It’s the perfect time to be bold. The New York Yankees have assembled a formidable team, thanks to the Gerrit Cole signing and some other needed moves.
The talent in the Yankees’ roster invites us to make a full installment of ten bold predictions for the 2020 season:
Gerrit Cole will surpass 300 strikeouts… again
The Yankees’ newest and shiniest offseason acquisition, Gerrit Cole, just struck out 326 hitters in 2019. We are predicting here that he will post another 300-K season in 2020, which will make him the first pitcher since Randy Johnson in 2001 and 2002 to have more than 300 punchouts in consecutive seasons.
Johnson whiffed 372 hitters in 2001 and 334 the next year. Since then, no pitcher has surpassed the number in consecutive seasons.
The Yankees will win the AL East by ten games
The Yankees took home the AL East crown in 2019 with a seven-game lead. Bringing Cole in the fold and re-signing Gardner, plus a full season of a healthy Severino, will put the team in a position to run away with the division again, but with an even bigger lead.
The Tampa Bay Rays added Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, but traded Tommy Pham and lost Avisail Garcia. The Red Sox haven’t made substantial improvements, and while the Blue Jays have, they seem closer to the Rays-Sox tier than to the Yankees. It’s bold, but finishing with a ten-game lead is within reach.
DJ LeMahieu will have another 5-WAR season
The star infielder just had his best offensive season, with 29.2 batting runs according to FanGraphs. He also had his finest year, overall, with 5.4 fWAR. We aren’t projecting 26 home runs again, but his regression with the bat won’t be as substantial as lots of people think.
LeMahieu punished and squared the ball with authority in 2019 (92nd percentile in exit velocity, 90th percentile in hard-hit rate and 90th percentile in xwOBA) and figures to do it again in 2020. Good things happen when you hit the ball hard consistently.
Additionally, his 2.8 fielding runs are actually the lowest number he has had in the last three years. A slight increase is possible, which would boost his fWAR.
Luke Voit will take 100 walks
Luke Voit may strike out a ton (27.8 K% in 2019) but he is very good at taking his walks (13.9 BB%). He had 71 bases on balls in 118 games and 510 plate appearances. He can get to 100, which would be bold because only seven batters reached the milestone last season. The key for the success of this prediction will be playing time.
Miguel Andujar will be traded… to the Atlanta Braves
Josh Donaldson will sign one of the 4-year contract options he has on the table, and the Braves won’t trust Austin Riley to solve his contact issues (63.2 contact rate and 20.6 SwStrk%) right away. Atlanta, then, will make use of its extraordinary depth in pitching prospects to swing a deal for the Yankees’ infielder.
Mike Tauchman will have a 4-WAR season
Tauchman, fueled by a .277/.361/.504 line and 4.2 fielding runs, had 2.6 fWAR in just 87 games. With his defensive ability, he can achieve 4.0 fWAR in 2020 even with some slight offensive regression. A total of 42 position players reached the milestone, or 1.4 per team on average.
The Yankees will have four 3-WAR starters
If they are all healthy, Gerrit Cole, Luis Severino, James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka can each post at least 3.0 fWAR. We are predicting here that they will.
Cole will be closer to the 6.0 fWAR range and Severino is usually around 5.0 when healthy. Paxton and Tanaka are the wild cards but they are talented enough, especially the former, to surpass 3.0, which they both did in 2019. Not bold enough? Let’s raise the bar and say at least 3.5 for each in 2020.
Judge will fall just short of 50 home runs and finish with 48
Aaron Judge hit 27 home runs in 447 plate appearances in 2019, but he was stopped by a prolonged absence due to injury. We are forecasting that he will avoid any lengthy physical issues and hit 48 balls out of the park, just short of 50 and four shy of his 2017 career-high of 52.
The Yankees will defeat the Astros in the Championship Series… in six games
We are ready for a new era in the American League. The Houston Astros will still be one of the toughest opponents in 2020, but the Yankees will finally get over the hump and defeat them in the American League Championship Series, in six games.
The Yankees will advance to the Fall Classic for the first time since 2009. There, they will meet with… the New York Mets! The Braves, Nationals and Dodgers look very good, but there is a very talented baseball team in Queens. However, the Bombers will be victorious in the seven-game battle to secure number 28.