New York Yankees: Three Position Battles To Watch For With Spring Training Right Around The Corner

Mike Tauchman, New York Yankees

Spring Training begins in just three short weeks for the New York Yankees. Here are three position battles to keep an eye on throughout February and March.

Fifth Starter:

Gerrit Cole, Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and Luis Severino are all starting rotation locks barring injury. But, the fifth starting pitcher position needs to be decided between JA Happ and Jordan Montgomery, if Happ isn’t traded.

In 2019, Happ wasn’t great. His ERA was near five, but somehow managed a 12-8 record. He has a year left on his contract, but is also 37 and his arm is fading.

Jordan Montgomery missed the majority of the 2018 and 2019 seasons due to Tommy John surgery, but is ready to go in 2020. He had a 3.88 ERA in 2017, his rookie season. Montgomery finished 6th that season in rookie of the year voting.

Going into the spring, I believe that Montgomery has the upper hand.

Utility:

The utility position would be decided between Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada, but it may be Wade’s to lose.

He played a bit better last year for the Yankees, hitting .245 in 94 at-bats. He is such a good defender, versatile, and one of the fastest guys in the MLB.

Estrada hit .250 in 64 at-bats, but isn’t quite as fast or as good of a defender. He is still very versatile, being able to play four positions. But, Wade can play six.

Fourth Outfielder:

The race for the extra outfielder will between Mike Tauchman and Clint Frazier, with Tauchman having an early advantage.

Tauchman was great last year, batting .277 and driving in 47 runs in just 260 at-bats. His defense is pretty solid and has some speed, stealing six bases in 2019.

Clint Frazier is an offensive force, but his defense is very questionable. Frazier hit .267 with 38 RBIs in 225 at-bats. His stats are skewed due to being ice cold in September. He could however be moved by the end of the spring.

New York Yankees: Jordan Montgomery ready for a big role in 2020

New York Yankees, Jordan Montgomery

NEW YORK YANKEES – With the news of Domingo German being suspended for a “significant time of the season, Jordan Montgomery is expected to step in and take the fifth spot in the rotation for next season.

“I’m treating this season like it’s 2017,” said Montgomery. “I’m really going in there fighting for a spot. I’ve been out for so long, I don’t really think I’m guaranteed anything so I’ve been working hard and having the mentality that I’m going to go out there and win (my role) back.”

Montgomery missed all of the 2018 season and pretty much all of 2019 except for two games at the end getting and rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. His last full season was in 2017 where he started 29 games, posting a 3.88 ERA with a 9-7 record. In 155.1 innings pitched, Montgomery had a solid rookie season and even ended sixth in the Rookie of the Year voting.

“(I’m) doing everything that I can to start the spring prepared, strong, and as ready as I can be,” said Montgomery on an interview with MLB Network.

Montgomery had also mentioned that he’s been talking to newly hired pitching coach, Matt Blake, on what he can work on to get himself ready for the season and also to keep doing things that he’s good at. Montgomery said he’s looking forward to having a relationship with Blake because he knows how much Blake can help.

I think Montgomery can come in and be a perfect fit at the end of the rotation. He’s a solid left-hander with an arsenal of pitches that can be really effective for the team.

Why Yankees’ Jordan Montgomery will be better than ever in 2020

New York Yankees, Jordan Montgomery

When the New York Yankees signed Gerrit Cole to a nine-year, $324 million contract, every pitcher in the starting rotation was moved down a slot. Despite the reconfiguration of the unit, the Yankees still have stellar options and are prepared to have one of the more authoritative seasons we have seen in quite some time, and that’s after a 103-win campaign in 2019.

Cole, who had a 2.50 ERA and 326 strikeouts last season, both career-highs, will be the No. 1 starter for the Bombers, with Luis Severino and James Paxton slotting in close behind. Both are viewed as top-level pitchers who can hold their own during the postseason.

