The Yankees are heading to the postseason after an uneven season — the team bounced between being one of the hottest to among the coldest teams in baseball on several occasions. The struggles of some individual players have helped contribute to wild swings of the season. Yet with the playoffs upon us, the struggles of a short and strange 2020 season can be washed away if a player can contribute to the 13 wins necessary to bring home a World Series title. Let’s take a look at some of the Yankees who will be looking to change the narrative of their season.
Nothing can change a short postseason series like a home run in a key spot. Gary Sanchez’s struggles at the plate this season have been front and center for all to see. Even after clubbing 10 home runs, Sanchez was still a well below league average hitter with just a 69 OPS+ and a negative WAR. He will not start in game one of the playoffs, as Gerrit Cole prefers to pitch to Kyle Higashioka.
This is Sanchez’s worst regular season by far, but he will also be looking to wipe away some of his postseason history as well. Gary has played in 27 postseason games and carries just a .176/.225/.382 line with 40 strikeouts in the biggest games of the year. He has not hit over .200 in a playoff round since going 2 for 4 against Minnesota in the 2017 Wild Card game.
The Yankees have been an inconsistent team, but Sanchez has shown the ability over the course of his career to get very hot, and sustain it for a month or more. Should he right the ship, he has the chance to put the Yankees on his back and make people at least temporarily forget his regular season and past postseason struggles.
When Yankees fans first saw Adam Ottavino’s slider it appeared the Yankees had landed the righty arm that could neutralize some of the most feared hitters in baseball. He was going to be a key member of the bullpen who, along with Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Chad Green and Tommy Kahnle, would hold any lead they were handed after the fifth inning.
Ottavino struggled to fulfill this role late last season and carried those struggles into the playoffs. Last season he allowed 10 of the 21 batters he faced to reach base on his way to giving up three earned runs in 3.1 innings of work.
This season Ottavino again started strong, but has struggled as of late. In 10 September games he has allowed a .361/.410/.500 slash line to opponents, and has looked flummoxed at times as he battles his command.
The Yankees will be forced to lean on all of their key bullpen arms if they advance past the first round due to the lack of off-days. Even in the first round Ottavino is a pitcher who will be called upon to negotiate some medium to high-leverage situations. If he can find the touch that made him nearly unhittable early in the season, Ottavino could become the lockdown arm the Yankee envisioned when they signed him prior to the 2019 season.
Since making his debut in 2017, Tyler Wade has struggled to find traction and become a player worthy of regular major league playing time. After a strong finish to 2019, Wade again struggled this season — hitting just .170/.288/.307, despite finding his most consistent playing time while Gleyber Torres, Gio Urshela and DJ LeMahieu battled injuries.
Wade was able to steal four bases in five attempts this season, and he is 13 for 15 in his major league career. With his speed and defensive versatility it is likely that Wade will find his way onto a field late in a close game. Could he steal a key base, or score from first on a double in a big spot? If the moment is big enough, Wade could find himself on highlight reels for years to come and carve place for himself in the Yankees postseason history.
The 2020 season has been up and down for the New York Yankees and many of their players. Some players like Gary Sanchez and Tyler Wade have struggled to get their offense going, while Adam Ottavino has struggled to lock down several games. Every postseason gives players the chance to contribute to the ultimate goal of winning the World Series and cast themselves in a new light — no matter what their regular season looked like.