In case you missed it, Major League Baseball will play the 2020 season with a 60-game schedule, plus the playoffs. That means 102 games were cut off from the calendar, and there will be more space for fluky, random outcomes for both individuals and clubs.
Despite the situation, and the fact that some in the industry have said that contenders such as the New York Yankees have increased pressure with the shorter schedule, manager Aaron Boone stoked the fire and implied his team is expected to win it all anyway, with a long or short calendar.
It is important, therefore, to project a message of calmness about the short schedule. Yes, there will be only 60 games, but that doesn’t mean that the team should play with an enormous weight on their shoulders, and that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Yankees should field their A lineup day in, day out.
In fact, with the 60 games spread over only 66 days, rest will be needed to stay fresh. Additionally, the manager needs to be careful not to rush anybody that has been hurt in the recent past. Boone said something about that a couple of days ago to NJ.com:
“As much as there’s the urgency of a 60-game season, an injury can wipe out a season in a hurry if you’re forcing a guy more than they’re probably ready for early on in the season. You have an injury in a 60-day season, now all of a sudden maybe it cost them half a year, or the season for that matter.”
This is true, especially, for three starters with recent injury issues: Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. For what it’s worth, Boone said he will be monitoring each one of them individually.
“The bottom line is we’re going to try and make evaluations on an individual basis about where we think guys are physically. If we feel like they’re ready after this three-week stretch to go and do their normal workload and play every day, so be it.”
Having those three sitting out games early in the season is a strong possibility, given Boone’s approach. And that would mean enhanced playing opportunities for guys that were somewhat forgotten: Mike Tauchman, Clint Frazier, and Miguel Andujar.
That trio may enjoy semi-regular playing time in the early going, along with Brett Gardner, as Judge, Hicks and Stanton are eased into things.
They could have an opportunity to solidify their place with the Yankees for the long-term. For Frazier, who put up a .267/.317/.489 slash line and a 108 wRC+ last year, it could be the last chance to make a lasting impression. He will need to show that he can play at least adequate defense, and get on base consistently. We know there is some thump in his bat.
Tauchman, on the other hand, is quite the opposite: he needs to prove his excellent offensive season in 2019 (.277/.361/.504, 128 wRC+) was no fluke, as it is evident that he is among the best fielders in the team.
Andujar, the 2018 Rookie of the Year runner-up, should have a role as a corner outfielder and designated hitter with an occasional start at third.
As things stand right now, the Yankees have lots of options in the outfield. “We also know and trust in our depth. If you look at our team, and if we’re fortunate enough to be healthy at the end of this camp, we feel like we have a lot of players that are capable of being everyday players that won’t necessarily be that,” Boone said.
Andujar, Frazier and Tauchman have the perfect opportunity to put up some stats and help the team win. “We’ll lean on those guys, especially in the early days, to make sure we’re building guys up properly,” the skipper stated.
Will they make a lasting impression?