Yankees Rotation and Bullpen Going Into 2020
By: Joe Aguiar
If there was one weak spot for the 2019 New York Yankees, it was their starting rotation. Despite winning 103 games, it seemed most people believed the Yankees achieved that in spite of their starters. While they were very inconsistent for most of the regular season, they did all pitch better from August 1st on, but ultimately came up short of the World Series, succumbing to the Houston Astros in 6 games in the American League Championship Series.
Luis Severino signed a 4 year $40 Million dollar extension before the 2019 season, only to suffer a couple of injuries that cost him most of the year. Sevy made just 3 September starts and pitched a total of 12 innings. He also made 2 postseason starts, and was effective, pitching to a 2.16 ERA. The Yankees were fortunate to have Domingo German step up in Sevey’s place and win 18 games, only to be suspended by Major League Baseball for domestic violence as the Bombers were preparing for their playoff run. James Paxton spent the first half of the season struggling through the first inning of nearly every start. Big Maple picked it up after August 1st, and won his last 10 starts. He was 4–0 in September with a 1.04 ERA. Paxton pitched well in the postseason, including a dominating, 6 inning, 9 strikeout performance in game 5. Masahiro Tanaka made 32 starts, and while his regular season was inconsistent, he once again stepped up in the postseason. Tanaka beat the Houston Astros in game 1 of the ALCS with a 6 inning, one hit shutout. It was the kind of performance fans have come to expect from Masa, when he gets on the October stage. JA Happ struggled badly all year to keep the ball in the park, and was ultimately left off the Yankees postseason roster.
After Yankees Owner Hal Steinbrenner said in November that he was happy with the job of the rotation in 2019, fans collectively lost their minds. Hal is cheap, they said. He’ll never be like his father George, who always got the marquee free agents. Many insisted Hal wouldn’t spend the money because of this comment.
“For the most part, I think our starting pitching was good this year, Even missing [Luis] Severino and [Jordan] Montgomery [for most or all of the season due to injuries].”
“I also think they did a good job in the postseason,’’ Steinbrenner said of the rotation. “In the end, it was primarily a lack of timely hitting that was our downfall, resulting in too many guys left on base. My opinion.’’
Several weeks later, the Yankees signed the American League Cy Young Award Runner-up, Gerrit Cole, to a 9 year $324 million dollar contract. And just like that, the Bomber’s rotation was suddenly being called the best in baseball. The projected roster looks like this:
1) Gerrit Cole
2) Luis Severino
3) James Paxton
4) Masahiro Tanaka
Possible 5th starters include:
JA Happ (if not traded)
Domingo German (suspended first 63 games of 2020)
The Yankees go into the 2020 season with the same bullpen from a year ago, when they won 103 games and reached the American League Championship Series which they lost to the Houston Astros.
Dellin Betances, a 4 time All Star who faced just two batters in 2019, dealt with serious injuries and departs to the New York Mets on a one-year deal.
Considered the strength of the team going into 2019, it remains just that in 2020, despite the arrival of Ace Gerrit Cole.
Aroldis Chapman opted for a contract extension instead of free agency, agreeing to a deal that will keep him with the Yankees through the 2022 season. Chapman is one of the top closers in baseball and should bounce back fine after giving up a series-clinching home run to Jose Altuve in game 6 of the ALCS. Chapman had a rough July, amid rumors he would opt for free agency, but he rebounded in August and was his usual dominant self. The Cuban Missile posted a 2.21 ERA while saving 37 games and striking out 93 batters in 57 innings in 2019.
Zack Britton once again serves the role of 8th inning set up guy, after posting a 1.91 ERA in 66 appearances in 2019. Britton pitcher extremely well all season long.
Adam Ottavino struggled late in the year and was terrible in the postseason, but posted a 1.90 ERA and used his dominant slider to strike out 88 hitters in 66.1 innings over 73 appearances.
Tommy Kahnle has a bounce back year in 2019 after an injury-riddled 2018. Kahnle made 72 appearances last season and pitched to a 3.67 ERA
Chad Green got off to a horrible start last April, was demoted to Triple A, and finished the year strong for the Yankees, making 15 opener appearances among the 54 games he pitched in. Green had a 16.43 ERA in April, but finished the year at 4.17
Jonathon Holder became a reliable arm out of the pen in 2017, had a solid 2018, but was hugely disappointing in 2019. Holder finished the year with a 6.31 ERA and pitched in just 3 games after a May demotion. The Yankees are hoping Holder returns to his previous form.
Luis Cessa made 43 appearances in 2019 and was serviceable enough that he made the Yankees postseason roster. Cessa flashes brilliance at times, but has been inconsistent since his arrival in 2016.
After missing all of 2018, Ben Heller returned late in 2019, making 6 appearances and posting a 1.23 ERA while striking out 9 in 7.1 innings. If healthy, Heller could be a surprise contributor in 2020.
The bullpen could also see the addition of JA Happ, Jonathon Loiasiaga, Devi Garcia and Jordan Montgomery depending on how the rotation and roster shake out, but regardless of who is in it, it will continue to dominate.
The Yankees appear to be locked and loaded as they begin the chase for 28 in 2020.