The 2019 New York Yankees hit the second-most home runs of any team ever with 306. Only last year’s Twins hit more, with 307. They had the 2nd-best wRC+ at 117 and did it all with a merry-go-round of unexpected players consisting of DJ LeMahieu, Giovanny Urshela, Mike Tauchman, Cameron Maybin, Mike Ford, and others. Nearly the entire roster played to a level it hadn’t before when called upon. Now the team is entering the new year hoping for clean bills of health from its bevy of stars.
If Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gary Sanchez can stay on the field, the club is going to be as dangerous as ever. You could buy a ticket to their lineup at nearly any point in the draft and enjoy the show all season.
60-Game Season Update
Health was yet again the main story for the Yankees in the beginning part of 2020. While Luis Severino and James Paxton were the big stories, the Yankees hitters were not without their health questions either. The team’s two biggest stars, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton being among the most notable. Stanton’s was mostly minor, as he suffered a calf injury early in the spring, but was expected to be back for Opening Day, but recurring injury issues had fantasy managers weary, but he should be fully healthy and ready to go for the shortened 2020 season. Judge’s injury is most notable. His rib injury was originally called a minor one, but as the spring progressed, the timeline for him to resume baseball activities kept getting pushed back, and his likelihood for Opening Day was looking more and more unlikely. During the shutdown, it was revealed that Judge would likely be out until summertime per Brian Cashman, which puts him right in line to return for the beginning of the season. The most recent update has him on track to return for the season, which is good news for fantasy managers, but the injury risk is always going to be there with Judge, and in a shortened season, a setback could cost him half the season.
Elsewhere, there wasn’t much interest in Aaron Hicks during the preseason as he was recovering from Tommy John surgery that would have kept him out until about mid-season during a regular season. He is now expected to be fully ready for the 2020 season, which has him trending up for fantasy purposes.
The return of this trio of hitters is bad news for some Yankee reserves who were anticipating starting roles back in March. Mike Tauchman and Clint Frazier would have likely been penciled into Judge and Hicks’ spots and were intriguing options in their own right. Some combination of Miguel Andujar and Mike Ford were expected to get some playing time in the designated hitter spot in the absence of Stanton, but they now look like they’ll be on the bench on Opening Day, although they should still receive playing time, just not as much as previously expected.
|1||2B||DJ LeMahieu (R)|
|2||RF||Aaron Judge (R)|
|3||SS||Gleyber Torres (R)|
|4||LF||Giancarlo Stanton (R)|
|5||CF||Aaron Hicks (S)|
|6||C||Gary Sanchez (R)|
|7||1B||Luke Voit (R)|
|8||DH||Miguel Andujar (R)|
|9||3B||Gio Urshela (R)|
Original March Edition
Gary Sánchez (C | Batting 5th)
2019: 62 R, 34 HR, 77 RBI, 0 SB, .232/.316/.525 | C #9
2020 ADP: 81 (C #2)
Gary Sánchez offers almost as complete a package as possible at catcher, coming up short in only batting average and steals. He hits enough for the batting average to be palatable and the phrase “fast, for a catcher” didn’t become a thing by accident. We’re left with a dude who can pop 30+ homers in the heart of an elite lineup, helping him cruise to an above-average amount of runs and even more RBI relative to the playing time he’ll see.
Health might be the only catch: Sánchez has missed time each of the last two years with groin injuries. As a bigger body at a position that wears guys down, and where its occupants are actually getting smaller, that’s worth stowing in the back of your mind. Catcher is deeper than we might expect, too. That said, Sánchez still looms as an elite option should you find yourself wanting an impact bat in the middle of the 6th round or so.
Strengths: R, HR, RBI, SLG
Health holds up and the power is consistently there for Sánchez all year. He’s the best catcher in the fantasy game.
The groin gives way to multiple, tedious IL trips, making you wonder if you could’ve chosen someone who provided less stress where you snagged ya boi instead.