Further down the line rests Masahiro Tanaka and Jordan Montgomery, the latter is returning from Tommy John surgery, but still managed to get a few innings of work last season.

Montgomery believes he will return stronger and more fluid with his technique in 2020, stating:

“My mechanics were pretty rough that year before (the surgery),” Montgomery told MLB Network Radio on Saturday.” I was doing anything I could to get my arm through, really contort my body to get it through because that was kind of the spot where it didn’t hurt.

“Now I can just let my arm through and keep my posture and use my thighs a bit more now, which I’m excited about. Clean everything up the best I can and be simple and smooth is what I’m going for.”

The New York Yankees won’t just give Jordan Montgomery a starting spot:

Monty will still have to fend off J.A. Happ for the final spot in the rotation, given the former Blue Jay isn’t traded, considering his $17 million salary. Happ had a putrid 2019 campaign but was productive in 2018 when he was first traded to the Yankees, logging a 7-0 record with a 2.69 ERA.

To push Happ down in the rotation, Montgomery will need to have a strong spring training, and he’s confident that he will prove his worth on the mound:

“I’m a little ahead of schedule right now,” he said. “Coming off (Tommy John surgery), taking all of last year off and getting ramped up right near the end of the year I kind of decided to take less time off and really make sure I come into spring training strong. It kind of made sense to take less time off. Working as hard as I did, rehabbing, strengthening and getting all those little muscles fired up and strong again, and to take all that time and then lose it kind of seemed silly to me. So I took two weeks off, eased into throwing really easy for two or three weeks and got it going after that.”

Ensuring a full recovery is the priority for Montgomery, who will now have Eric Cressey at his disposal. The Yankees hired Cressey after the firing of former strength and conditioning coach, Matt Kraus, one season after setting an MLB record with 39 different stints on the injured list. The Bombers are now in good hands with their new conditioning coach.

New York Yankees: 2020 Projected Starting Rotation

The New York Yankees signed Gerrit Cole over the offseason to bolster their starting rotation, shaking things up a bit. Here is my projection for their 2020 starting rotation.

1. Gerrit Cole

When the Yankees signed Cole, it was the obvious expectation that he would become the ace. For $324 million, he better be the ace. He’s coming off a year that saw him go 20-5 with a 2.50 ERA, but wasn’t charged with a loss after May 22nd.

The expectation of the ace is a dominant pitcher with both power and finesse, and he sure fits the bill.

2. Luis Severino

Severino isn’t far from an ace, which is why it makes sense that he would be the number two pitcher. He only pitched in three regular season games in 2019 due to injuries, but was 19-8 with a 3.39 ERA in 2018. He hit a wall in the second half of 2018 and struggled through some starts, but that’s kinda expected with someone that young.

I have full confidence that he will bounce back in 2020.

3. James Paxton

Paxton is the number three starter in my mind to split up the two lefties. I think that Tanaka may be a bit better than Paxton overall, but it’s better if the two lefties don’t pitch back-to-back starts.

Big Maple was 15-6 with a 3.82 ERA in his first year in pinstripes, but was much better in the second half of the year. If he can continue to stay healthy, he will thrive in the three spot in the rotation.

4. Masahiro Tanaka

As I already said, I put Tanaka at the four spot to split up the two lefties.

Tanaka was 11-9 with a 4.45 ERA in 2019. His numbers are higher because of his inconsistency. Normally, the starts that he wins are because he is completely dominant, and is completely dominated in games that he loses. However, he did manage to get an all-star nomination in 2019. If he’s just more consistent, then him and the Yankees are golden.

5. Jordan Montgomery

Montgomery missed most of the 2018 and 2019 seasons due to Tommy John surgery.

In his 2017 rookie campaign, he was 9-7 with a 3.88 ERA and was one of the best fifth starters in baseball. I feel that he will come back strong in 2020 with similar numbers.

