James Paxton, a veteran left-hander for the New York Yankees, underwent back surgery in February. Photo courtesy of Pinstripe Alley.
By: Robbie Stratakos
For the third consecutive year, it’s a World Series-or-bust mentality for the New York Yankees. However, reaching the fall classic is anything but a given for the Bronx Bombers, based on the amount of substantial injuries that have taken place over the last month.
Signing electric right-hander Gerrit Cole to a nine-year, $324 million deal this off-season, they shored up their roster’s nagging weakness: the lack of a true ace.
Then disaster struck.
Veteran left-hander James Paxton, who was the Yankees’ best starter down the stretch of last season, underwent back surgery in February; Luis Severino, who was prepping for a bounce-back season after missing the bulk of 2019, recently injured his forearm, which requires a season-ending Tommy John surgery.
Manager Aaron Boone needs some young starters in the organization to step up. Candidates to get rotation nods include Jordan Montgomery and Jonathan Loaisiga, who have made scattered starts at the big-league level over the last two seasons, and top pitching prospect Deivi Garcia. Another option could be that the Yankees consistently go with one or two bullpen days a week, which entails deliberately using multiple relievers to fill up a nine-inning game.
The Yankees bullpen is loaded. With the likes of flame-throwing closer Aroldis Chapman, left-hander Zack Britton, the crafty Adam Ottavino and long reliever Chad Green, Boone has a bullpen of versatile, proven relievers. This aspect of their roster can partially bail out the uncertainty that exists in the back end of their rotation. With that said, there’s no margin for error: they have to be a lights-out bunch.
A similar challenge exists around the diamond, as outfielders Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Hicks are on the shelf with injuries; others have to pick up the slack.
With the likes of DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, Gary Sanchez, Gio Urshela and Brett Gardner in place, the Yankees should still be able to sport a productive, well-versed offensive attack without their standout outfielders. At the same time, they’ll need to break out of their home run-or-bust habits. They need to swing for more line-drive contact, which results in more baserunners and, subsequently, more runs.
Can someone step up on their pitching staff? Can they be multi-dimensional in the batter’s box? The answers to those questions will make or break the Yankees’ 2020 World Series aspirations.