Fantasy Breakdown: New York Yankees for 2021

A preview of the New York Yankees for the 2021 season.

As we prepare for the season ahead, the Pitcher List staff will be creating profiles for every fantasy-relevant player for 2021. Players will be broken up by team and role through starting pitchers, bullpen, lineup, and prospects. You can access every article as it comes out in our Player Profiles 2021 hub here.

 

At A Glance

The Yankees have been snakebitten over the last few years in terms of injuries, and 2020 was no exception. Luis Severino underwent Tommy John surgery in June, Aaron Judge missed half the year with a recurring calf strain, James Paxton suffered a flexor strain, and both Giancarlo Stanton and Gleyber Torres missed time due to hamstring injuries. Aroldis Chapman also missed a large chunk of the year due to a COVID-19 IL stint. Still, the Yankees–as they often do–managed to overcome these setbacks. This was thanks in large part to an MVP-caliber season from Luke Voit, and solid contributions from Gio UrshelaClint Frazier, and rookie Deivi Garcia down the stretch. By re-signing DJ LeMahieu and inking Corey Kluber to a team-friendly deal, the Yankees have lined themselves up well for the 2021 season. However, there are still question marks in their starting rotation beyond Gerrit Cole, especially with  James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka hitting the free agent market.

 

Hitters

Projected Lineup

 

Infielders

 

Luke Voit (1B)

2020: 41 R, 22 HR, 52 RBI, 0 SB, .277 AVG/.338 OBP/.610 SLG | 1B #3

2021 ADP: 60.25

Voit had a blistering debut with the Yankees in 2018, when he hit .333 with 14 home runs over just 39 games. By those standards, his 2019 was a bit of a disappointment, as he hit just .263 with 21 home runs while missing time with a core muscle injury. Still, he produced an incredibly impressive 124 wRC+ that year, and then went on to lead baseball in home runs (22) last season with a .610 SLG that ranked sixth-best in the league. Voit was slightly more aggressive last year at the plate, and traded some of his hard contact for improved contact ability. Voit still does a majority of his damage against fastballs, so the concern is that an adjustment by opposing pitchers could drag his performance down a bit. But the power is absolutely legit, and a .270 average with close to 40 home runs is absolutely within reach going forward.

 

Gleyber Torres (SS)

2020: 17 R, 3 HR, 16 RBI, 1 SB, .243 AVG/.356 OBP/.368 SLG | 2B #45

2021 ADP: 67.71

A lot of people looked at Torres’ incredible 2019 season–where he mashed 38 home runs while posting a wRC+ of 125–and thought it was a sign of things to come. Others cited his uninspiring hard contact and high swinging-strike rate as cause for concern, and felt regression would be due in 2020. Well regression did come–though perhaps to a greater degree than anyone could have expected. Last season was a letdown for those who rostered Torres, as his poor performance across the board likely did more harm than good. Perhaps some of that poor performance can be attributed to the hamstring injury Torres dealt with during the season. And there were some reasons for optimism, including improved plate discipline and a more contact-oriented approach at the plate. At just 24 years old, there’s no doubt Torres has a very high ceiling with plenty of room for growth. But given his high ADP in the early going, there may not be much room to reap value here if some of the red flags in his profile pop up again in the coming year.

 

DJ LeMahieu (2B/1B/3B)

2020: 41 R, 10 HR, 27 RBI, 3 SB, .364 AVG/.421 OBP/.590 SLG | 2B #2

2021 ADP: 27.7

Coming off the heels of a surprising MVP-caliber 2019 season, expectations for LeMahieu were mixed entering 2020. Though always a batting average asset, LeMahieu had never shown much power prior to 2019, and the fact that he hit 26 home runs despite never eclipsing 15 in years past seemed like a bit of a red flag that regression was coming. Still, LeMahieu’s all-fields approach and penchant for hard contact–he has a 44.2% Hard Hit rate for his career–seemed perfectly tailored for Yankee Stadium, and in particular the venue’s shallow right field dimensions. Well, any doubt about LeMahieu’s power potential was seemingly put to bed last season, as he managed to tally 10 home runs in just 50 games played, putting him on pace for well over 30 in a full year. He also managed a career-best wOBA of .420, the fourth-highest in baseball last season. The interesting thing about LeMahieu is that he still hits an incredibly large amount of ground balls–his 56.6% ground ball rate last year was a career-high, and the third-highest rate among qualified hitters. All those ground balls suppress his barrel rate, which typically sits well-below average, and last year was a paltry 2.9%. As mentioned, the confines of Yankee Stadium help LeMahieu in this regard; half of his home runs last year were hit to the opposite field at Yankee Stadium, and 80% of those were non-barrels. But you still might be remiss in thinking that approach is sustainable enough to ensure 25+ home runs over a full season. The batting average and counting stats are elite and likely as safe as they come, but know that it wouldn’t take much for LeMahieu to return to the mid-teens power hitter he was prior to 2019.