I left JA Happ off this list with the expectation that he will be traded. Domingo German was left off the list due to his suspension, but I suspect that he will take Montgomery’s spot once eligible again. Montgomery would then shift to the bullpen.

 

New York Yankees: Who will replace German during his absence?

New York Yankees, Jordan Montgomery

It was announced a few days ago that New York Yankees 18-win pitcher Domingo German will serve an 81 game suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy.

It’s no question that this is a huge loss for the New York Yankees. The 63 remaining games that German will have to serve this season will roughly be about 12 missed starts for him. Since German will be out for significant time, the Yankees will have to find a replacement in the rotation. I think the best option would to place Jordan Montgomery as the fifth starter in the rotation.

Montgomery missed a ton of time due to Tommy John surgery but made his comeback last season where he appeared in two games, throwing a total of four innings and allowing three earned runs. His last full year came during the 2017 season where he started 29 games and was credited to a 3.88 ERA and a 9-7 record.

I think having Monty fill the fifth day of the rotation is perfect. He’s a quality left-hander who pitches backward, flashing a sharp curveball and a sinker while mixing in a changeup and a fourseam fastball.

With J.A. Happ potentially on the move, he’s essentially the same kind of pitcher but with a significantly cheaper price tag. He’s shown, when healthy, he has the ability to give quality starts at the major league level.

With Gerrit Cole, Luis Severino, and James Paxton leading the rotation, having Tanaka and Monty at the back end to finish off series is a great rotation.

Do the Yankees have a secret weapon in the starting pitching rotation?

New York Yankees, Jordan Montgomery

The return of the Last Jedi, I mean Luis Severino, will give the Yankees a considerable boost in efficiency regarding the starting pitching rotation. Severino’s health is imperative to the overall success of the team, and losing him for virtually all of 2019 was significant, despite the Bomber’s securing 103 wins.

Expecting lesser players to crawl out of the woodwork to save the day in 2020 is a perverse logic, as what the Yankees did last season with the likes of Cameron Maybin, Brett Gardner, Mike Tauchman, and Gio Urshela is unheard of. General manager Brian Cashman has put the team in an advantageous position, signing Gerrit Cole and retaining Gardner, who will start in centerfield until Aaron Hicks returns from injury.

Other moves are expected to follow in the coming days, especially with star relief arm Josh Hader hanging in the balance. However, the secret weapon for the Yankees isn’t Severino, Cole, or any other big-name that litters the roster like a bunch of underage kids drinking Bug Lights behind a grocery store.

The player of notice is Jordan Montgomery, who has pitched two seasons of sub-4.00 ERA baseball, earning a solidified spot in the starting rotation. In an ideal world, Cashman would unload J.A. Happ’s $17 million per year contract off the books, making more room for Monty.

Can the Yankees expect Jordan Montgomery to bounce back?

After succumbing to Tommy John surgery in 2018, Jordan missed all of 2019 recovering. His latest bill of action was in 2017, where he logged a 3.88 ERA over 155.1 innings. Montgomery features a deadly curveball, which was his most frequent pitch over his two-year stint of health.

While using his curve, Monty recorded a .175 batting average against opposing hitters, a .281 slugging percentage, and a 42.8% whiff rate (2017). His fastball is probably his worst pitch, while he also utilized an above-average changeup and slider, giving him a reliable arsenal of options to work through batters.

His influence on the team should be far more significant than we imagine. The expectation is that he will slot in at the 5th spot in the rotation, behind Cole, James Paxton, Severino, and Masahiro Tanaka. When your worst starter has the quality that Mongtomery has, you can justify a bit of premature excitement.

New York Yankees: Will Jordan Montgomery Be A Starter Or Reliever In 2020?

New York Yankees, Jordan Montgomery

The New York Yankees and Jordan Montgomery are in a peculiar spot. Monty could be used as a starter or a reliever in 2020, and it’s not all that clear which role he will be in. It’s all dependent on the status of one other player: JA Happ.

