Sports

The Yankees’ 2021 gambles start with rotation: Sherman

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Turned on the old laptop this morning to see that my friend and colleague, Andrew Marchand, was reporting that DraftKings had acquired VSiN. Yet another sign that one day I will be living in the United States, brought to you by Bovada.

I don’t have much of a gambling Jones beyond — keep this between us — the poker game I have played with the same group of friends since we were pre-teens. I think I am up 50 cents in 50 years, so not a great rate of return.

Anyway, I digress from the main point, which is that more and more we have to think in gambling terms since our cities, leagues and selves are diving deep into the waging world — a bad long-term bet I suspect. But in the spirit, I offer a Yankees season preview in 10 over/unders:

1. Domingo German/Corey Kluber/Jameson Taillon (over/under 65 starts)

In 2019, no Yankees starter exceeded 182 innings (Masahiro Tanaka). But five (Tanaka, German, J.A. Happ, James Paxton and CC Sabathia) pitched between 107 1/3 innings and 182. This represents the Yankees 2021 dream scenario in which Gerrit Cole nears or exceeds 200 innings and four or five other starters are sturdy enough to total between 100-160 innings.

German, Kluber and Taillon combined for one start last year. Can that trio plus Jordan Montgomery, Deivi Garcia and eventually Luis Severino hold up to provide quality behind Cole?

2. Cole (AL Cy Young finish, over/under 2 ½)

Considering all the uncertainty behind him, Cole is arguably the most indispensable player on a contender. He has finished fifth, second and fourth for the AL Cy Young the past three years and added a 2.38 ERA in 10 postseason starts. As a hat tip to the Yankees’ needs this year, note that Cole has thrown 30 more regular-season innings than any AL starter from 2018-20. An injury to Cole — more than any Yankee — would most threaten their chances to win the AL East.

3. Yankee offense (over/under 260 homers)

The ball is supposed to be deadened this year. Luke Voit, the MLB homer leader last season, will miss a month or more after knee surgery. The Yankees, even with hit machine DJ LeMahieu re-signed, are beholden to homers as their first, second and third mode of run scoring.

4. Aaron Judge/Giancarlo Stanton (over/under 175 combined games played)

The duo has combined for 171 games played over the past two regular seasons. If they play 130-plus each in 2021 then the Yanks should clear those 260 homers and potentially challenge 300 again, as they did in 2019.

Corey Kluber is part of the Yankees' risky rotation
Corey Kluber is part of the Yankees’ risky rotation
AP

5. Gary Sanchez (over/under 80 starts)

Sanchez has started more than 80 games twice in his career and never more than 94. Injury usually has been the reason for keeping the total down. But do you trust him to return to a performance solid enough on both sides of the plate — not letting the ball too often get by his glove on defense and by his bat on offense — to retain a hold on being the starter?

6. Clint Frazier (over/under .820 OPS)

After all the trade rumors, how ironic would it be if he became a cornerstone of the team and outlasted players such as Judge and Sanchez in pinstripes? He has the skill and the opportunity. Can he stay healthy and focused and lock down left field for now and the near future with that lightning bat and rising judiciousness at the plate? Or does Frazier open a door allowing Brett Gardner/Mike Tauchman to play a lot?

7. Aroldis Chapman devastating postseason homers allowed (over/under 0.5)

The Yankee seasons the past two years pretty much ended with Chapman serving up homers to Houston’s Jose Altuve and Tampa Bay’s MIke Brosseau. He also has Rajai Davis’ three-run homer in World Series Game 7 in 2016, albeit Chapman’s Cubs rebounded to win. He has terrific all-around stats and, perhaps, a newly refined splitter will allow him to persevere even if he losses some heat on his fastball. But the judgment on Chapman — especially as a Yankee — is if like John Wetteland a quarter of a century ago he can recover from brutal playoff moments to help the Yankees close out a World Series.

8. Gleyber Torres is still the primary shortstop (over/under Aug. 1)

Torres was in better shape and getting better defensive results this spring. But he is still more a second baseman than shortstop. The Yankees do not want to concede that because of the ripple effect of having to take Torres off of short. Does LeMahieu go to first? Does that take Voit out of the lineup? Does LeMahieu go to third? Does that take Gio Urshela out of the lineup?

9. Yankee non-COVID-19 injured list stints (over/under 26)

The 2019 Yanks set an MLB record with 30 different players serving 39 IL stints. They reacted by overhauling their training staff, notably putting Eric Cressey in charge as director of player health and performance. The injuries continued last year, but Brian Cashman cautioned that full implementation of a program could not be done in a COVID year, and even in more normal times, it takes time for new regimens to have impact.

Results are needed this year. Cressey trained Kluber through his rehab from a shoulder injury and endorsed the Yankees signing the veteran righty. Judge and Stanton backed off bulk lifting and emphasized agility. The season will begin with at least five Yankee IL stints (Voit, Zack Britton, Clarke Schmidt, Luis Severino and Justin Wilson). What will the final tally be?

10. Jasson Dominguez (over/under overall prospect No. 15 on Baseball America’s year-end list)

He begins at No. 33 despite being 18 and having never played organized ball yet. There is a Loch Ness Monster feel to the switch-hitting outfielder due to the lack of eyes that have been on him since signing for a $5.1 million bonus in July 2019 and the myth-like reports of his speed, power and physicality. Is he the Yankees’ fast-to-the-majors wunderkind like Bryce Harper or Juan Soto or is he Ruben Rivera II?

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