 

Gio Urshela (3B)

2020: 24 R, 6 HR, 30 RBI, 1 SB,  .298 AVG/.368 OBP/.490 SLG | 3B #13

2021 ADP: 154.8

Urshela did a lot in 2020 to quiet those who were skeptical about his age-27 breakout in 2019. He not only maintained his impressive 40%+ Hard Hit rate from the previous year, but he did so while also further cutting down on his already elite strikeout rate, dropping it from 18.3% to 14.4%. He also began spraying the ball more to the opposite field which, when paired with his excellent line drive rates, gives him a high batting average ceiling. Urshela did all this while playing through bone spurs in his elbow, which he had surgery to remove in the offseason. The days where he had to compete with Miguel Andújar for playing time are in the rearview mirror, and there’s a justifiable amount of excitement to see what a healthy Urshela can do in 2021. A season with about 20 homers and a .290 average is well within reach, and considering where he’s going in drafts, he’ll likely be a steal.

 

Gary Sanchez (C)

2020: 19 R, 10 HR, 34 RBI, 0 SB, .147 AVG/.253 OBP/.365 SLG | C #16

2021 ADP: 195.91

Those who have rostered Sanchez in recent years have been chasing the highs of his brilliant 2016 and 2017 seasons, with mostly disappointing results. There’s no doubt that he is unrivaled in terms of power at the catcher position–he routinely ranks towards the top in the quality-of-contact leaderboards, profiling as a hitter with 40-homer potential. The problem is that twice now in the last three seasons, Sanchez has failed to muster a batting average above .200. Part of the problem is that his contact ability has slowly eroded over the past few seasons. And part of the problem is that he depends heavily on a pulled fly ball approach that requires those batted balls to leave the yard in order for it to be effective. The ceiling is arguably higher with Sanchez than any other catcher in baseball, but the makeup of your roster will likely determine whether you can stomach the inherent pitfalls that come with his profile.

 

Outfielders

 

Aaron Judge (OF/DH)

2020: 23 R, 9 HR, 22 RBI, 0 SB, .257 AVG/.336 OBP/.545 SLG | OF #56

2021 ADP: 53.91

It’s hard to believe that it’s been three years now since Judge’s unbelievable 52-homer rookie campaign took the baseball world by storm. Unfortunately a litany of injuries has robbed us of the chance to see another full season from the prodigious slugger. In 2018 it was a broken wrist, followed by a recurring oblique injury in 2019, and then a nagging calf strain last year that necessitated two IL stints. Many have probably already hung the “injury prone” tag around Judge, and it’s hard to blame them considering his history. Most of Judge’s quality-of-contact metrics came in at career-worsts in 2020, including his barrel rate, Hard Hit %, and average exit velocity. Yet he still managed to pop nine homers in just 28 games, which would put him on pace for 52 over a full season. A big contributor to this was his leaning further into a pulled fly ball approach, as he had a career-high 53% pull rate last year. The floor with Judge is likely 40 home runs, and he makes the most out of his contact by destroying the majority of his batted balls, which should help him contribute a decent batting average. It just really comes down to how much you buy into his ability to stay on the field for most of the year.

 

Giancarlo Stanton (OF/DH)

2020: 12 R, 4 HR, 11 RBI, 1 SB, .250 AVG/.387 OBP/.500 SLG | OF #122

2021 ADP: 119.55

A lot of what can be said about Aaron Judge is just as easily applied to Stanton. Nobody doubts either of them in terms of their ability to hit for elite power and potentially put up an MVP-caliber season. The question is, are they physically capable of staying on the field long enough to reach that top-tier potential? Stanton seemed to be putting the injury-prone reputation to bed when he played in 159 and 158 games respectively in 2017 and 2018. But then he immediately followed that up with back-to-back seasons where he has failed to eclipse 23 games played. If there’s a glimmer of hope, it comes in the form of Stanton’s postseason performance last year, where he bashed six home runs in seven games while posting a .308 average. Stanton always seems to do just enough to remain an intriguing flier in drafts every year, but 2021 really might be the breaking point in terms of how fantasy managers view him going forward. There’s no doubt that the potential return based on his current ADP is huge. But how lucky are you feeling?