The Yankees have four set in stone starters for the 2020 season: Luis Severino, James Paxton, Gerrit Cole, and Masahiro Tanaka. However, the fifth starter would be either Happ or Montgomery.

There were rumors about Happ being traded, but those have died down a bit as of late. He has one year and $17 million left on his deal, and it could be a risk worth taking for some teams in the trade market.

Maybe the Yankees could convince the Brewers to take his contract in some sort of trade for Josh Hader.

But if they choose to not move Happ, he will likely be the fifth starter. If they do move him, it will be Montgomery as the fifth starter.

Montgomery has missed the better part of two seasons with Tommy John surgery. In his 2017 rookie campaign, he was 9-7 with a 3.88 ERA over 155.1 innings.

The now 27-year-old lefty will look to come back from his Tommy John surgery better than ever. He made two appearances at the end of 2019 to shake off the rust, and also made minor league rehab starts.

In my opinion, Brian Cashman needs to try as hard as he can to move JA Happ. Montgomery has proven to be a solid fifth starter, and the team already has a long reliever in Luis Cessa.

(Note: It’s also Montgomery’s birthday today, December 27th)

 

What will Jordan Montgomery’s Role be if the New York Yankees Sign a Top Pitcher?

New York Yankees, Jordan Montgomery

Jordan Montgomery, a pitcher for the New York Yankees, is expected to be at full strength on the mound next season, after recovering from Tommy John surgery. He has only appeared in eight games the last couple of years (Baseball-Reference), so it will be interesting to see how Boone and new pitching coach Matt Blake use him.

The tall lefty impressed the organization in his rookie season and still has time to reach his top potential. Montgomery went 9-7, with a 3.88 earned run average in 29 games, and recorded 8.3 strikeouts per nine innings (Baseball-Reference). He is more of an old-fashioned pitcher by the way he mixes pitches to keep batters off balance. Even though his velocity is below average, he makes up for it with his two-seam, changeup, and curveball mix.

Montgomery’s Expected Role to Start the Next Season

In recent news, the New York Yankees are among the top three candidates to land Gerrit Cole this offseason. With Cole in the rotation, the Yankees top options for the rotation would most likely be James Paxton, Luis Severino, Domingo German (assuming he does not receive a suspension), and Masahiro Tanaka, leaving Jordan Montgomery and J.A. Happ out of the rotation. There is also a possibility that Happ will be on the move this offseason, meaning  Montgomery. could fill in as a sixth starting pitcher.

Yankees manager, Aaron Boone, will probably have Montgomery in a long-relief role to start the season and monitor his progress as time goes on, especially if Happ stays. He may have a role similar to Nestor Cortes Jr. or Stephen Tarpley as well, who appeared in long relief and sometimes, threw to only one lefty hitter.

Trading Montgomery is not a viable option for the Yankees right now. He does not have much worth and his durability is now in question. However, he still has a lot left in the tank and can contribute to Yankees’ wins in whatever role he is assigned.

Why the New York Yankees will go Gerrit Cole or go home

Could the Yankees pursue Gerrit Cole this offseason?

The New York Yankees always manage to surprise the masses when it comes to signing high-priced free agents. Whether it be trading for a Giancarlo Stanton type player or signing a Jacoby Ellsbury, unexpected bust type, GM Brian Cashman always keeps us guessing on his moves.

This offseason, the hype centers around top pitcher Gerrit Cole, who was recently knocked out of the World Series by the Washington Nationals. Cheating allegations against the Houston Astros immediately followed the team’s knockout.

Cole is looking to separate himself from the doomed organization, and he will dive into a free agent market that’s begging him to set a record-breaking contract. However, the Yankees are loaded in the pitching department even without Cole.

