The New York Yankees are getting ready for the regular season, and with that, we have three X-Factors for the Bombers in 2021.
Spring Training is officially underway and we’re just a few weeks from Opening Day. With this, the Yankees are evaluating key players that might make an impact during the regular season down in Tampa as the Spring season takes place. As we all know, as much skill is involved in building a good team, there’s a lot of luck involved, too, and if some things break right as opposed to wrong, that could be the difference between winning a championship or falling short. Knowing this, let’s look at three Yankees X-factors for this season.
This one’s an obvious one, so let’s get it out of the way first. Sanchez is an enigma, to say the least, and pings back and forth between being a dominant force at the plate and an easy out. Sanchez was amazing in 2016 and 2017, abysmal in 2018 and 2020, and very good in 2019, so what you’re getting out of him is a mixed bag. In 2020, Sanchez hit .147 with a .253 OBP. He also had 10 homers and 24 RBI with a .618 OPS. Obviously, these numbers are putrid but based on his dominance in ’16, ’17, and even ’19, we know the talent is there, and a big bounce-back season would be huge for the Yankees. If it’s any sort of positive, Sanchez is off to a strong spring this year, going 3-9 so far with a pair of bombs. Obviously, it’s only Spring Training, so be cautious about putting too much stock in these numbers, if any, but it’s better to see him doing well than doing poorly in the exhibition season.
Jameson Taillon & Corey Kluber
This one’s a double-whammy, not just for both players and their performances, but their health, as well. Jameson Taillon and Corey Kluber combined for just one inning in 2020, with both missing extensive time due to significant injuries. As many fans know, Corey Kluber was dominant from 2014-2018 but missed time in 2019. As for Taillon, he had his best season in 2018, starting 32 games and pitching 191 innings with a 3.20 ERA. He allowed just 179 hits and struck out 179 batters. He received Tommy John Surgery in 2019 and missed all of 2020.
As pointed out, these guys have had successful pasts, especially Kluber. However, injuries are a clear concern for both of these arms. Even if both Kluber and Taillon stay on the field, there’s no guarantee that they pitch even close to their previous form, and if they both turn out to flop, whether it be due to injury or ineffectiveness, it will definitely hurt the Bombers. Alternatively, if both pitchers — or even one of them — pitches close to their ceiling, the Yanks should be in a good spot.
Hicks as shown great grit as a Yankee so far, but his big bugaboo, like Taillon and Kluber, is his health. Hicks has seen the injured list five times since 2017, missing a plethora of games. When he’s on the field, however, Hicks provides strong defense, solid speed, and good power. Although his average may not stand out (.225 in 2020), getting on base has always been Hicks’ specialty. He had a .379 OBP in 2020, which is elite, especially considering his .225 average. If Hicks is healthy, he should definitely be a big part of the team. The keyword, however, is “if.”
As I said earlier, a lot of things need to break right every year for a team to win a championship. Having said that, if these three Yankees show up in 2021, this may be the year the Bombers bring back title Number 28 to the Bronx.