 

Clint Frazier (OF)

2020:  24 R, 8 HR, 26 RBI, 3 SB, .267 AVG/.394 OBP/.511 SLG | OF #51

2021 ADP: 177.02

If the avalanche of injuries on the Yankees benefited anyone last year, it was Clint Frazier. With multiple avenues to full-time at-bats seemingly blocked off, Frazier still managed to claw his way into a full-time gig a few weeks into the season, finishing the year with an incredibly impressive 149 wRC+. With a newly improved Hard Hit rate of 43% and a more line drive-oriented approach, Frazier became a legitimate threat in the heart of the Yankees’ order, and likely solidified a full-time role for himself in 2021. Frazier’s newfound patience was particularly inspiring, as he chased just 17% of pitches outside the zone. If that sticks, it should help mitigate some of his contact issues and help him continue to be an incredibly proficient hitter. If the ceiling is around 35 home runs with a .270 average, that’s a great investment considering where he’s currently being drafted.

 

Aaron Hicks (OF)

2020: 28 R, 6 HR, 21 RBI, 4 SB,  .225 AVG/.379 OBP/.414 SLG | OF #57

2021 ADP: 281.31

Surprise, surprise: another Yankees outfielder with loads of untapped offensive potential and a spotty injury history. The shortened 2020 season actually probably worked in Hicks’ favor, as he was able to suit up for 54 games and put up an excellent 123 wRC+. The .225 batting average was obviously disappointing, and likely a result of an increased number of pulled ground balls eating into his BABIP. There was a lot to like here though, including a customarily elite 19.4% walk rate and an excellent 18% strikeout rate. A good comp for Hicks is probably fellow New York center fielder Brandon Nimmo, in that they’re both excellent lead off hitters who can get on base a ton and chip in just enough power and speed to remain fantasy relevant. If things break right, Hicks could generate a ton of runs scored while hitting upwards of 20 home runs with a handful of steals and a middling batting average. If things break wrong though, Hicks might not be able to make it through even half a full season. Still, considering his acquisition cost, it’s likely well worth a shot in deeper formats.

 

Mike Tauchman (OF)

2020: 18 R, 0 HR, 14 RBI, 6 SB,  .242 AVG/.342 OBP/.305 SLG | OF #97

2021 ADP: 583.02

Tauchman’s combination of speed, power, contact ability, and plate discipline made him something of a darling to the fantasy community in 2019. Playing time was his for the taking once again in 2020, however this time he didn’t quite capitalize on the opportunity. Unfortunately many of the encouraging gains he made in 2019 evaporated last year. The quality-of-contact was significantly below average (24.3% Hard Hit) and his contact ability regressed to where it had been during his time in Colorado. As things currently stand, Tauchman will likely be a fourth outfielder heading into the 2021 season. And while the tools are definitely there for a solid fantasy contributor, there are probably too many red flags and not enough opportunities on the horizon for him to be worth a look in most formats.

 

Watch List Considerations

The Yankees’ farm system isn’t exactly rife with MLB-ready talent, especially when it comes to position players. Estevan Florial is likely their closest prospect, and while he did get a handful of plate appearances towards the end of the 2020 season, he looked slightly overmatched during his stints in high-A and likely needs more time. The most intriguing player on the Yankees’ bench for fantasy purposes is probably Miguel Andújar–but that’s not saying a whole lot. Andújar is probably best remembered for his incredible 2018, when he popped 27 homers and hit .297 with a 130 wRC+. Unfortunately his 2019 was derailed by a shoulder injury, and he didn’t show much during sporadic playing time in 2020. With experience at third base and in the outfield, Andújar could be an injury away from getting at-bats if the Yankees like what they see during the spring.

– Jonathan Metzelaar

 

Starting Pitchers

 

Gerrit Cole (Locked In Starter)

2020: 7-3, 2.84 ERA, 73.0 IP, 94K, 0.96 WHIP | SP #5

2021 ADP: 6.3 (SP# 1) NFBC (1/15)

Repertoire: 52.8% 4-Seam Fastball, 24.4% Slider, 17.2% Curveball, 5.6% Changeup

 

A down year by his standards in 2020, Cole was still a highly effective pitcher during his debut season in New York. His K/9 had a noticeable drop from 13.82 to 11.59 which can in part be attributed to his loss in effectiveness of his typically dominant 4-seamer. Cole’s fastball, his strongest pitch, saw a near 12% drop in swing and miss percentage last season. Not only were hitters not chasing the fastball, but when they made contact it was loud – a 2.5% uptick in Barrel% and a 7.7% surge in Hard Hit%.