2020 Projection: 66 R, 30 HR, 76 RBI, 2 SB, .242/.324/.515
Luke Voit (1B | Batting 7th)
2019: 72 R, 21 HR, 62 RBI, 0 SB, .268/.378/.464 | 1B #30
2020 ADP: 176.5 (1B #16)
Luke Voit was a steady presence in the Yankees lineup last year, which almost no other regular could say. Still, he missed time with a core injury at the end of the season and struggled when he did play at that point. He slashed just .194/.326/.347 after August. That stretch, combined with how the Yankees managed to be exceptional last year, seems to be convincing people he’s going to be more of a bit player than another bludger in what could easily be the best offense in baseball. Even Steamer is only projecting him for 92 games because of how deep the team is.
Voit can still knock the snot out of the ball, though, having hit it harder than 86% of the league last year and barreled it up more than 65% of his peers. Since becoming a Yankee and being given a legitimate opportunity to play, he’s slashed .280/.384/.517 with 35 homers, 100 runs, and 95 RBI in 157 games. First base looks as though it might be about 10 deep before a dropoff and he offers a ton of upside at the back end of that, or later.
Strengths: HR, OBP, SLG
He’s an above-average bat who goes on a tear at some point that looks close to his Yankee debut in 2018, which does wonders for your squad considering where you drafted him.
The playing time projections become true, it’s hard to get a beat on when he’ll play and where he’ll hit, and you don’t need to make or keep space for him on your roster.
2020 Projection: 49 R, 16 HR, 49 RBI, 1 SB, .250/.341/.446
DJ LeMahieu (2B | Batting 1st)
2019: 109 R, 26 HR, 102 RBI, 5 SB, .327/.375/.518 | 2B #3
2020 ADP: 72 (2B #11)
Can DJ LeMahieu possibly come close to replicating his 2019 season in 2020? That’s the question everyone’s asking. When the Yankees signed him, most saw DJL as a guy who would play a little bit all over the infield and be the near-average bat he was for almost the entirety of his career before that. While that has value to a real ball club, it’s not the kind of profile fantasy players trip over themselves to get.
Then the season started, Yankee hitters endured a rash of injuries that would make Oregon Trail blush, and LeMahieu stepped into the spotlight. He was the 3rd-best second base-eligible option in the fake game and is being taken as the 11th so far this offseason. Steamer sees the runs sticking around, which makes sense if he hits atop the lineup again, but the slugging and RBI coming down. He’ll still likely be an above-average bat even if he doesn’t match last year’s career year, as the Yankees seem to have found a way to help him optimize his tight launch angles. Like first base, second base falls off a sneaky cliff after the first 10 guys or so. Grabbing him around the sixth round could still be good value, especially if the ball continues to reward contact-oriented hitters. And don’t forget, he’ll be eligible all over the infield.
Strengths: R, RBI, AVG, OBP
2019 is his new baseline. You scooped up a steal who should’ve cost much more.
He hits closer to when he was a Rockie than anything else. You could’ve gotten your utility guy much later.
2020 Projection: 91 R, 19 HR, 75 RBI, 6 SB, .285/.344/.435
Giovanny Urshela (3B | Batting 9th)
2019: 73 R, 21 HR, 74 RBI, 1 SB, .314/.355/.534 | 3B #16
2020 ADP: 289 (3B #29)
Urshela was a revelation for the Yankees after they lost Miguel Andújar early in the season. Like Voit, Mike Tauchman, and LeMahieu to an extent, Urshela is another great case of the Yankees taking someone else’s depth chart castoff and helping them turn into something much, much more. The key to his development, as far as we know, is the team getting him to keep two hands on the bat as he moved the barrel through the zone, allowing for more power. He was also noticeably less rigid at the dish, which primes the body’s muscles to be as efficient as possible.
