Yankees 2021 MLB season preview and prediction, including playoff fate

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Scott Thompson
·6 min read
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Aaron Judge/Gerrit Cole/Aaron Boone/DJ LeMahieu/Giancarlo Stanton
Aaron Judge/Gerrit Cole/Aaron Boone/DJ LeMahieu/Giancarlo Stanton

It’s Year 4 of the Aaron Boone Era in the Bronx, and that ultimate goal of winning a World Series still alludes his club full of powerhouse hitters, All-Stars and Cy candidates.

During the unprecedented, shortened 60-game 2020 campaign, the Yankees saw the Tampa Bay Rays win the AL East and go on an absolute run to the World Series, knocking off their division rival in the ALDS out in San Diego. Game 5 was all that was left in that series, with the Houston Astros waiting for their opponent in the ALCS.

Oh, how sweet that would’ve been after how 2019 ended. Instead, that Game 5 ended much like the way Jose Altuve did it. Mike Brosseau took Aroldis Chapman deep to break a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the eighth inning, and that was that.

But, once again, the Yankees find themselves controlling their own destiny right from the start of the season. DJ LeMahieu is back and will be in pinstripes for six more seasons. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are healthy and look good this spring. And Gerrit Cole has seen a solid supporting cast of starters like Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon behind him during their outings in Tampa.

So, we’ll ask the same question the Yankees have been asked for the past three seasons: Is this year the one when the elusive 28th world championship finds its way to Yankee Stadium?

Let’s see how things may shake out this season.

What the Yankees got going for them

The Bombers have many things going for them, but one main key coming out of spring training, is how the pitching staff behind Cole has been performing.

We know what the starting lineup can do when they’re healthy: Balls go over the fence, tough at-bats occur, and the score can go up in a hurry. That’s always going to be the Yankees’ calling card.

But Kluber has been “everything we could have hoped for,” in the words of Boone. He has a 1.86 ERA over 9.2 innings of work this spring, and that really is all the Yanks could’ve hoped for as he serves as the No. 2 behind Cole.

And Taillon has been better with a 1.08 ERA in 8.1 innings, as his new arm slot and reconfigured mechanics are paying off. As long as these two stay healthy – that will be a big storyline throughout the season – the Yankees could have a great 1-2-3 at the top of the rotation.

But Jordan Montgomery and Domingo German are no scrubs this spring, either. German, in particular, has been absolutely lights out, not allowing a run over nine inning. Montgomery, incorporating a cutter he learned from Andy Pettitte and CC Sabathia, has a 0.90 ERA as well.

Pitching has always been the concern for the Yanks these past few seasons, but it doesn’t look to be heading into Opening Day. If they can even come close to their spring stat lines, this rotation could be a very scary one in 2021. Oh, and remember players like Deivi Garcia and Michael King aren’t even on the roster right now.

The Yankees will win the AL East if…

They remain healthy. It’s really the only key.

New York had issues beating the Rays last season, but extrapolated over a 162-game season, the Yankees just have the better team on paper. LeMahieu said it himself during his presser following his multi-year extension.

Runs can be scored anywhere in the lineup, especially when you have guys like Gary Sanchez, Clint Frazier and Gio Urshela at the bottom of it. When Gleyber Torres is potentially sixth on most nights, you know the lineup is stacked.

Boone has mentioned the Yankees’ depth and how excited he is to have it. And though he won’t say it directly, he’s excited because he’s seen what’s happened to Judge, Stanton, Hicks, Torres and others over the years.

Stay healthy and 100 games in the win column happens. It’s that simple.

The Yankees don’t win the AL East if…

We’re not going to say this team misses the playoffs because it would be an utter catastrophe if they didn’t. They’re too deep and powerful to miss out in a league with two Wild Cards.

But again, the Rays came out on top last season because they were able to take care of the Yankees. Reverse the roles in 2021 and it’s likely the Yanks return to the top of the list when October rolls around.

It isn’t just the Rays they have to worry about now, though. The Toronto Blue Jays made some solid moves in free agency, with George Springer being the biggest fish they landed. They have a young, up-and-coming team that is itching to make their mark in the division. And while the Baltimore Orioles are still a work in progress, the Boston Red Sox may be a sleeper, too. They struggled last year but the emergence of players like Bobby Dalbec this spring proves no one can take them lightly.

So winning the division battles at the end of the season should put the Yanks in a good position to take the title. But, if they aren’t able to handle these matchups, then another team could be crowned yet again.

And of course, there is the injury factor. Players like Judge, Stanton and others can’t go down for extended periods of time, no matter how deep the team feels they are.

Final record and playoff prediction: 101-61, first place in AL East

This is so hard to predict because who knows what teams will be able to accomplish after going through a 60-game season back to 162-game marathon.

But the Yankees have the depth to overcome some injuries, if need be, and their pitching staff has what it takes to play consistently through a tough division schedule. We’ll say the Yanks just get over the 100-win mark and take the division title back.

From there, as a top seed in the American League, they’ll get their rematch with the Astros in the ALDS and defeat them in four games.

An ALCS matchup with the Chicago White Sox will be next on the road to the World Series, and they make it happen over six games. Then…wait for it…a Subway Series happens 21 years later as the Mets charge through the NL with their deep lineup and stellar pitching.

Yankees over Mets, though, in seven. They get No. 28.