Who knows - perhaps teams can get a "mulligan" for lackluster performance from last season. But the New York Yankees, who finished the season with a 33-27 record and made it to the ALDS, where they lost to Tampa Bay, have many questions left unanswered even as they have been solidly installed as the -225 favorite to win the American League East.
They are attractive to the public in the sense that they have power to spare. We really mean that - they'll have people sitting on the bench who can hit the ball out of the park with a certain degree of regularity.
2021 New York Yankees Team Preview
One of them actually might be sitting for a month or more. Luke Voit, who came over from the St. Louis Cardinals two years ago in a deal nobody thought much of at the time, led the American League in homers, with 22 in 56 games. But he made the decision to have minor knee surgery just recently, and it looks as if the earliest he'll return is May.
So the Yankees are stationing Jay Bruce at first base. Bruce, who signed a minor league contract before spring training, is a three-time All-Star who has topped 20 homers ten times in his career.
Aaron Judge needs to stay healthy; that much is a given. And continued health seems to have been too much to ask of Giancarlo Stanton, although the slugger hit six homers in the post-season and looked scary at times in the spring.
The middle of this infield is potentially explosive. Second baseman DJ LaMahieu hit .364 with an OPS of 1.011. Shortstop Glayber Torres shouldn't be a bad bet to regain the form that saw him hit 38 homers in 2019.
The biggest concern in the starting lineup is what Aaron Boone will ultimately do about the catching situation. Gary Sanchez has a ton of power (ten homers in the abbreviated 2020) but he hit an embarrassing .147 and struck out 41% of the time. And it's no0 secret that his defensive skills have left something to be desired.
Staff ace Gerrit Cole (+275 to win the AL Cy Young) got hot last season when he stopped working with Sanchez and started working with Kyle Higashioka, who has occasional power and has a much better handle on how to deal with the pitchers.
And speaking of Cole and the pitching staff, you can't say that he didn't deliver on his $324 million contract (okay, a little less with the pro rata reductions due to the pandemic) - well, in the respect that ANY player could deliver with that kind of money. He was 7-3 with a 2.84 ERA and .959 WHIP ratio, giving an indication that he can be the anchor of this rotation for a number of years.
Two other pitchers who have been "aces" in the Yankee rotation are back and have something to prove. Domingo German sat out last season on an MLB suspension, but everybody was very impressed with what he did in spring training. And Luis Severino, who had to go undergo Tommy John surgery, will have a chance to come back in mid-season. Left-hander Jordan Montgomery is another guy who is looking to regain his form, but impressed the Yankees in March.
The wild card here might be Corey Kluber, who has won two Cy Young awards (2014, 2017) but has struggled the last couple of seasons with a variety of injuries. He put on pinstripes with a one-year, $11 million deal, and if he can perform, he tightens things up a lot more for the New York rotation.
Want another wild card? How about Jameson Taillon, once regarded as the best pitching prospect in the game and a former teammate of Cole's, who was 14-10 in the only season he went through completely healthy, and missed most of the last two seasons with injuries, including flexor tendon and UCL issues.
So as you can clearly imagine, there is very little that is crystal clear about this team on the mound, even in the bullpen; Aroldis Chapman is still a force, obviously, but neither Zack Britton nor Justin Wilson are available to them at the moment.
The perception is that after losing Blake Snell and Charlie Morton, the Tampa Bay Rays (+450) will take a step back in the division; possibly to be overtaken by the Toronto Blue Jays (+325), who have a lot of good young players and signed George Springer (currently on the IL with an oblique strain) to boot.
If the Yankee pitching falters, or those question marks don't come with an answer, either of those teams could leap to the top of the AL East. And needless to say, in that case the Bronx Bombers would have to hit an awful lot of home runs to make good on those who took the +500 price on them to win the World Series.
Charles Jay is unlike most analysts associated with
handicapping and the gaming industry, in that he also has had extensive
experience in the so-called "mainstream" media as well.
He has been involved with professional sports industry for
almost two decades, working in all capacities, as a matchmaker, booking agent,
manager, and also as an editorial consultant on USA Network's "Tuesday Night
Fights," which, for a time, carried "Charles Jay's Line" on
upcoming fights. As a broadcaster, he has called world title fights around the
world for various outlets, and has served as a color commentator for Sunshine
Network and Prime Network.
His radio experience includes being the host of numerous
programs, including "Sportswatch with Charles Jay" on KDWN in Las
Vegas, "Total Action" on WAXY 790 in Miami, and "Charles Jay's
Winning Edge", syndicated into 55 markets by the American Radio Networks,
and he's done podcasts on all subjects related to sports, gaming and popular
Working within the casino industry, he has a special events
consultant for Casino Magic in Mississippi, as that venue established itself in
the early 1990s as a hotbed of boxing activity in particular. Prior to this, he
had been engaged as a casino gaming columnist for, among others, Casino Player,
Card Player and Sports Form (now known as Gaming Today), specializing in
blackjack. And later on, his investigative series on boxing, entitled
"Operation Cleanup," won him much critical acclaim, including the
2003 "Dignity" Award, in the category of "Best Sports
Writer," as bestowed by the Retired Boxers Foundation, a non-profit
organization dedicated to rendering assistance to ex-fighters in need.
In 2006 he established a content services division of his
company, which has eventually evolved in JayWords, and he is arguably the
world's most prolific sports & gaming writer, with over 20,000 articles to
his credit, the vast majority of which have been sports handicapping pieces. So
you might say he has analyzed as many sporting events as anyone alive during
this period. He has also brought some interest with his so-called
"gimmick" odds on special events, including the Academy Awards, the
NFL Draft, and the Super Bowl, for which he posted dozens and dozens of
different odds propositions with various sportsbooks.
This renaissance man is a winner of the Retired Boxers Foundation's "Dignity Award" and a member of the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame; graduate of the University of
Miami (Florida) who currently resides in the South Florida area.