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Yankees Mailbag: Gerrit Cole, the MLB Draft, and cardboard cutouts

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We’re covering all the bases in this week’s mailbag.

New York Yankees v. Washington Nationals Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Good morning everyone, get your answers to this week’s mailbag here. Remember to send in your questions for our weekly call by e-mail to pinstripealleyblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

Jerry asks: What is the best-case scenario that the Yankees could get from Gerrit Cole this season?

Cole is expected to lead the way for the pitching staff this season, and he got off to a good start on Opening Day yesterday by throwing a complete game (with an assist from the rain).

In reality, Cole’s debut was a decent indicator of what the Yankees could expect from him. He was clearly not on his A-game, but he had the Nationals off-balance all game and only allowed one hit, which happened to be a mistake to Adam Eaton that got punished. Pushing through and getting a strong result when you don’t have your best stuff is exactly what you expect from an ace, and Cole is undoubtedly one of the best aces in baseball.

Shaking off the rust in your first start during a season where you’re expecting somewhere around 34 starts is fine, but most projections expect Cole to get either 12 or 13 starts in this shortened year. That’s not a lot of opportunities to produce the elite performance the Yankees were expecting when they signed Cole, so how impactful could he be if he’s at his peak for the remainder of his starts?

We’ve seen a recent stretch from Cole’s career where he did just that, back in June and July last season with the Astros. In 11 starts, Cole collected 100 strikeouts while issuing just 19 walks, allowing 50 hits and just 15 runs in 72 innings of work. That’s a sub-2 ERA period of dominance, and it turned his 2019 season around from above-average performance to Cy Young contention. If he can reach that form in 2020, the Yankees won’t need much else to win whenever he takes the mound.

Steve D asks: Any thoughts on whether the 2021 draft order will be based upon the 2020 final standings or that the draft order determination might get tweaked a bit due to playing only 60 games or less?

I don’t think there should be a problem with using the 2020 standings to determine the draft order. It will still be a limited amount of rounds compared to normal drafts, as they’re planning on halving the number to 20 rounds. There really isn’t much else you could go by, although it admittedly has a chance of giving better picks to teams that may not actually be that bad but simply under-performed for a stretch.

My concern is less with the fact that there’s only 60 games this year, and more with the unbalanced schedules from only playing regionally this year. There are plenty of teams that could get different results than were expected of them at the beginning of the year, because they’re only playing the teams geographically close to them. Perhaps MLB finds a way of compensating for that, but I don’t really see what you could do about it. Some things just have to be accepted, and it’d be a relatively minor concern if it meant that they were able to get through the season in the first place. If the season gets canceled midway, then there’s a real scramble to figure out what should be done.

Peter Russo asks: What do you think of having cardboard cutouts occupying the seats behind home plate representing the Yankees honored in Monument Park? Would be kind of cool to see them when watching TV and also inspirational for the players.

I think this could be a cool idea. I’m honestly not the biggest fan of the cutouts, mainly because it’s jarring for me to see some of them be full-body cutouts and then some be an entire body for a selfie. The teams choosing to offer the cutouts can’t really coordinate what the fans send in to them, so it gets to be a bit of a mess. Also, I personally find the empty stands to be a surreal sight, and one we hopefully won’t see beyond this year.

The Yankees are all about tradition, and they’ve covered the walls of New Yankee Stadium with the memories of their former greats. It would be fitting to have some franchise icons show up in the stands as well while the area is open, and I’m sure the team could easily set it up since it wouldn’t be like producing an entire crowd’s worth of people in cardboard. I’d also like to see some recently retired Yankees like CC Sabathia included if they went this route. Sign me up for this.