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The Tuesday Discussion: Looking Ahead to the Biggest Surprises in 2020…

This week we asked our writers:

Which Yankees player will surprise everyone (in a good or bad way) in 2020?

Here are their answers:

Mike Whiteman – I think Ben Heller will emerge as a reliable member of the Yankee bullpen in 2020.

John Nocero – I think the biggest surprise player of 2020 will be Yankees backup C Kyle Higashioka. While there may be more obvious choices – Gleyber Torres at SS for example – I personally believe that if previous experience shapes future trends, then Gary Sanchez will play somewhere between 90-120 games, either due to injury, DH or another unknown ailment that may befell him. This means that Higgy will play around 42 games. What type of games we will get is unknown.

According to Steamer, he is currently projected at .222, 8 HR, 20 RBI with an OPS close to .700. I will take that, if he calls a good game, handles the pitching staff well, and basically makes no mistakes. If he is pressed into deeper service, then we will really know what type of player we have. I don’t think we know yet.

Paul Semendinger – A lot of people are down on Giancarlo Stanton. I want to believe that 2020 will be a big year for him. I think Giancarlo will surprise many when he hits over 40 homers in 2020. I have also written this before, but J.A. Happ is a better pitcher than people are giving him credit for. Don’t be surprised if he is a 2-3 WAR pitcher in 2020.

Derek McAdam – I believe that J.A. Happ is going to be a surprise to the Yankee fans… in a good way. Matt Blake has been well-respected for his efforts in Cleveland and could bring the sharpness that Happ brought when he was acquired back on the trade deadline day in 2018. There is no doubt that Happ has the potential to be the force he was back in 2018 with the Yankees, but with a new pitching coach can definitely change his approach to pitching. This does not mean that he will have an ace-like season, but it does mean that he can be the reliable fifth starter the Yankees will need this season after Domingo German’s suspension.

Lincoln Mitchell – Unfortunately, I expect Giancarlo Stanton to be a big surprise for Yankees fans in 2020. I hope I am wrong, but he has been to hampered by injuries for too long and may well be done as a full time productive player. I expect he will have a few weeks where he shows us what might have been, but I would be surprised if he ever hits 40 home runs again or manages a season with 500 plate appearances and an OPS+ over 130. The Stanton trade seemed like a steal at the time, but it looks more and more like the Marlins got the better of the Yankees in what amounted to a salary dump.

Patrick Gunn – The Yankees’ player that will surprise everyone next year will be Jordan Montgomery. Even if he loses the starting spot in the rotation, I think that Montgomery will at least start the season in the big league bullpen and spot start. He will get opportunities to pitch, and in those opportunities he will remind the Bombers of the solid rookie starter in 2017 who struck out 8.3 batters per nine innings in 29 starts. His walk rate was a tad high (3.0 per nine) his first season in the majors, but his rate in the minor leagues (2.6 per nine) is much better. Also, the fact that he was able to come back and make two appearances last season will go a long way in his recovery process. Montgomery will surprise Yankees fans and be a key contributor to the Yankees’ pitching staff next season.

Andy Singer – I realize that I’m beating a dead horse, but it bears repeating: I think that Jonathan Loaisiga is going to become the next shutdown reliever for the New York Yankees. I’ll have another post discussing Loaisiga specifically, but he has truly top-of-the-scale stuff that few others in the Yankee system can replicate. He reminds me greatly of another Yankee prospect that I loved back in the day, Dellin Betances. The Yankees tried for years to stick with Betances as a starter, given the fact that he had the potential for multiple plus pitches if he could hold his mechanics for 5+ innings. Betances proved that he could not do that, and he became one of the best relievers in baseball during his time in pinstripes. Loaisiga is a little different, in that his development has been stunted by injuries, not mechanics, but the point is the same: Loaisiga might be devastating in short bursts. I think that the comparison of Betances to Loaisiga is fair, and by the end of 2020, we will be talking about Loaisiga as the Yankees’ best weapon out of the bullpen.


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