Even with the diminished fastball, Cole was still a top flight SP. His 0.96 WHIP was tied with Jacob deGrom and Yu Darvish for 6th best in the league. He also went deep into games, averaging just over 6 innings per start and managed to rack up 8 QS out of the 12 games he started. The Yankees have a strong bullpen, but Cole is their workhorse and they will rely on him to go deep into games every 5th day to pick up the rest of the rotation’s slack.

Cole is going to get you innings, strikeouts, ERA, wins, WHIP, and quality starts. Basically – everything you could ask for. He failed to match the jaw-dropping results he posted in 2019, but Cole is still a top-3 SP and will be coming off draft boards in the mid-to-late 1st round or early 2nd. He is truly elite and will anchor any squad all season long.

 

Jordan Montgomery (Locked In Starter)

2020: 2-3, 5.11 ERA, 44.0 IP, 47 K, 1.30 WHIP | SP #133

2021 ADP: 260.3 (SP# 80) NFBC (1/15)

Repertoire: 26.6% Sinker, 25.6% Changeup, 22.1% Curveball, 19% 4-Seam Fastball, 6.7% Cutter

 

Far removed from his enjoyable 2017 rookie season, Montgomery spent most of the last 2 full seasons on the shelf recovering from Tommy John surgery. In 2020, Montgomery stepped into the rotation full time and the results were less than exciting. The tall lefty made 10 starts this season and failed to complete 6 innings in all but 1 of them, so going deep into games may not be something Montgomery will be able to give you. 

Still, there’s some potential for a viable fantasy starter here. Both his strikeout and walk rates are above average with a 9.61 K/9 and a very nice 1.84 BB/9. Montgomery also has quite a penchant for limiting hard contact, with and above average 6.0 Barrel %, 29.9 Hard Hit%, and an elite 84.6 MPH average exit velocity. The results in 2020 didn’t quite line up as the peripherals would suggest, but there are underlying factors here that could signal a step forward for Montgomery. Max Greenfield’s piece on Montgomery is a must-read for further analysis. 

With the current state of the Yankees rotation, Montgomery is lined up to be the #2 or #3 starter with almost complete certainty. The Yankees are going to give Montgomery the opportunity to pitch, and a full season of Montgomery could lead to a top-40 SP season He’ll most likely go towards the end of 12-team drafts and in the mid-teen rounds of larger leagues, so Montgomery has sleeper candidate written all over him. For 2021 he is looking like a very nice flier to fill out the back half of your rotation.

 

Corey Kluber (Likely Starter)

2020: 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 1.0 IP, 1 K, 1.00 WHIP | SP # Unranked

2021 ADP: 232.0 (SP# 69) NFBC (1/15)

Repertoire: 36.9% Sinker, 26.2% Cutter, 19.1% Slider, 11.3% 4-Seam Fastball, 6.4% Changeup

 

The already shortened 2020 was shortened even more for Kluber, when after only a single inning pitched for his new team the Texas Rangers, Kluber had a tear in his right teres muscle. It was already a comeback attempt for Kluber, who was hit in the right forearm with a line drive back in 2019, when he made 7 starts for 35.2 IP, 5.80 ERA, 1.65 WHIP,9.59 K/9, and a 3.79 BB/9 for Cleveland.

With his option declined Kluber decided to hold workouts for interested teams and reportedly looked much recovered from his injuries as his fastball sat around 90 MPH and scouts seem to have confidence he can add a bit more back to it as time goes on. The Yankees scooped up the 2-time Cy Young Winner on a one year deal to bolster their rotation that is facing the loss of Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and J.A. Happ

Kluber had a stretch of absolute dominance from 2014-2018, throwing for 200+ innings in each of those seasons with a 2.85 ERA, 1.02 WHIP with a 10.13 K/9 and 1.84 BB/9 during that timeframe. In a word, elite. 

But will he still be the same Kluber? He will play most of this season at age 35 and the number of innings on his arm along with normal age related decline and injuries, is Kluber going to give the Yankees a fraction of what he did during his Cy Young days? If Kluber is healthy and can harness his cutter like he once did, the Yankees will have themselves a reliable innings eater behind Gerrit Cole. He was going off the board towards the end of drafts but has been getting some helium since his reports of his workouts came out, and this signing will only encourage it more. He is definitely a target in the late rounds, but temper expectations and don’t reach for him.

