Keidel: Possible Questions Surrounding The 2020 Yankees

From Uncertainty At Third Base To Giancarlo Stanton's Production

Jason Keidel
February 11, 2020 - 2:17 pm
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You've heard the saying, "What do you give the man or woman who has everything?" 

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Similarly, how do you knock the baseball club that has everything? The Yankees are loaded and hungry. Vegas puts their win total at 101 games - the most in MLB. They won 103 games last year with a laughable litany of injured players, and now have Gerrit Cole. Still, no club is perfect, so let's look at some possible questions for the Bronx Bombers entering the 2020 season.

1) What happens at third base?

The ancient sports mantra says you can't lose your starting job because of injury. Yet the Yankees are the land of Lou Gehrig, who replaced the forgotten Wally Pip. To that end, Gio Urshela had a magnificent season in 2019 in place of Miguel Andujar.

The Yanks have addressed the matter in measured terms, implying that Urshela owns the gig. But how do you possibly bench Andujar? In his rookie season - his only full season - Andujar smacked 47 doubles, 27 homers, drove in 92 runs, and batted .297, at 23 years old. He's younger than Urshela, and his ceiling is higher. If the Yankees insist on on Urshela at third, they still need to find 500 at-bats for Andujar. 

Yankees shortstop Gleyber Torres celebrates with teammate Gio Urshela after scoring a run on May 26, 2019, against the Royals in Kansas City, Missouri.
Peter G. Aiken/USA TODAY Images

2) How robust is their rotation? 

The Yankees paid Cole pounds of cash because he gives them a bedrock ace to lead the starting staff. But James Paxton's back injury shelves him until June. Luis Severino has had just three regular season starts since the end of 2018. Masahiro Tanaka has been a central figure in the rotation, but he turns 32 this year and could be an awkward pitch from tearing his tender UCL.

The rotation will be rounded out by an amalgam of JA Happ, Jordan Montgomery, Luis Cessa, and Jonathan Loaisiga. A lot would have to go wrong for the rotation to fall apart, but this is the cynic's view of the squad.

3) Will they be haunted or hardened by the high crimes of their rivals?

The twin-scandals involving the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox - who bounced the Yanks from the 2017 and 2018 playoffs - clearly stain their respective World Series titles. The Yankees and their fans justifiably wonder if their last three playoff runs were ruined by illegal sign-stealing.

So now what? Indignity won't get the Bombers too far, as few baseball fans will ever feel sorry for the richest team in the biggest market chasing their 28th World Series title. Just ask fans in Oakland or Tampa or Pittsburgh about how unfair baseball can be. So the Yankees can either wallow in self-pity or self-righteousness, or they can bulldoze the American League, win 105 games, and assume their ancestral perch in the Fall Classic.  

4) Does this season pivot on the production from Giancarlo Stanton? 

Unlikely.

The Yankees crushed 306 homers last year- which would have smashed the all-time mark had the Twins not flicked one more over the fence - while Stanton hit just three dingers in 18 games. Last year Stanton's presence was ornamental, though for his sake you hope he's healthy in 2020 and posts some facsimile of his Playstation stats in 2017, when he won NL MVP. Even his maiden year in pinstripes (38 HR, 100 RBI in 2018) would be more than enough to add layers to an obscenely potent lineup.

Stanton can surely help the club win, but he won't be the reason they win, or lose. 

New York Yankees left fielder Giancarlo Stanton (27) hits a solo home run against the Houston Astros in the sixth inning in game one of the 2019 ALCS playoff baseball series on Oct 12, 2019 at Minute Maid Park.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

5) Will the Yanks miss their 2019 departures?

Cornerstone clubhouse guys CC Sabathia and Didi Gregorius are gone. But the spiritual core of the club is still there, especially with Brett Gardner around. They lost Dellin Betances, who signed with the Mets. But the hulking, hard-throwing setup man has recorded two outs since the end of the 2018 season. 

The bullpen is still anchored by Adam Ottavino, Zack Britton, and Aroldis Chapman. Austin Romine, who did a fine job spelling slugging catcher Gary Sanchez, is now with the Tigers. It's hard to summon a scenario in which the Yankees lose the AL East, choke in the ALDS or ALCS because they so missed Austin Romine. 

Follow Jason on Twitter: @JasonKeidel

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