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Know Your Enemy: 2021 New York Yankees

Once again projected as the American League’s top team, an uncharacteristically quiet offseason may ultimately doom them

MLB: Game One-New York Mets at New York Yankees Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees fell short of their projections and expectations last year, playing to a 33-27 record, capturing a playoff spot with the 6th best record in the American League. They knocked off Cleveland in the Wild Card round, before falling to the AL Champion Rays in the Division Series. Nowhere near the desired outcome for a team that won 103 games in 2019, then added one of the best pitchers in the game in Gerrit Cole.

But they’re once again back on top of the projections, with Fangraphs tabbing them for an American League best 95 wins and a 71.9% chance of taking the Division title, the best odds of any team in baseball.

Notable Outgoing Players

Masahiro Tanaka
J.A. Happ
James Paxton
Adam Ottavino
Tommy Kahnle
Jonathan Holder

All pitchers, and a pretty significant group at that. Combined in 2019-2020, those 6 gave the Yankees a 63-41 record with a 4.24 ERA over 115 starts and 223 relief appearances. Combined, they were worth 13.0 fWAR and threw 821.2 innings, leaving behind an undeniable hole in the pitching staff.

Notable Incoming Players

Corey Kluber
Jameson Taillon
Justin Wilson
Darren O’Day

The group of incoming pitchers falls well short of the outgoing ones, at least on paper. Kluber is the biggest add, as the former Cy Young winner brings a lot of upside, but also has a lot of question marks due to shoulder problems, including being shut down after 1 inning last year thanks to a muscle tear.

Taillon, who is coming back from his second Tommy John surgery in August 2019, has his own injury question marks. He was a well above average pitcher in 2017 and 2018, but that was a long time ago now.

Wilson was good for the Mets last year, but does have some control issues that could raise some flags. O’Day was good when healthy the last couple seasons, but only combined for 21.2 innings over those 2 years.

And while he’s not technically a “new” player, it would be a bit disingenuous to note the lack of signings by the Yankees without mentioning that they did at least bring back free agent DJ LeMahieu on a 6 year, $90m contract, so they weren’t completely crying poor all winter.

Likely Batting Order

DJ LeMahieu, 2B
Aaron Judge, RF
Aaron Hicks, CF
Giancarlo Stanton, DH
Luke Voit, 1B
Gleyber Torres, SS
Gary Sánchez, C
Clint Frazier, LF
Gio Urshela, 3B

With the exception of the switch hitting Hicks, this is righty heavy lineup, which is a bit peculiar with the short porch in right field at Yankee stadium. Expect to see a fair bit of Tyler Wade, Brett Gardner and Michael Tauchman to get some lefty bats in the lineup. But regardless, this group will mash.

Pitching Rotation

Gerrit Cole, RHP
Corey Kluber, RHP
Jameson Taillon, RHP
Jordan Montgomery, LHP
Domingo Germán, RHP

Cole is one of the best pitchers in baseball, probably the odds-on favourite to win the Cy Young award. Behind him, it gets a bit dicier.

I mentioned the concerns with Kluber and Taillon earlier, and while they do have risk, they could also bring some fairly consistent innings to this rotation. Montgomery had a rough year in 2020 by ERA (5.21), but had good peripherals over his 10 starts, and should be a solid backend starter for the rotation.

Domingo Germán missed all of 2020 serving his suspension for domestic violence, but if there’s one thing the Yankees love, it’s to give guys like this another chance. He’ll likely be in the rotation to start the season.

Luis Severino, who missed all of 2020 after undergoing Tommy John surgery in February, should be back in a couple months, and if he’s as good as before, that’s an exceptional mid-season pickup for this otherwise shaky looking rotation.


Anchoring the bullpen is former domestic assault suspension server Aroldis Chapman. Chapman will likely be his normal dominant self on the mound, giving the Yankees few concerns for the 9th inning.

Getting to Chapman will be harder in 2021 than it has been for a while though. Former All-Star and noted bullpen sitter Zack Britton will start the year on the injured list, having undergone surgery on his elbow last week. He will likely be gone through May.

With Ottavino, Kahnle and Holder gone, it will be up to Chad Green, along with newcomers Wilson and O’Day, to nail down the high leverage spots, which seems a lot less menacing than anything we’ve seen out of the Yankees’ bullpen the last several seasons.

2021 Outlook

Fangraphs has their win projection at 95, while PECOTA has them pegged for 97 wins. To me, after looking at their depth and bullpen, I’m not sure they can reach those numbers. They’ll no doubt add as the trade deadline approaches, but I don’t think they’re the behemoth that a 71.9% Division winning probability dictates.


Over/Under 94.5 wins

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  • 35%
    (76 votes)
  • 64%
    (136 votes)
212 votes total Vote Now


I expect the Yankees will finish...

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  • 52%
    (119 votes)
  • 34%
    (79 votes)
  • 8%
    (20 votes)
  • 0%
    (0 votes)
  • 3%
    (8 votes)
226 votes total Vote Now