 

Deivi García (Likely Starter)

2020: 3-2, 4.98 ERA, 34.1 IP, 33 K, 1.19 WHIP | SP # 105

2021 ADP: 286.5 (SP# 130) NFBC (1/15)

Repertoire: 59.6% 4-Seam Fastball, 16.9% Changeup, 14.5% Curveball, 9% Slider

 

García made his MLB debut at the end of August, throwing 6 shutout innings against the Mets and delivered a respite to a Yankees rotation that was proving to be quite inconsistent. The results from there on out were mixed, and García totaled 6 starts for New York, 3 of which were quality starts.

García’s best secondary offering is his curve, which has good spin but can be a bit tough for him to control at times. The 4-Seamer sits about 92 mph with some movement that can be an excellent pairing with his curve and solid changeup to unlock some of his strikeout upside. He wasn’t quite able to tap into that in his brief 2020 (8.65 K/9, 11.3 SwStr%) but his ability to limit free passes (1.57 BB/9) makes things a bit more palatable for García.

Unfortunately, there’s quite a bit of haze here. García is presumed to be in the rotation at this moment, but with the Yankees signing Corey Kluber and the possibility of further additions  García’s rotation spot could be in jeopardy. He’s got some nice upside, but the short resume and uncertain playing time leave García best suited for the waiver wire until we know more.

 

Luis Severino (Likely Starter)

2019: 1-1, 12.0 IP, 17 K, 1.50 ERA, 1.00 WHIP | SP # Unranked

2021 ADP: 297.7 (SP# 87) NFBC (1/15)

 

Severino will start the year on the IL and is expected to return sometime mid-season. Severino hasn’t pitched in an extended capacity since 2018 after only throwing 12 innings in 2019 and spending the entirety of 2020 on the shelf. During his 2017-2018 run, Severino was among the top pitchers in baseball, making 63 starts for 384.2 IP of 3.18 ERA ball. He also put up an impressive 10.53 K/9, 2.27 BB/9, and a 12.7 SwStr% in that time frame. 

Then the injuries set in. Just before the 2019 season began Severino was placed on the IL with rotator cuff inflammation and grade 2 lat strain. He still managed to make 3 starts at the end of the season and looked okay results wise, but the diminished velocity on both his fastball (down 1.5 MPH) and slider (down 4.0 MPH) was quite concerning. Unsurprisingly, it was revealed last February that Severino would require Tommy John Surgery. The latest updates have Severino returning at some point in June or July, but that seems optimistic to me given his propensity for injury aggravation.

Still, Severino at his best is an elite SP. If he will be that or not when he returns is anyone’s guess, as multiple injuries could surely wreak havoc on his arm. He’ll be going right at the very end of most drafts and is one of the best IL-stash candidates for 2021 along with Noah Syndergaard. To me, he is a top target for any staff as he can easily be transitioned to the IL at the start of the season and could bring a front line SP to a staff around mid-season. If he aggravates his injury or has a setback in his rehab, what you invested in him won’t be too much.

Jameson Taillon (Likely Starter)

2019: 2-3, 37.1 IP, 30 K, 4.10 ERA, 1.13 WHIP

2021 ADP: 237.61 (P# 88) NFBC (1/26)

Repertoire: 31.9% Slider, 27.2% Four-Seam, 19.8% Sinker, 15.7% Curveball, 5.4% Changeup

On January 24th, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded Taillon to the New York Yankees for a group of prospects. For more on the prospect side of it, be sure to check out  Adam Lawler’s article here. Taillon is recovering from his second Tommy John surgery and has not made an appearance in the Major Leagues since May 1st, 2019. He has reportedly changed his mechanics most notably his arm-circle in an effort to alleviate stress on his elbow. Not a surprise at all, but he might just be a different type of pitcher than when we last saw him. For reference, with the Pirates from 2018-19, he logged a 3.35 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and 16.4% K-BB% across 228.1 IP. For his career, he’s held an excellent 6% walk rate and 1.66 GB/FB ratio. For more on what we could see from Taillon as he makes his return to the mound, Zach Hayes’ article has you covered. Two key takeaways were Taillon’s four-seam fastball being relatively less effective at the top of the zone due to a dip in spin efficiency. And a reshaping of his slider during the interim. Both things worth tracking in 2021. Taillon carries excellent upside, but the 2nd Tommy John surgery adds substantial risk to the profile. Keep that in mind as a strong Spring paired with Yankee infused helium will undoubtedly cause his ADP to surge.

