2020 Yankees Bounce Back Candidates

A new decade is upon us and a new era of Yankees baseball seems to be on the horizon.  After falling just short the past three seasons, 2020 has all the expectations of a championship in the making.  Once again, I’m excited to bring to you Bronx Bomber Ball’s Bounce Back Candidates piece.  If you need a quick refresher on how these work, be sure to check out the pieces from 2017, 2018 & 2019.  We’ll be keeping the template the same for the third consecutive year – one starting pitcher, one reliever and one position player – with the same set of criteria for what qualifies someone as a bounce back candidate.

1.    Player spent significant time on the injured list in prior season
2.    Player performed well below their career averages in the prior season
3.    Player has not yet lived up to their potential

Photo Credit: New York  Yankees

Once again, my 2019 predictions were a bit of a mixed bag: I chose a trio of Luis Severino (who spent almost the entire season on the Injured List), Gary Sanchez (who showed significant improvement over a disastrous 2018 season, but still found himself on the Injured List twice) and Tommy Kahnle (who returned to being a middle-innings stalwart in the New York pen after a horrific – and injury plagued – showing in 2018 of his own).

With so many Yankees having spent time on the Injured List in 2019, this has become perhaps the most difficult year to pick just a single player from each category, but a decision must be made.  Your 2020 Bounce Back Candidates are: Luis Severino, Adam Ottavino and Giancarlo Stanton.


It only seems fair to run it back with Severino this year after the young righty made just three regular season (plus two postseason) starts in 2019.  Severino was awarded with a four-year, $40 million contract extension last Winter, but could never get his 2019 season off and running after feeling soreness in his shoulder ahead of his Spring Training debut.  He was later diagnosed with a strained lat, and after multiple setbacks, wasn’t able to make his return until mid-September.

In his three September outings, Severino was pretty much everything we’ve come to expect from him, pitching to a 1.50 ERA over 12 innings with 17 strikeouts, a 1.000 WHIP and perhaps most importantly, no home runs allowed.  In October, he struggled with command early in ALDS Game 3, but was able to keep the Twins off the board en route to a New York series sweep and was then a tough-luck loser in ALCS Game 3, issuing a first inning homer to Jose Altuve, but not allowing any further damage.  New York would lose the ballgame 4-1 after Gerrit Cole stifled the Yankees offense.

Miraculously, the Yankees rotation survived without their ace during the regular season, and assuming he can remain healthy all of 2020, he is primed for the bounce back that never happened in 2019.

Photo Credit: William Perlman/Newsday

With the Yankees signing RHP Gerrit Cole to the largest Free Agent contract in Major League history last month, the pressure is no longer on Severino to be the true #1 in the Bronx, and with new pitching guru Matt Blake in the fold, Sevy is primed to return to the dominant starter we saw throughout the 2017 season and first half of 2018.  Should that happen, I’m not sure there’s a more fearsome 1-2 punch in all of baseball than Cole & Severino.


Adam Ottavino finds himself on this list not because of a poor stat line in 2019, but for how he struggled so much down the stretch and into October.  Ottavino was perhaps the most consistent reliever in the New York pen throughout portions of the 2019 season, but it all came crashing down on him late, leaving a sour taste in the mouths of fans.

Ottavino’s 2019 stat line is definitely a bit odd when you consider his sub-2.00 ERA and 235 ERA+, but he regressed in strikeout ratio while his walk ratio spiked; both of which will need to be corrected going into next season.  In October, it got ugly.  Ottavino appeared in eight of New York’s nine playoff games, but recorded just 10 outs, allowed seven hits, three walks and four runs (three earned).  Perhaps the most memorable moment of his 2019 season was George Springer’s game-tying home run off him in Game 2 of the ALCS with the Yankees already up one game in the series and up 2-1 in the ballgame.  Houston eventually won in extra innings and Ottavino looked no better once the series returned to the Bronx.

Photo Credit: Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports

When the Yankees signed Ottavino to a three-year deal ahead of last season, they expected the guy who baffled hitters throughout the 2018 season with Colorado.  For the most part, Ottavino was as advertised, but fans will want to see immediate success from him in 2020 or else the boo birds will come out quick, with the 2019 postseason still fresh on everyone’s mind.


There were three serious options for bounce back position players in 2020 – Stanton, Miguel Andujar (missed almost all of 2019 after tearing his labrum in early April) & Luke Voit (was never the same after his core muscle strain (sports hernia) in July) – but no player is as polarizing as big G, and he will enter 2020 with the highest expectations of the bunch.

When Stanton was first acquired in the Winter of 2017, fresh off a 2017 National League MVP award, expectations were sky-high.  Stanton performed well in 2018, even battling through a hamstring injury while Aaron Judge was on the Injured List, but fans were quick to turn on him because of his tendency to swing at sliders low and out of the zone, most particularly in a four-game ALDS defeat to the rival Boston Red Sox.

2019 provided an opportunity for Stanton to silence the critics, but instead only outraged them further.  He went on the Injured List early in April with a biceps strain and spent more than two months on the IL recovering.  His return was short lived, however, as he was placed back on the IL just six games later, having strained his PCL landing hard on it while sliding headfirst into third base.  Stanton wouldn’t return again until the final two weeks of the season.

Photo Credit: Noah K. Murray/USA TODAY Sports

All seemed to be forgiven after he blasted a few home runs in the season’s twilight and then smashed another off of Zack Greinke in ALCS Game One, but another injury – this time a quad strain – would impair him for the remained of the series as New York ultimately fell to Houston four games to two.

Stanton’s injury-marred 2019 adds perhaps unfair pressure, not only because of his former MVP award, but also the size of his contract, but it’s important to remember that the entire strength and conditioning department has been overhauled this season after the Yankees sent a record number of players to the IL in 2019.  Prior to 2019, Stanton only faced two lengthy IL stints, both with Miami.  One was for a broken hamate bone in his wrist which occurred during a swing in 2015; the other a groin strain in 2016.  He was hit in the face with a pitch in 2014 and yet still played 145 games that season.

Call me a Stanton apologist, but I think it’s foolish to turn away from this kind of talent.  Fans are quick to draw up trade scenarios to get him and his contract out of town, but let’s not forget this is a guy just three seasons removed from a FIFTY NINE HOME RUN season.  The power is still there, the only question is his ability to stay on the field.  I believe he will in 2020 and egg over my face if he doesn’t.  But Stanton and Judge still present perhaps the scariest duo in any lineup across the league.  Yankees fans have been dreaming of the year where they combine for 90+ home runs? Maybe 2020 is your year.

Article by: Andrew Natalizio


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