not only that, he would add another lefty arm to the stable to go along with Aroldis Chapman and Wilson.

Jonathan Loaisiga will once again be the long-arm out of the pen and could do some spot starting as well.

Projected Bullpen

  1. Aroldis Chapman
  2. Chad Green
  3. Justin Wilson
  4. Darren O’Day
  5. Jonathan Loaisiga
  6. Nick Nelson
  7. Luis Cessa
  8. Lucas Luetge

Lineup

The New York Yankees will return just about every starter from their 2020 Opening Day. The only change will be Clint Frazier starting in left field. Frazier aka ”Red Thunder” has been on a tear this spring batting .321 with two home runs and six RBI. Most Yankee fans will look forward to seeing Frazier play every day. Joining him in the outfield will be Aaron Hicks and Aaron Judge playing in center and right field respectively.

Not much drama going on in the Yankees starting infield especially after the re-signing of LeMahieu. The superstar infielder returns after back-to-back MVP-caliber seasons. Unfortunately, 2020 MLB home run champ Luke Voit is set to have left knee surgery and is expected out until some time in May. As a result, veteran Jay Bruce will be the man at at first, Gleyber Torres at second and Gio Urshela at the hot corner.

To start the season, Gary Sanchez will once again be the starting catcher. However, how long he stays there, will be totally up to him. Hot on his heels will be Kyle Higashioka who started over Sanchez in the playoffs last year. Neither have inspired much confidence so far this spring. Sanchez is only hitting .194 with 11 strikeouts and four hits in 31 at-bats. Meanwhile, Higashioka isn’t fairing much better batting only .150 with seven strikeouts and two hits in 20 at-bats.

Projected Starting Lineup

  1. DJ LeMahieu (2B)
  2. Aaron Judge (RF)
  3. Aaron Hicks (CF)
  4. Giancarlo Stanton (DH)
  5. Gleyber Torres (SS)
  6. Jay Bruce (1B)
  7. Clint Frazier (LF)
  8. Gary Sanchez (C)
  9. Gio Urshela (3B)

Bench

With Brett Gardner agreeing to return on a one-year deal and Mike Ford recently being optioned to AAA, the Yankees bench appears to set on their bench. Veteran outfielder Jay Bruce was battling for a roster spot, but Voit’s injury now gives him the first base job outright. He is currently batting .194 with two home runs, one double and three RBI in 13 games. With Bruce now on the Opening Day roster, he is now the fourth lefty bat on the team behind Gardner, Tauchman switch-hitter Hicks. It appears that the option of Ford opens a place for Bruce as the backup first baseman as well as the outfield.

Mike Tauchman was hearing his name in trade rumors only a few days ago. However, Voit’s knee surgery now appears to allow the Yankees to keep both him and Bruce on the roster. Tauchman was a surprise in the 2019 season batting .277 with 13 homers and 47 RBI in 87 games. However, he took a step back in 2020 hitting only .242 with no home runs in the shortened season. So far this spring, Tauchman is batting .259 with three home runs and four RBI in 11 games.

In the infield, the backup catcher spot belongs to Higashioka. Miguel Andujar is dealing with a right hand and wrist injury and is out indefinitely. Presumably, Tyler Wade’s defensive versatility and base speed wins him the backup infield job. The Yankees recently released both veteran catcher Robin Chirinos and utility man Derek Dietrich effectively ending any backup catcher, outfield or utility competition.

Projected Bench

  1. Brett Gardner
  2. Tyler Wade
  3. Kyle Higashioka
  4. Mike Tauchman

Outlook for the 2021 New York Yankees

As with almost every New York Yankees season, it will be World Series or bust for the Bombers. For seemingly yet another year, the biggest question will come down to the starting rotation. If the rotation remains healthy, the Yankees should boast one of the best starting stables in all of baseball. If not, the hope will then fall to younger starters and a potentially rusty Severino.

The same problem hangs over the lineup as well as the Yankees have been hit hard by the injury bug the last several seasons. In 2019, the Yankees set a record with 30 different players spending time on the IL.  So far this spring, the Yankees have seen Luke Voit, Clarke Schmidt, Zack Britton and Miguel Andujar all hit with injuries. The hope for the Yankees is that the injury bug stays at bay and they can be at full strength for as much of the season as possible.

However, the silver lining is, that both Judge and Stanton are expected to be ready for Opening Day as well as both of the new starting rotation additions. More importantly, the cloud of COVID-19, at least for the moment, isn’t hanging over the 2021 season. All Yankees fans should look forward to Opening Day and an exciting 162-game slate of baseball.

Main Image:
Embed from Getty Images

Players Mentioned: DJ LeMahieu, Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, Giancarlo Stanton, Luis Severino, Tommy Kahnle, James Paxton, Miguel Andujar, Zack Britton, Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ, James Paxton, Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon, Gerrit Cole, Miguel Yajure, Roansy Contreras, Maikol Escotto, Canaan Smith, Domingo German, Jordan Montgomery, Deivi Garcia, Darren O’Day, Justin Wilson, Chad Green, Lucas Luegte, Aroldis Chapman, Jonathan Loaisiga, Nick Nelson, Luis Cessa, Clint Frazier, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, Luke Voit, Jay Bruce, Gleyber Torres, Gio Urshela, Gary Sanchez, Kyle Higashioka, Brett Gardner, Tyler Wade, Mike Tauchman


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