My Yankees 2020 Predictions (Roster)
By James Vlietstra
The 2020 Major League Baseball season is finally on the verge of starting. The never ending offseason is over and an abbreviated campaign is about to begin. The corona virus pandemic has created an unprecedented situation that is effecting every aspect of life. Health and safety concerns have altered many of the typical sites we are accustomed to seeing, including fans at the park. These changes have been difficult to get used to, but under these circumstances the Yankees will be attempting to win their first championship since 2009.
The season will consist of a 60-game schedule played entirely within their geographical region. An expanded active roster of 30 players and an additional pool of 30 other players will combine to represent the Yankees in their quest for a record 28th World Series title. According to Vegas Insider, the odds of that are currently 4/1, slightly behind the favorite Los Angeles Dodgers at 15/4.
The Yankees have a very deep and talented roster. That depth is going to be tested. The 2019 squad needed to use the Injured List over 30 times. Those injuries lasted right through this spring as Aaron Hicks recovered from Tommy John Surgery, James Paxton from back surgery, and Aaron Judge from broken ribs, injuries all sustained last year. The delay to the season’s start and the extra time has allowed the Yankees to emerge as relatively healthy. The biggest exceptions are Luis Severino, who will be out all season with Tommy John Surgery, and Masahiro Tanaka, who is recovering from a concussion. The biggest question mark for the Yankees (and all teams) will be how well they are able to avoid a surge in corona cases. So far, three players have tested positive: Aroldis Chapman, Luis Cessa, and DJ LeMahieu.
The 60-man pool consists of players on the 40-man roster plus a variety of non roster invitees, most of whom had been signed to minor league contracts. I am going to try to narrow down who I believe will be the best options to make the Opening Day roster and then try to determine what we can expect from the team.
Jack Curry of the YES Network says that he thinks that the Yankees will carry 17-18 pitchers, but I am not so sure. Let’s go through the team position-by-position and see what I can come up with:
There are two catchers on the roster. Gary Sanchez is one of the elite catchers in the league and will play the bulk of the season. Kyle Higashioka will replace Austin Romine as this year’s primary backup. 40 year-old Erik Kratz will likely travel with the team as a de facto coach and an emergency veteran option.
A healthy Luke Voit will be the primary first baseman. Mike Ford is likely to make the roster because he is a left handed batter on a predominately right handed heavy team, however, for now we will put Ford on the bubble.
DJ LeMahieu was penciled in to be the starting second baseman as a Gold Glover and former batting champion. As he is just returning to the team, he will likely begin the season on the IL. Potential replacements are Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada. Wade is going to make the team as a utility player and extra innings pinch runner. Estrada is on the bubble for now.
Gleyber Torres is the budding superstar that will be manning shortstop on a daily basis.
Gio Urshela had a break out 2019 at third base, providing solid offense to go with his exceptional defense. Miguel Andujar will make the team as a backup, left fielder, and designated hitter.
The starting outfield will consist of Judge, Hicks, and Brett Gardner. Giancarlo Stanton will be the primary DH. Mike Tauchman will be the fourth outfielder and Clint Frazier will be on the bubble. Estevan Florial is unlikely to be an option.
The starting rotation will start with Gerrit Cole, James Paxton, and J.A. Happ. As noted above, Masahiro Tanaka will start the season on the IL. Jordan Montgomery will probably take Tanaka’s place. I think Clarke Schmidt will eventually be in the rotation, but not on Opening Day. Schmidt is not on the 40-man roster but will likely take Luis Severino’s spot. However, there’s no need to add him to the active roster until game number 4.
Until closer Chapman returns, the back end of the bullpen will each move back an inning. Zack Britton will be the closer. Adam Ottavino moves to the 8th inning. Tommy Kahnle to the 7th. Chad Green can pitch literally any inning of the game, from being an opener to a solid end of game performer. His versatility is essential for the Yankees to thrive.
In a shorter season, each game is more important than ever before. Manager Aaron Boone will have a fast hook and will use it often.
Early inning eaters will include Jonathan Loaisiga, Michael King, Jonathan Holder, Ben Heller, and when he’s healthy Luis Cessa. Pitchers on the bubble include Domingo Acevedo, David Hale, Nick Nelson, Albert Abreu, Deivi Garcia, and Brooks Kriske. Young prospects Luis Gil, Luis Medina, Alexander Vizcaino, and Miguel Yajure are unlikely to get a chance in the majors this year.
So to recap, Tanaka, Cessa, Chapman, and LeMahieu will start on the IL.
Bubble members are Ford, Estrada, Frazier, Acevedo, Hale, Nelson, Abreu, Garcia, and Kriske.
Definite roster members are Cole, Paxton, Happ, Loaisiga, King, Green, Kahnle, Ottavino, Holder, Montgomery, Britton, Heller, Voit, Torres, Urshela, Higashioka, Sanchez, Wade, Andujar, Tauchman, Gardner, Hicks, Judge, and Stanton.
By my logic, that is 24 definite players, only 12 of which are pitchers. Considering that Cole is the ace of the team, they should not need 15 relievers on day one. So I believe Ford, Estrada, and Frazier will all make the opening day roster along with Nelson, Garcia, and Kriske.
Now that we have the 30 players, tomorrow I will share some of what I am looking forward to seeing.