 

 

Domingo German (Possible Starter)

2019: 18-4, 143 IP, 153 K, 4.03 ERA, 1.15 WHIP

2021 ADP: 289.7 (SP# 84) NFBC (12/09)

Repertoire: 36.1% Curveball, 34.4% 4-Seam Fastball, 19% Changeup, 10.5% Sinker

 

After spending 2018 split between starting and relief, Germán found his groove in 2019 stepping up big for an injury-plagued Yankees team. Germán was also suspended towards the end of the season for violating the league’s domestic violence policy. He served a portion of the suspension during the league’s investigation and subsequently missed all of 2020 for it. Germán also has a cryptic post alluding to retirement over the summer, but has since backtracked that.

Germán’s calling card is his curveball, a pitch with good spin that can generate a ton of swing and misses (45.1% in 2019) that dives away from right handers and gets buried on the lower inside zone against lefties. It’s a pitch he relies on and goes to often and early, throwing it 38.4% of the time in 0-0 counts. He’s maintained above average strikeout (9.63 K/9) and walk (2.45 BB/9) numbers so he won’t kill you in WHIP either. He also averaged just a smidge under 6 innings per start in 2019, so while we know he has the capability to go deep into games, the long layoff from facing live hitters could create some longevity issues in games. 

We also flat out don’t really know what’s going on with Germán at the moment. The Yankees haven’t spoken about him much since his suspension, but the team has indicated they expect him to be back at some point this season. Whether or not that means opening the season in the rotation is still up for debate. If the team decides they don’t want anything to do with him, he could be out of a job. However, judging how the Yankees handled Aroldis Chapman’s somewhat similar situation, it’s anyone’s guess as to how they approach Germán. 

Still, confidence seems to be there for Germán in drafts. He’s coming off the board in very late rounds and borders on undrafted in mixed league formats, so people seem to be leaning towards that he will have a job come the start of the season. Whether it is with the Yankees or another team. If you have a thinner pitching staff come the late rounds Germán might be a good bet to push Top-75 SP by year’s end barring any further disciplinary action and/or sudden retirements. But proceed with caution.

 

Clarke Schmidt (Possible Starter)

2020: 0-1, 6.1 IP, 7 K, 7.11 ERA, 1.89 WHIP | SP # 213

2021 ADP: 425.5 (SP# 162) NFBC (1/15)

Repertoire: 37.3% Slider, 32.5% Sinker, 21.4% 4-Seam Fastball, 8.7% Changeup

 

Schmidt was up and down a bit for New York in 2020, making two relief appearances in his 1st stint and one start in his 2nd. His brief cameo was less than stellar, but Schmidt’s stuff is his calling card and still leaves a lot of room for improvement.

Schmidt carries with him a spin-heavy curveball that can bottom out for swings and misses, and he can also throw both 2 and 4-seamer fastballs that break vertically on the former and horizontally on the latter. He also has a changeup that grades out as pretty solid as well. It’s nice to see that his Tommy John surgery back in 2017 has left him without any permanent damage to his arsenal. 

So what’s in store for Schmidt? 2020 was his only major league experience and 6.1 IP isn’t a whole lot to go off of. In his 2 seasons across 4 levels in the minors, Schmidt put up a combined 3.39 ERA, 1.13 WHIP in 114.0 IP with a 10.4 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9. He is arguably the Yankees’ best starting pitching prospect along with Deivi García and will definitely factor into the team’s future. But in what capacity? It’s worth noting that when arms were needed at the major league level in 2020 it was García the Yankees went to first over Schmidt, a pitcher 3 years his junior and who admittedly looked sharper on the mound. 

Schmidt’s name will come up a lot in the 5th and even 6th starter competition for New York. But like many of his peers, it will depend heavily on how the team approached their rotation going into the season. It’s very likely that Schmidt could end up in the bullpen and/or Triple-A to start the year, and is probably not worth a draft pick at his current status. Still, the prospect shine will entice some. And the Yankees are clearly willing to give Schmidt a shot in one way or another. Spring Training will be a big audition for Schmidt and his draft stock will adjust accordingly.

 

Michael King (Possible Starter)

2020: 1-2, 7.76 ERA, 26.2 IP, 26 K, 1.54 WHIP | SP # 257

2021 ADP: Undrafted (P# 264) NFBC (1/15)

Repertoire: 59.4% Sinker, 19.6% Curveball, 14.9% Changeup, 6.2% 4-Seam Fastball

 

King was among several young pitchers to make their extended debuts for the Yankees this past season, and King did so in both long relief and as a starter. Of his 9 appearances, 4 were as a starter and he managed to only to complete 4 IP in just 1 of them. Most of his time in the season was spent in either mop up duty or piggy backing with openers. Not exactly the situation you want from a fantasy standpoint.

