The Yankees say their prayers at night, hoping to escape from Spring Training with no serious injuries. So far, so good, but still – questions…
Like most teams, the Yankees approach Spring Training with one major goal and a few subset goals.
The primary goal is to get through the six weeks of Spring Training with no serious injuries on or off the field – and inline for a full power blastoff to the regular season, now just ten days away.
The Yankees suffered a setback on March 6 when Zack Britton went down with an elbow issue, leaving the team without his services until (about) July 1.
Fortunately, Aroldis Chapman is pitching lights out, featuring what scouts call a “nasty” – i.e., unhittable split-finger fastball.
So far, the only other injury came with Clarke Schmidt, who also had an elbow issue that forced him out of contention for the fifth spot in the Yankees rotation, but still well in line to join the team in late April.
Naysayers, please. I know there are still ten days to go, and god knows what can happen if a collision takes place in the outfield and Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, and second baseman DJ LeMahieu are hauled off the field chasing down a fly ball.
But even given the good luck regarding injuries, and that’s all you can say it is – LUCK – the Yankees still have many questions and issues facing them as the team prepares to break camp.
Yankees 2021 In Perspective
For one, this is a Yankees team that won 100+ games in 2018 and 2019 – but made only a cameo appearance in the postseason. Swept away by the Tampa Bay Rays last season added insult to injury, with veterans like Judge and Brett Gardner wondering – What the f___ is going on here?
What “going on,” though, is the Yankees do not have a sustaining team that is equipped to make it through the long haul of a six-month 162-game season.
Rest assured, barring injury, Gerrit Cole is on the precipice of a Cy Young season as depicted in this video, and his five innings of work and eight strikeout performance against the Yankees rival Blue Jays team:
Yankees: But Beyond Cole, Only Question Marks Exist
Cole is your number one, but where does the Yankees rotation go from there?
Fingers crossed on Brian Cashman’s go for the gold signing of Corey Kluber, a pitcher seemingly, but not yet, a proven starter on the rebound from a broken arm and other injuries over the past two seasons.
A big green flag comes up when Domingo German‘s spring stats are realized – but what are the chances of a relapse that sends him into an incident of past behavior that forces Zack Britton (example only) to say – “See, I told you so.”
Add Jordan Montgomery and Luis Severino to the list of “Who can say for sure in 2021?”. However, given all reports are positive regarding recovery from previous Tommy John surgeries and progressing rehabs – But again, that’s all post-dated today.
Yankees: A Reality Check
This is not meant to paint the picture black so much as it is to point out that Aaron Boone and the Yankees will probably need every bit of their pitching depth to not only make it through the regular season, but even more to clear the barrier of a World Series title.
Here’s the proverbial bottom line, which is that Aaron Boone is The Man who must monitor and base his lineup decisions based on who is available to best help the Yankees win today.
Failure to do that in Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner’s judgment will see the entrance of a new manager for the Yankees in 2022, despite Boone’s amazing regular season won-loss record.
Yankees (Abundant) Question Marks
On the cusp, first and foremost is Gary Sanchez. Facing the Yankees is a decision regarding a catcher with pedestrian (at best) skills as a major league catcher.
Add 35 home runs, a .230 batting average, and god knows how many strikeouts to the Sanchez package, and (ultimately) what is the value there?
Similarly, the Yankees need to come to a cross-road with Aaron Judge. When do they get the 2017 off-the-charts performance from Judge again?
Pretty boy, fan-favorite or not, what is the value of Judge to the Yankees if he cannot stay on the field? 2021 will, perhaps, tell the final chapter of that yet mystery.
Ditto Gleyber Torres, the prized catch nabbed by Brian Cashman when the Chicago Cubs were on their knees begging for Aroldis Chapman, the final link to what they hoped would be a World Series title in 2015.
Oh, Those 2022 Free Agents…
Yet here we are with the Yankees looking a goldmine of talent among the shortstops in the Class of 2022 free agents.
More than anything, and with DJ LeMahieu hopefully implanted by the Yankees at second base, shortstop belongs to Torres for the 2021 season. Following last year’s somewhat rocky defensive display, Torres is skating on thin ice at best.
This brings us back to where we always land when discussing the Yankees – which pertains to their ability to fly on the cuff – coming up with mid-season replacements like Luke Voit and Mike Tauchman to stem the tide of underperforming or injured Yankees.
Mind you, this a defensive and not offensive posture to take. Assuming injuries might be a good strategy for a bettor to take on the Yankees in Las Vegas, for Boone and Cashman, it’s only an “Okay, bring it on” approach as the season nears – and let’s hope for the best.
However, through all this, the good news remains the Yankees should be able to waltz through the 2021 regular season with a division title, subject to medium challenge from the Toronto Blue Jays, and another god-given gift to the Tampa Bay team again.
As seasoned observers of major league baseball, we can point our eyes to the current Spring Trainings (below), seeing a Yankees team already having established a winning mentality.
It’s Aaron Boone’s Boom Or Bust Season
But once the proverbial “bell” rings in ten days, everything changes, and all teams begin the season with an 0-0 record.
Brian Cashman has pretty much done his job in providing Aaron Boone with a roster deep enough to weather the storm of a full-blown 162-game season.
The position players will weed themselves out, and Boone will go with the hot hand when making out the daily lineup.
But the Yankees and Boone’s fate will rest solely with how he handles the rotation and bullpen – all with an eye toward the postseason and his staff’s ability to finish the season in top form – if the Yankees are to capture that elusive 28th World Championship title.
Predictions? Forget it. It’s baseball, and here we go…