This week and last, we have been wrapping up our coverage of the 2020 season with a collection of Year in Review pieces. One of the mainstays of this series is recapping the five best moments of the season. I’ve decided to take a slightly modified approach in this year’s rendition, looking at broader themes that have positive implications for the Yankees moving forward. With that, let’s jump right into the list.
5. Superlative performances from DJ LeMahieu and Luke Voit
The two steadiest performers for the Yankees were undoubtedly DJ LeMahieu and Luke Voit. They represented the lone bright sparks in an otherwise barren lineup during the 5-15 stretch that almost sank the season. Each led MLB in a separate traditional stat category, which is certainly nothing to sneeze at.
DJ LeMahieu led baseball in batting average at .364, besting the second-place finisher Juan Soto by 13 points. LeMahieu also finished second to Tim Anderson in average last season, proving he is one of, if not the steadiest hitter in the big leagues.
Voit won the home-run crown with 22 dingers, three ahead of José Abreu. That puts Voit on a 59 home run pace across a 162-game season, which would have been the most since Giancarlo Stanton clubbed that many in his 2017 NL MVP campaign with the Marlins. This was certainly a personal triumph for Voit, as he saw his production dip in the second half of 2019 while fighting through a core injury, causing some to question his long-term staying power at first for the Yankees. Voit definitively silenced his doubters this year.
4. Clint Frazier coming into his own
I felt tempted to put this one all the way at the top, as I have been a big Clint Frazier fan since his first season in pinstripes. As someone who has also suffered from concussion symptoms, I can only imagine the difficulty of judging fly balls in the outfield. With his symptoms hopefully in the past once and for all, Frazier showed that he is an above-average fielder, to the point that he is a finalist for the Gold Glove award.
It is extremely gratifying to see Frazier successful on the big league stage, as he’s had to endure years of false narratives spun by the media and uncalled for questions about his maturity. He showed how fearsome a hitter he is in the box, placing third on the team in wRC+ (149), and in my mind rightfully earned the starting left field role for good.
3. Deivi García and Clarke Schmidt making their debuts
For the last couple of seasons, we have been tantalized by the rapid ascent of the two most prized arms in the Yankees minor league system. Deivi García and Clarke Schmidt both rocketed up the ranks last season, forcing themselves into the conversation for 2020. Not since Luis Severino have Yankees fans had reason to feel enthusiastic about home-grown starting pitching, and one of the things I am most looking forward to next season is seeing the progression of these two young stars in the making.
Dealin’ Deivi had a dream debut against the Mets, throwing six innings without giving up a single earned run, striking out six and walking none. That last stat is what makes me so excited. The book on García was that he possessed wipeout stuff, but struggled with his command at all levels in the minors. That he did not issue a free pass in his debut speaks to his poise on the mound.
Unfortunately for Schmidt, he endured a rockier introduction to the big show, as he was thrust into about the highest-leverage situation possible. You have to say it was a bit cruel to make one’s debut coming into a 3-2 game with runners on first and second. Nonetheless, Yankees pitching director Sam Briend praised the way Schmidt was able to bounce back from his disappointing debut and first season overall. “Schmidt struggled and didn’t have the outings he was looking for,” said Briend, “but he’s probably better for it in the long-term because he knows what he has to work on.”
2. Giancarlo Stanton destroying the baseball in the postseason
Giancarlo Stanton put on a fireworks display, clubbing six home runs in seven games, including a ninth-inning grand slam to seal Game One and two home runs off the supposedly unhittable Tyler Glasnow. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen someone single-handedly try to bash his team to victory, and almost succeed. He was truly a one man wrecking crew, and it is a shame the rest of his teammates could not fill their end of the bargain.
I’m just gonna leave this here for your viewing pleasure.
Yankees fans have been waiting for this type of offensive outburst from Stanton, the kind that seemed like a daily occurrence during his final season in Miami. If this is what we can expect from Stanton when he is healthy, the Yankees should do everything in their power to make sure that happens. And if being a full-time DH - as Brian Cashman suggested would be the case - is what it takes to keep Stanton healthy and producing, sign me up for that.
1. Gerrit Cole is a Yankee
Gerrit Cole’s first season in pinstripes was just about everything you could ask for out of the highest-paid pitcher in baseball. Even with the early season struggles getting acclimated to his new team and the COVID-19 protocols, Cole showed he is the ace the Yankees have been clamoring for so desperately. When he really found his groove throwing to Kyle Higashioka, the games in which Cole pitched became must-see TV.
And as good as Cole was in the regular season, he took it to another level in the postseason. Whether it was his 13 strikeout domination of the Indians or his gutsy performance in Game Five of the ALDS, Cole proved that the Yankees can feel secure handing him the ball with the season on the line.