King relies mostly on his sinker, a pitch that sits around 93 MPH with some nice horizontal break towards RHB that has aided him in limiting hard contact so far in the majors (41.9 Hard Hit%, 4.7 Barrel% on the Sinker in 2020). King has solid command of his pitches which is encouraging, but none of them really grade out as anything spectacular. 

That brings me to my next point about King, is that his repertoire may be better suited for the bullpen. The Yankees have already shown they are willing to use him in long relief or piggyback roles, and that may continue into 2021. The path to innings is clouded with a ton of outside competition and possibly even more as the team brings in more arms to bolster the staff. King is going undrafted in basically all formats and will most likely stay that way barring any unforeseen changes in the Yankees’ plans.

 

Watch List Considerations

 

This offseason, the Yankees brought in 12-year veteran Jhoulys Chacin on a minor league deal in order to bolster a staff that may be facing the departure of Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and JA Happ who made a combined 24 starts last season. He signed with Minnesota prior to 2020 but did not appear in a major league game, and then hooked on with the Braves where he made 2 relief appearances for 5.0 IP of 7.20 ball. So yeah, not a lot to go off of. 2019 by comparison was a bit better for Chacín in which he made 24 starts for Milwaukee and Boston. An unsightly 6.01 ERA and pedestrian strikeout (8.8 K/9, 21.5 K%) and walk (4.0 BB/9, 9.8 BB%) numbers leave a lot to be desired. Still, Chacín is only just 33 years old and as recently as 2018 he was an above average starter sporting an 86 ERA-. Chacin was signed to mainly eat any and all innings for the Yankees and that’s what he’ll do. But given the current state of the Yankees’ rotation, he could also easily pull in 10+ starts. He could make for an interesting streaming candidate and definitely deserves to be on your watch list.

Like most Yankee pitching prospects Luis Gil is a power throwing righty whose 4-Seamer regularly sits mid to high 90’s and can touch triple digits. He also possesses a great curveball and is working on a changeup. That 3rd pitch development, along with correcting some command and control issues will be a big factor in determining whether Gil is destined for the rotation or the bullpen. Gil struggled in his 3 High-A starts in 2019, posting a 4.85 ERA and 1.46 WHIP in 13.0 IP. His strikeouts sharply declined from double digits to a 7.62/9 mark and his walks (5.54 BB/9) remain an issue. Gil will almost certainly get a chance to prove himself in the upper levels of the minors this year and could be a candidate for a bullpen spot down the stretch. Gil will not factor into drafts this year, but is definitely a watch list candidate for dynasty leagues.

Miguel Yajure got his chance in the majors in 2020 reinforcing the Yankees’ bullpen. He made 3 appearances, pitching multiple innings each time and allowing only 1 earned run in 4.0 IP. Yajure has been excellent in the minors so far in his career, throwing just under 300 IP across 4 levels with a 2.47 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 7.59 K/9, and a 2.16 BB/9. The strikeout numbers aren’t flashy, but Yajure possesses excellent command that can lead to reliable starts. He could very much factor into the bullpen as a long reliever but is worth a look if he manages to secure a rotation spot for any length of time.

 

Liam Casey

Relief Pitchers

 

Aroldis Chapman (Closer)

2020: 3 SV , 0 HLD, 11.2 IP, 22 K, 3.09 ERA, 0.86 WHIP | RP # 63

2021 ADP: 81.52 (P# 30) NFBC 

 

The Yankee closer, Aroldis Chapman missed just about three weeks of the season one the COVID list. He returned and made 13 appearances going three for five in save opportunities. Velocity wise Chapman’s fastball averaged 97.8 MPH, right in line with 2019’s 98. Last year’s K rate of 48.9% was the highest its been since 2014 with the Reds. Chapman used his slider a bit less this year at 21.6% as opposed to 31.3% in 2019. It’s been a legitimate part of his repertoire for a while now returning a whiff rate over 40% in each of the past four seasons, but really Chapman will continue to ride or die on his fastball, just ask Mike BrosseauAll things considered, Chapman is about as safe as closers get. It’ll cost though, as he is currently the fourth reliever off the board per NFBC ADP going behind Josh Hader, Liam Hendriksand Edwin Diaz. 

