The Yankees are the American League favorites heading into the second half of the 2019 season

With the All-Star break coming into a close, the Yankees sit at the top of the American League East with a comfortable 6.5 game lead of the second place Tampa Bay Rays. By winning percentage, they are the best team in the American League as they have a two-game advantage in the loss-column over the Houston Astros. With all this being said, it is not a surprise that the Yankees head into the second leg of the season as the favorites to meet the best team in the National League in the World Series. Per, the Bovada odds for the Yankees to win the championship sit at +320, the second best mark to the Los Angeles Dodgers who sit at +250. In order of their respective odds, the Astros, Twins, and Rays are the Yankees’ biggest threats. Instead of focusing on the other teams in this race, I want to take a quick look on what must go right for the Yankees to continue on this course.

Photo Credit: AP

The most important thing of all is that the team needs to stay healthy. The Yankees have seen half of their 40-man roster go down with various injuries to this point in the season, and finally have most of their team back on the playing field. The eventual returns of Giancarlo Stanton, Luis Severino, and Dellin Betances should play a major role in deciding whether or not the Yankees can take that next step. In those three players, the Yankees could be getting back an ace, a dominant late-inning arm, and a middle-of-the-order bat. Those types of players are who other contenders will be searching for from selling teams at the Trade Deadline. Luckily for the Yankees, they have these three potential additions internally. The only difference is when they will become available is still up in the air and the question if they will be able to perform to their pre-injury standards.

Despite the aforementioned internal reinforcements, the Yankees' front office will also be on the lookout for external options to improve the team. The Yankees already struck a deal earlier this summer in acquiring slugger Edwin Encarnacion from Seattle, but do not expect that to be the only deal Brian Cashman makes. Later this week, we will be releasing who the Yankees will likely target for the rotation and the bullpen, the two areas the Yankees likely plan on addressing. The Yankees have an above average rotation and bullpen, but have had some issues with their middle relievers and back-end pitchers. With a minor league system that is still stacked in talent, Brian Cashman should have no problem finding a trade partner before the deadline.

The biggest concern, however, will be the quality of the players available. Up to this point, there are not a lot of game changing rotation pieces available on the market, and this is for a number reasons. In the American League, the league’s worst teams simply do not have solid rotation pieces to trade, which makes sense since they have horrible records that reflect their quality of players. Even the teams who do have solid, young arms will likely not part with them due to the part they will play in their ball club's future. In the National League, there are too many teams that are theoretically still in it. Only the Marlins are more than seven games out of the second NL Wild Card spot going into this weekend’s games, so the Yankees are going to have to keep their fingers crossed that some teams falter out of the break, thus transitioning them into seller mode.

The starting rotation will likely be addressed at the deadline, and Luis Severino is projected to pitch at some point this season. However, the pitchers currently in the rotation need to find some consistency. Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, CC Sabathia, Domingo German, and JA Happ have strung together quality starts throughout the season, but they have all had their fair share of implosions that saw the Yankees down a boatload of runs early, forcing more pressure on the offense and giving Aaron Boone no choice but to deploy his relievers often and early. Each one of the pitchers I named could be a reliable starter in a playoff series, but the problem is that the team never knows what version of each pitcher is going to show up on a given day. Even if Severino comes back and is his old self and Cashman acquires a starting pitcher, the pitchers the team already employs are going to need to step it up.

Other than praying for health, hoping Brian Cashman can strike gold in trades, and the need for some starting pitcher consistency there is not much else to say about this team. They are built with an all-time stacked lineup, veteran rotation arms who have the ability to do their job, elite late-inning relievers, and the ability to come back from most deficits presented to them, so it is no surprise that they have been so successful to start this year. Even through all the early season injury woes the team’s reserves and minor league players stepped up and were more than just fill-ins at their respective positions. I believe that if the Yankees stay healthy, add a few pieces, and have their injured stars come back strong that there is no team that stop them in their quest to the American League pennant.

Article by: Ryan Thoms


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