Can the Yankees trust J.A. Happ to be a starting pitcher in 2020?

New York Yankees, J.A. Happ
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Taking a look at Yankees starting pitcher J.A. Happ and if he can be trusted in 2020:

Prior to J.A. Happ tossing out a dud in 2019, he was extremely effective for the Yankees in 2018. Being traded from the Toronto Blue Jays over to the Bronx Bombers, Happ finished his season with a 2.69 ERA and a 7-0 record. His 193 strikeouts on the year was a career-high for Happ, who pitched only 16 fewer innings last season compared to 2018 (177 –>161).

However, last season was tumultuous, to say the least, as he struck out 140 batters, 53 less than the year before, and allowed 34 homers, seven homers more in 16 fewer innings, resulting in a massive difference.

Nonetheless, Happ started off this spring training with a bang, earning a 1.38 ERA with 16 strikeouts and only one walk in 13 innings (4 total games). His impressive start can be attributed to multiple things — no more juiced baseballs and a change in pitching dynamics.

“It’s just a (better) feel upon landing. My direction is better,’’ Happ said before the MLB suspended operations.

When he was initially sent into a bullpen role last season, he was frustrated but understood the nature of the business, stating:

“I understand that’s kind of the nature of the business,’’ said Happ, shortly after pitchers and catchers reported. “But, I’m certainly happy I’m here.’’

Happ entered spring ball with a different mentality, one that’s more in line with how the Yankees go about things.

“He came in (with) a very great effort, laser focus and crisp stuff that I thought was great to see,” said Tim Naehring, the Yankees VP of Baseball Operations.

These past few months have been interesting for Happ, who was discussed in various trade scenarios due to a bloated contract that didn’t match up with his production from 2019. Ultimately, GM Brian Cashman elected to retain the suspicious arm, and he will feature in an increased role next season due to the loss of Luis Severino and suspension to Domingo German.

Can we trust Happ, though? 

I would say yes, simply based on his improved mechanics and solid showing this spring. Of course, the regular season is a different beast, but his 2019 is a serious outlier from years of consistent play.

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