 

Zack Britton (Next in Line)

2020: 8 SV, 3 HLD, 19.0 IP, 16 K, 1.89 ERA, 1.00 WHIP | RP # 30

2021 ADP: 369.23 (P# 142) NFBC 

 

With Chapman out early in the season, Zack Britton filled in admirably and was a perfect eight for eight in save opportunities. The lefty sinkerball specialist Britton operates at a deficit relative to other high leverage relievers in terms of K rate as his has sat at 21.5% for the last two seasons combined. Rather he relies on generating weak ground ball contact and to that extent he was excellent holding opposing hitters to just a .247 wOBA and .264 xwOBACON this past season. He should continue to provide an exceptional ERA, while his WHIP might be a little higher than your typical leverage reliever given his low K rate and the fact that he’s held a walk rate of over 11% in three of the past four seasons. He’s the premier option for holds in the Yankee pen and the clear cuff to Chapman.

 

Chad Green (Other Holds Options)

2020: 0 SV, 6 HLD, 25.2 IP, 32 K, 3.51 ERA, 0.82 WHIP | RP # 28

2021 ADP: 561.89 (P# 220) NFBC 

 

Chad Green has turned into one of the better relievers in all of baseball. Combining his past four seasons, he’s held a beautiful 2.90 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 34.6% K rate over 239.1 IP. Last year, he held opposing hitters to just a .221 xwOBA (top 1%) and his xERA was 2.20 (also top 1%). In 2020 he led the Yankee pen in Holds with six. This year, Green and his dominant fastball should continue to provide excellent ratios while being a quality source for holds.

Adam Ottavino (Other Holds Options)

2020: 0 SV, 2 HLD, 18.1 IP, 25 K, 5.89 ERA, 1.58 WHIP | RP # 170

2021 ADP: 742.91 (P# 374) NFBC 

 

Adam Ottavino‘s 2020 illustrates the year to year volatility of relievers compounded across a truncated season. It’s difficult to find a clear reason for last year as his slider usage and whiff rate remained relatively similar to 2019 at 47.2% and 34.7% respectively. The reasonable conclusion may just be unfortunate variance through a short sample. The veteran reliever held a 2.19 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 33.8% K rate, and 12.8 % BB rate across 144 innings from 2018-19. He’s a very reasonable bounce-back candidate that should be in line for some holds, though last year’s poor results definitely pushes him back in the pecking order.

*Adam Ottavino was traded on January 25th to the Red Sox in what amounted to a salary dump. From a Yankee perspective, it doesn’t change much. A small bump up to Loásiga in the pecking order, even so, he remains just an interesting watch-list candidate even in deeper formats. Ottavino becomes more interesting with the move as he should get some leverage opportunities with Boston looking to recuperate his value and potentially flip him at the deadline. Similar to what they did with Brandon Workman last season.

 

Watch List Considerations

 

Jonathan Loásiga is another pitcher to be aware of. The righty has an exceptional arsenal highlighted by a heater that sits just under 97 along with a changeup and curveball that have both returned whiff rates north of 40% the past two seasons. He’s been an interesting arm to speculate on in the hopes of a rotation spot, but the Yankees use of him indicates that they prefer not to lean on him much in terms of volume, he made three starts last year and did not eclipse the 51 pitch mark. In 2019, he made four starts and went over 80 pitches just once. For now, the Yankees seem most comfortable using him in lower leverage spots out of the pen. He’s an interesting arm that could provide plus ratios for those in deep formats. Albert Abreu, the Yankee’s 12th ranked prospect via MLB pipeline, made his debut out of the pen last year. He has a high octane arsenal highlighted by a heater that can hit 98 and a wipeout slider. His command though was, not surprisingly, spotty in his brief cameo. Still, he’s someone to keep an eye on in deep formats.

– Ryan Amore

 

ADP data taken from FantasyPros composite ADPs.

2019 Positional Rankings from Razzball’s 12-team Player Rater (ESPN).

Photo by Mark LoMoglio & John Adams/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Michael Packard (@designsbypack on Twitter & IG)

Ryan Amore

Writer for PL, artist, DFS enthusiast, and occasional Yankee fan. Once won a GPP with Henderson Alvarez. A proprietor of the Ketel Marte Fan Club. Appreciates walks but only of the base on ball variety.

  • Avatar tom says:

    Aaron Hicks is the only lefty in this lineup and has stellar OBP and it one of the reasons why they’ve consistently had him in the top third of their lineup for the past couple of years. I think it would be a mistake to put him at the end of the lineup based on his hitting limitations when the Yankees see his OBP as an elite asset.

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