The Yankees were facing a number of injuries to start the season but with Opening Day delayed we should get to see the best of their stars when MLB returns.
The Yankees were supposed to start the 2020 season without Aaron Judge, James Paxton, and maybe even Giancarlo Stanton, all while Luis Severino will be out until next season.
But with the start of the baseball season still in limbo due to the coronavirus pandemic, those three vital players may be ready for the new version of Opening Day, whenever it comes.
Two days before what would have been the start of the season, manager Aaron Boone said that Stanton would have been good to go had the baseball season gone on as originally scheduled.
Paxton underwent back surgery in February and was expected to miss three to four months. Judge’s injuries have been an uncertainty since the start of spring training, but he seems to have avoided surgery. Aaron Hicks will be out until at least the summer after undergoing Tommy John surgery in the offseason.
The Yankees were fine without Severino and Stanton last year, and even sufficed with Judge playing just 102 games last year. The likes of Mike Tauchman, Gio Urshela, Cameron Maybin, and Mike Ford kept the Yankees more than afloat, as they won the American League East handily. Their 103 wins were the club’s most since winning 103 in their 2009 championship season. “#NextManUp” became the slogan for last season.
The back end of the rotation, without Paxton and Severino, was also in question, as it seemed like Jonathan Loaisiga, Luis Cessa, Deivi Garcia, Clarke Schmidt, and Michael King were all battling for the fifth-starter role.
“Next man up” may have worked last year. But at the end of the day, they are still deemed the next men for a reason.
Despite Tauchman’s .865 OPS last season, he’s no Aaron Judge — a perennial MVP candidate each year, and a second-place finisher for the award in 2017. He’s no Giancarlo Stanton — the 2017 National League MVP and owner of baseball’s second-highest slugging percentage (.547) since 2010, behind only Mike Trout’s .581 (min. 1,000 games played).
To be real, Tauchman has been good for a little more than half of a season, and his 2019 was fairly inconsistent, filled with hot and cold streaks.
Judge and Stanton have been elite players for much longer.
Paxton owns a career ERA of 3.50. His 3.82 ERA last season was the worst of his career in a season where he made at least 15 starts. But in his final 14 starts — including his three postseason outings — he went 12-0 with a 2.08 ERA, including six innings of one run ball while striking out nine in Game 5 of the ALCS, facing elimination. When the Yankees needed him most, after a shaky first inning, he more than delivered.
Loaisiga owns a 4.79 ERA in his career; it dips to 4.50 as a starter (15 earned runs in 30.0 innings). Cessa’s ERA as a starter is a high 4.93. Garcia’s 4.28 ERA last season was his highest as a minor leaguer. Schmidt has not seen Triple-A hitting. King made his MLB debut last season, but has just 62.2 innings of Triple-A experience under his belt.
While the Yankees will be without Severino all season long, the rotation seems a lot better with five arms with at least one full season of major league experience – Jordan Montgomery missed most of the last two seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he pitched to a 3.88 ERA and finished in sixth place in that season’s AL Rookie of the Year Award voting. He deserves, and is in line, to be the fifth starter – considering he’s probably better than J.A. Happ at this point.
Yankee fans everywhere hope that Tauchman is not a half-season wonder. They hope that Garcia is the next great homegrown pitcher — an Andy Pettitte or, before injury, Severino — and not Chance Adams or James Kaprelian.
But right now, they are still back ups.
“Next man up” is inspirational. It’s cute. It was a rallying cry.
But it can be, and usually is, a curse. And when you are a World Series favorite, you cannot afford to have the next men up.