Grading the Yankees heading into the 2021 MLB season

Gerrit Cole Yankees
Yankees ace Gerrit Cole
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past five years, the Yankees have built a pretty decent formula to stay in contention in the American League. 

An unrelenting lineup brimming with power supported by decent enough pitching and a strong bullpen can carry them to a lot of wins. But it just hasn’t been enough to get them to the mountaintop. 

The Yankees’ formula remains largely unchanged yet again in 2021 as we grade the four major aspects of a ballclub: Offense, defense, starting pitching, and the bullpen.


Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton will flirt with 35 home runs this season, at least. Gleyber Torres might just add 30-plus himself. 

DJ LeMahieu is one of the best all-around hitters in the game and should put up another season in which he eclipses the .300 mark at the top of the Yankees’ order. 

That’s just about half the lineup right there.

Gary Sanchez still provides pop even if his batting average hovers around the Mendoza Line and Gio Urshela is as productive a bat you’ll find hitting out of the No. 9 spot. 

Last year’s home-run king, Luke Voit, will be missed throughout the early portions of the season as he recovers from knee surgery, but the Yankees should have more than enough firepower to keep things clicking on all cylinders. 

Grade: A


The defense isn’t as steadfast as the Yankees’ attack. 

The conversation immediately begins with the uncertainty that surrounds Sanchez behind the plate. He’s been defensively inept for most of his career, whether it comes to framing pitches or keeping the ball in front of him. Gleyber Torres hasn’t instilled much confidence at shortstop, either, as he still shows flashes of major discomfort at the position.

At first base, Jay Bruce — a natural outfielder — will fill in for Voit while he’s absent.

That does provide some unease around the field that is pretty well covered everywhere else. Judge has performed admirably in right while Aaron Hicks has flashed gold-glove-quality leather in center. 

Elsewhere in the infield, LeMahieu is steady at second and Gio Urshela provides panache at third.

Grade: B-

Starting Pitching

The rotation has been the major piece that has led recent contending Yankees teams to unravel, and the moves made by GM Brian Cashman this offseason don’t necessarily confirm that those areas have need have been fully addressed. 

Behind Gerrit Cole, who should be in the mix for the AL Cy Young Award, the Yankees brought on Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon to bolster the starting rotation.

Kluber has pitched a combined 36 innings over the previous two seasons, including just one in 2020 with the Texas Rangers, while Taillon made just seven starts in 2019 before missing all of last year after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Jordan Montgomery is also coming back for a first full season since he underwent Tommy John in 2019.

Rounding out the rotation is Domingo German, a feel-good story in 2019 turned problem after he was suspended for violating MLB’s domestic-violence policy. 

It won’t take much to see this rotation fall completely apart behind Cole.

Grade: C+


The normally rock-solid Yankees bullpen does have some dents heading into 2021.

Both Zack Britton and newly-acquired Justin Wilson are on the shelf due to injuries, which could put some added strain on the reliable Chad Green and another new signing, Darren O’Day. 

Once that full complement of late-inning options returns, the Yankees bullpen is in much better shape ahead of the undisputed closer, Aroldis Chapman.

Grade: B


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