It’s not officially the start of spring until the first pitch is thrown out on MLB’s Opening Day. Today, the New York Yankees commence their mission to win the World Series for a 28th championship. After multiple injury-plagued seasons, the Yankees hope key players can fade the injury bug and contribute to a championship campaign and an AL East division crown.
The Yankees are the second-highest team on the MLB futures board behind the LA Dodgers, who are the consensus favorite to win the 2021 World Series at +350 odds. You can back the Yankees at +550 odds to win the World Series over at DraftKings.
In AL Pennant odds, the Yankees are the team to beat at +230 odds. They’re listed ahead of the Chicago White Sox (+380), Minnesota Twins (+750), Toronto Blue Jays (+875), and Oakland A’s (+900).
The Yankees have a win total of 96.5 over/under. Only the LA Dodgers have a higher number at 103.5 wins.
We have nine deep thoughts ruminating in our heads at the start of the baseball season, so we compiled a list of things that Yankees’ fans can’t stop thinking about at the start of the 2021 MLB season.
The Yankees have a chance to regain their footing as the dominant team in the AL East. They’ve won the division only once since 2012, which occurred in 2019 during Aaron Boone’s first season as skipper. The Yankees are the favorites to win the AL East at -215 odds.
The Tampa Bay Rays were no longer in contention for the AL East title the moment Blake Snell bounced and headed west to play for the San Diego Padres. If rookie Randy Arozarena continues his hot hitting, the Rays could pose the biggest threat to the Yankees this season in the AL East. Otherwise, the Toronto Blue Jays look like the biggest competition in the division. The Boston Red Sox are still in rebuilding mode, and the Baltimore Orioles are a spendthrift franchise that’s expected to be the division doormat once again.
Gambling on the Rotation
The Yankees have the best arm in baseball with Gerrit Cole. But how about the rest of the rotation? Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon are coming off injuries. Obviously, if they return to their old form, the Yankees will have a top-notch rotation. Jordan Montgomery looked sharp in spring training. Domingo German has the stuff to become the Yankees’ second-best pitcher behind Cole. He’s seeking redemption after a domestic dispute landed him on the suspended list.
Team MVP: Gleyber or DJ?
DJ LeMahieu, the reigning AL batting champ, has been the Yankees MVP for the past two seasons due to his consistency at the plate and his versatility in the field.
Gleyber Torres credits much of his success to watching LeMahieu play and analyzing how he approaches the game. LeMahieu has been a big brother to the young Torres, but this could be the season when the little brother overtakes the big bro on the diamond. Torres hit 24 home runs in 123 games as a rookie. In his second season, he smacked 38 home runs in 144 games.
New Ball to Quell the Bronx Bombers
How will the new ball affect the Yankees’ home run hitters? The league apparently used juiced balls last year, but will use non-juiced balls this season. We’re eager to see if the new ball is a legit threat to sluggers like Stanton, Judge, and the Kraken, who are used to launching moon shots.
Bronx ER: Healthy Stanton and Judge
The Yankees lost first baseman Luke Voit to knee surgery last week. Jay Bruce will fill in until Voit returns, but the season has yet to start and the Yankees have already lost a starter. So long as Aaron Judge, DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, and Giancarlo Stanton stay healthy, then the Yanks can chase 100 wins.
Stanton played only 18 games two seasons ago while recovering from multiple injuries. He appeared in 23 last season, but he was one of the hottest hitters in the postseason. Fans caught a glimpse of the guy who slugged 59 home runs in 2017. When he’s healthy, Stanton can mash.
Judge missed 50 games in 2018 and missed 60 games in 2019, yet still smacked 27 home runs in both years. He appeared in 28 games during the pandemic and slugged nine home runs. When he’s healthy, Judge is one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball. The key for the Yankees this year is to have Judge and Stanton in the lineup every day.
After getting jerked around over the past couple of seasons, flashy outfielder Clint Frazier finally gets a chance to be an everyday player in the Bronx. Frazier is slated to start in left field this season with old man Brett Gardner backing him up. He hit .267 with eight home runs and 24 RBI during 39 games in the pandemic-shortened season.
Release the Kraken
Gary Sanchez slumped so badly last year that manager Aaron Boone benched him. No one questions Sanchez’s ability to obliterate a baseball. They call him the Kraken because he’s a fierce monster at the plate. But when the Kraken slumps, he’s horrible. He hit .147 last season with 10 home runs and 24 RBI. It’s time for the Kraken to wake up from his slump, otherwise, Brian Cashman might have to trade him away.
Manager Aaron Boone isn’t shy about going to his bullpen early in the game. Even though his father and grandfather both played and coached in the big leagues, pitchers from their era would go ballistic if a starter got yanked in the fourth inning. Yet, that’s part of the game plan in the era of analytics. Boone doesn’t like for his pitchers to face a lineup for a third time in a game, so unless they’ve pitched lights out, they’re on a short leash.
The downside to using the bullpen early in games is that the relieving corps gets overworked. In the last two postseasons, several of the middle relievers were out of gas by the time October rolled around (e.g., Adam Ottavino last season). Of course, the onus is on the starters to pitch better and go deeper into games. We hope that Boone knows it’s okay to let a starter pitch a little longer in order to preserve the longevity of the pen.
World Series Finally?
The Yankees last appeared in the World Series in 2009, which they won. They lost in the ALCS twice in the past four seasons, and were knocked out by the Houston Astros both times. Could this be the year that the Bronx Bombers finally return to the World Series and Aaron Judge plays in his first World Series game? The Yankees busted the bank to pay lucrative contracts to slugger Giancarlo Stanton and starting pitcher Gerrit Cole. Will those high-end investments finally pay off with a World Series appearance?