The most interesting thing about Urshela is how he swings out of the zone more than 90% of the league but managed to make 30% less soft contact than average. There are better options abound at third base but in fantasy, he presents as a solid corner infield option or bench bat.
Weaknesses: SB, OBP
He reins in his plate discipline and drives the ball more, pushing him into easy starter status because of the opportunities he gets.
Andújar usurps him. He’s a bench piece for the Yankees and an afterthought for your fake team.
2020 Projection: 66 R, 18 HR, 67 RBI, 2 SB, .268/.312/.419
Gleyber Torres (SS | Batting 3rd)
2019: 96 R, 38 HR, 90 RBI, 5 SB, .278/.337/.535 | SS #13
2020 ADP: 37 (SS #7)
In 2019, there were effectively two versions of Gleyber Torres: the one who played the Orioles and slashed .394/.467/.1045 and the one who played the rest of the league and slashed .267/.316/.470. That’s the best shortstop in baseball vs. the ~15th best in a Jekyll and Hyde-like package.
We could consider him young with tons of upside in a great situation, or we could consider him young with ropes to learn before getting the most out of his skills. He swung at the third-most pitches in the zone among all shortstops last year who had at least 400 plate appearances but made the sixth-least contact on those same pitches. He’ll likely have to cut the gap there to make notable, consistent gains. Regardless of any potential progress, Torres will still get to play the Orioles 19 times this year and get to play a bunch in the launching pad that is Camden Yards. Projections are bullish so far, too, and he’ll be eligible at multiple positions.
Strengths: Everything but SB
Torres is closer overall to who he was against the Orioles, and he’s the best shortstop in baseball.
He plays to that ~15th overall shortstop level. You drafted that type of production six or seven rounds too high.
2020 Projection: 85 R, 33 HR, 92 RBI, 7 SB, .272/.339/.509
Mike Tauchman (LF | Batting 4th)
2019: 46 R, 13 HR, 47 RBI, 6 SB, .277/.361/.504 | OF #96
2020 ADP: Undrafted (UR)
Mike Tauchman was another Yankee diamond last year, pulled from the rough in the Rockies minor league system in a trade that sent lefthander Philip Diehl to Colorado. He played in more than half of the Yankees games and his 128 wRC+ was the team’s fourth-highest of players with at least 250 plate appearances. He posted two big years in the minor leagues in 2017 and 2018 where his ISO was a combined .236, his walk percentage was in the double digits, and he swiped 28 bags.
The power and speed combo Tauchman showcased in his first extended major league stint last year seem to suggest the skills growth he demonstrated in the minors might be real, even though projections are bearish. Over a full season, he could go 15/15. There are questions abound, though. He’s already 29, so how soon might we see a step back? Will he maintain a starting job, or will Clint Frazier emerge to steal playing time? With the team clearly all-in on 2019, will they decide to just find an upgrade from the outside? Right now the early draft boards are saying you can let the season start to find out, and he’s probably worth eyeing as an early waiver claim.
Strengths: SB, SLG
Tauchman maintains control over the starting left field job all year and pushes 20 homers and 20 steals.
His HR/FB rate sinks from 20.6% to closer to the league average of about 15%. He gets stuck in a platoon but still contributes to the strong side of it against right-handed pitchers, and you pick and choose your spots with him.
2020 Projection: 51 R, 11 HR, 47 RBI, 8 SB, .247/.322/.398
Brett Gardner (CF | Batting 6th)
2019: 86 R, 28 HR, 74 RBI, 10 SB, .251/.325/.503 | OF #36
2020 ADP: Undrafted (UR)
Brett Gardner is quietly one of the steadiest outfielders in baseball, if less electric than he was years ago. He’s registered at least 80 runs and 10 steals every year of his career, in addition to walking between 8 and 11% while almost always keeping his K-rate below 20%. He’s going to bat in the middle of the lineup as one of the only lefty options the Yankees have. Projections see the runs tapering off but the steals sticking around, and drafters aren’t even taking late-round fliers right now. He’ll be useful to you as a fill-in guy when another player goes down, or as a reliable bench bat.
