The New York Yankees‘ 2021 season has almost arrived. Really. Seriously.
It begins in earnest next week, at which point we’ll be able to move on from speculative question-asking to real-world question-answering. Which’ll feel good. Because even if some of the answers are the exact opposite of what we need, at least we’ll know!
As it stands, the Yankees have battled a string of injuries this spring, which have mostly flown under the radar since they’re par for the course by now. Still, the team has persevered to an excellent spring record, which … say what you will, but we’d rather people perform well than struggle.
Besides, much of the team’s success has been thanks to contributions from the pitching staff as a whole, against both starters and backups. You don’t have to bend over backwards to describe to an onlooker why that actually feels nice.
Unlike in years past, this Yankees team appears to have a ceiling matched by their depth. In most simulators, where the season is played digitally, they’ll probably be able to weather an injury storm and make the World Series.
In order to finish the job for real? They’ll need positive answers to the following three questionable spots. These X-Factors could result in the Bombers matching their potential, or falling just short. And if all three of these spots end up being black holes instead of positives, they might be in more trouble than we’re currently accounting for.
These 3 Yankees X-Factors could help determine the 2021 season.
3. Can Nick Nelson/Jonathan Loaisiga Handle High Leverage?
Britton’s elbow chips caused him to dip early from the bullpen mix, and Wilson’s shoulder status will have him delayed to begin the season, so we certainly shouldn’t count on him early.
Suddenly, New York’s luxury-laden bullpen is going to be counting on a few spring standouts to carry their performances into the regular season.
With Wilson/O’Day/Britton/Green/Chapman all healthy, Jonathan Loaisiga and Nick Nelson would’ve had carte blanche to figure things out in innings five-through-eight of a blowout (win or loss). After the departure of two of those veterans? They’ll be pressed into much different action in the season’s first month or two.
This is not to cry doom about New York’s bullpen picture; it’s to highlight a necessary role change that could shift the Yankees in one of two directions.
If Nelson and Loaisiga can’t maintain their decisiveness in their new roles, the bullpen backslides. If they look like high-leverage beasts right away, this team has leveled up, and their healthy bullpen will now roll seven deep, Rays-style.