Yankees: 3 biggest X-factors for 2021 season

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New York Yankees starting pitcher Jameson Taillon Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

2. What is Jameson Taillon?

Critics and fans alike agree: Jameson Taillon, with the swing-and-miss stuff he’s displayed on the comeback trail and newer, more compact delivery, could become the Yankees’ No. 2 starter by year’s end.

Critics agree, though, that the pitch count issue has to be solved. Taillon, once again, struggled to finish off hitters in his most recent outing against the Philadelphia Phillies, after struggling with his command in a prior outing against Detroit.

Essentially, there’s a lot to love here and a lot of swing-and-miss in his game already. But the difference between the Yankees having acquired a genuine running mate for Gerrit Cole and the possibility that all they have is a solid No. 3 who uses too many bullets too early in games is huge.

It doesn’t have to happen in April or May. But by the end of this season, the Yankees need to have someone they can hand the ball to for a Game 2 with full trust of the fan base and front office. Will it be Luis Severino? Probably not on his innings limit, with a potential bullpen role targeted for his second half. Corey Kluber? Most assessments say his results are ahead of his stuff this spring; we wouldn’t bank on it. Jordan Montgomery’s built for the back half of a rotation, and that’s OK.

The Yankees have far more reliable rotation depth than they’ve possessed in recent years, but we’re not sure if any one of Cole’s running mates qualifies as an unquestioned second banana. If Taillon asserts himself by mid-season, that certainly changes the equation.