Strengths: R, SB
The ball continues to aid Gardner’s slugging, and he’s a sneaky value guy for your club beyond chipping in double-digit steals.
Age catches up to him, he doesn’t run as much, and he’s on waivers all year.
2020 Projection: 71 R, 18 HR, 57 RBI, 10 SB, .246/.327/.422
Aaron Judge (RF | Batting 2nd)
2019: 75 R, 27 HR, 55 RBI, 3 SB, .272/.381/.540 | OF #55
2020 ADP: 22.5 (OF #8)
Aaron Judge hasn’t managed to play in more than 112 games in either of the last two years, yet he’s still managed at least 27 homers with 75 runs and 55 RBI each season. The skills are still absolutely elite— he finished 2019 with the second-highest average exit velocity on balls in the air at 99.5 mph, the seventh-highest barrel rate, and a walk rate nearly double the league’s average.
The concern, then, becomes health. Can a guy who’s 6’7″ and 280+ pounds continue to work his body as hard as he does? Insert shrug emoji here, take him in the back half of the second round, and find a replacement-level guy (Brett Gardner?) on waivers when and if Judge goes down because the production he generates when healthy is going to be better than nearly anyone.
Strengths: R, HR, RBI, OBP, SLG
He stays healthy all year, jacks 50 bombs, and you smile nearly every day you check the box score.
He struggles to stay on the field with various injuries and frustrates you all year because he’s that good when he’s in the lineup but you can’t bank on him.
2020 Projection: 105 R, 41 HR, 101 RBI, 6 SB, .254/.372/.524
Giancarlo Stanton (DH | Batting 4th)
2019: 8 R, 3 HR, 13 RBI, 0 SB, .288/.403/.492 | OF #199
2020 ADP: 48.3 (OF #14)
Giancarlo Stanton played in only 18 games last season and only nine before an October tune-up at the end of the year. None of his stats should really be considered in determining his value going into 2020. While you might want to consider him injury prone at this point, he did manage to play in all but seven games between 2017 and 2018. He’s still being taken as the 14th outfielder off the board thanks to his gargantuan power and, like so many of his talented teammates, will probably see a bump in counting stats thanks to the lineup around him.
Projections still see him pushing for 50 homers. Like Judge, he’s going to get his if he’s in the lineup. If you can afford the relative risk in the fourth or fifth round, go for it.
Strengths: R, HR, RBI, OBP, SLG
He’s healthy and adjusted to New York as he puts up something closer to his 2017, where he slashed .281/.376/.561.
2019 repeats itself.
2020 Projection: 102 R, 49 HR, 116 RBI, 3 SB, .267/.355/.529
Playing Time Battles
The Yankees go into 2020 with the apparent fortune of not having enough spots for all their talented players. Miguel Andújar could shake up their infield, taking ABs away from both Gio Ursehla and Luke Voit. Some think the team could still add a shortstop, shift Gleyber Torres to second base full time, and get wild with how they deploy DJ LeMahieu and the rest of the infield.
It’s hard to anticipate what becomes of Clint Frazier, who seems not to have endeared himself to the organization after electing not to speak to the press after a terrible game last year, but his talent and minor league track record will probably provide him chances. Aaron Hicks is due back from Tommy John surgery between June and August, and though he might be hard to keep from the lineup, he might not provide much offense if former teammate Didi Gregorius gives any indication. The stars are clear and the guys after them don’t require such an investment right now that you’d immediately want to avoid them.
The Yankees will have arguably baseball’s best offense last year, if healthy. They nearly managed it last year with what at times seemed like a cast of misfit toys unsuited for the spotlight in the Bronx. You’ll want any piece of this lineup that flashes its ceiling because it’ll be better than nearly anyone else you can have.
Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)