The New York Yankees starting rotation currently looks like this:

-Luis Severino

-James Paxton

-Domingo German (suspension)

-Masahiro Tanaka

-Jordan Montgomery

-J.A. Happ

-Deivi Garcia/Michael King

Even without the services of Cole, who’s expected to break $30 million per season, the Yankees still have a solid group of starters that can get them through the regular season in one piece. The issue is the postseason, where Paxton elevated his game, and Severino pitched several hearty innings. German was forced out due to domestic violence allegations, and Tanaka performed as his usual quality self. It’s not worth factoring Happ into the equation who barely saw the mound until a bullpen game against the Astros late in the ALCS.

Adding a pitcher that can nearly guarantee a win is what the Yankees are looking for, and it would increase the probability of winning the 2020 World Series 10-fold. Having a four-man rotation of Cole, Severino, Paxton, and Tanaka would allow the Bombers to keep their top options ready to go in the later games of the postseason. Minimizing fatigue is the trick here, and if Cashman is willing to push past the luxury tax, overspending on Cole should be an easy decision.

The Yankees need to be worried about Hal Steinbrenner holding them back

New York Yankees, Brian Cashman

General manager Brian Cashman may hold the reigns to the sled that’s the New York Yankees, but owner Hal Steinbrenner is back at headquarters relaying approval for every maneuver Cashman looks to make.

Whether it be letting Didi Gregorius walk in free agency or the signing of a big-name starting pitcher, both are heavily involved in the process, which should scare fans.

Steinbrenner stated earlier in the offseason:

“For the most part, I think our starting pitching was good this year,’’ Steinbrenner said. “Even missing [Luis] Severino and [Jordan] Montgomery [for most or all of the season due to injuries].”

“If the 2020 season was to start tomorrow, I would feel considerably more confident than I did a year ago at this time,’’ Steinbrenner said. “We will have both Severino and Montgomery back. We now know that [Domingo] German can pitch effectively at this level. And we know [James] Paxton can be the guy that we were hoping for when we made that trade. We have [Masahiro] Tanaka, [J.A.] Happ, [Jonathan] Loaisiga, and perhaps [Deivi] Garcia at some point. A very good rotation.’’

This screams, “road-work ahead!” If you’ve ever been driving on the highway and been forced to slow down because Hal Steinbrenner is laying down new concrete and not signing starting pitchers to bolster the rotation, raise your hand. However, it’s fair to consider his previous signings of Masahiro Tanaka and trading for James Paxton, who emerged as an ace during the latter portion of the 2019 season.

Hal isn’t wrong. The team will gain back several strong arms in Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery, two pitchers who, at the top of their game, can be extremely effective. Severino is capable of being a No. 1 option, and Paxton has established himself as a No. 2. Monty has two sub-4.00 ERAs under his belt in three years, and they have youngsters like Deivi Garcia/Michael King preparing to make the jump.

The Yankees need to do what’s best for the team:

Despite the re-tooling of the starting rotation with current Yankees players, adding a dominant arm like Gerrit Cole would immediately make the unit one of the best in the league. It would also give manager Aaron Boone the ability to develop his youngsters in a bullpen role, allowing them to refine their skills and work inning-by-inning slowly.

The price-tag for Cole would be the intimidating factor, as he’s set to earn over $200 million in a multi-year deal that stretches $30+ million per season. That’s a staggering price, and the Bombers have had lousy luck with big-contracts the past few seasons. Jacoby Ellsbury’s $26 million in remaining salary attests to that statement, in addition to the two years he missed (2018-19). Factor in Giancarlo Stanton as well, who missed all of 2019 with multiple injuries.

Cole, however, has had a clean bill of health for the majority of his career, so the Yankees can be confident he won’t miss extended time. Strasburg, on the other hand, cannot be trusted to finish a full season without picking up minor ailments. If health is a concern for Steinbrenner, he will have to spend a bit more for Cole, but his team would benefit exponentially from his services. Realistically, the Yankees would be in great shape to compete for a World Series title in 2020.