Aaron Judge, Gerrit Cole
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

No one is predicting the New York Yankees will sweep the MLB awards in 2020, but the team has a legitimate candidate for every accolade.

Aaron Case

It’s never too early to start thinking about what MLB stars will take home hardware for their performances during the 2020 season. More specifically, which New York Yankees could be adding to their trophy shelves?

Now, of course, the Commissioner’s Trophy trumps all individual honors. If the Bombers bring World Series championship No. 28 back to the Bronx with nary an MVP, Cy Young, or Rookie of the Year candidate, every member of the glorious Evil Empire will be content for the entire offseason.

But it’s highly unlikely that any team could make it that far without an outstanding solo performance or two. Accordingly, the World Series–favorite New York Yankees have potential winners for every major award the MLB will dole out following the 2020 season.

MVP: Aaron Judge

The Yankees haven’t had an MVP since Alex Rodriguez won the award in 2007. The most likely Bomber to claim it this year is Aaron Judge.

Judge is due to explode in 2020. He finished second in the MVP voting in his first full year (2017), when he smashed 52 home runs.

Since then, the Judge has accumulated only 54 homers in 214 games. That’s still rather impressive when considering the lengthy stays on the injured list that severely disrupted his momentum.

If he can stay on the field for 150-plus games, watch out for a new career-high in dingers. And if Aaron Boone sticks with his preference of batting DJ LeMahieu and Judge one and two in the order, respectively, No. 99 can tally a ridiculous amount of RBIs, driving in Le Machine time after time after time.

Assuming MLB de-juices the ball somehow, about half of LeMaheiu’s homers (26 in 2019) could turn into doubles. That means even more RBI chances for Judge.

Combine all that offense with Judge’s strong-armed defense in right field, and let the MVP chants begin.

Oh, and Judge just got a nice fat pay raise, netting $8.5 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility. That gives him a taste of the kind of money he can make if he can prove durable and maintain a 40-to-50 homer output for the next several years.

If money doesn’t motivate a slugger, who knows what will?

Side Note: Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez and Gleyber Torres could just as easily win the MVP in 2020. They deserve a quick rundown of why I didn’t choose them over Judge.

  • Stanton: I’m expecting him to have similar power numbers to those of Judge, but a lower OPS. Judge boasts a career .394 OBP (151 OPS+), and Stanton comes in at .358 (144 OPS+); a continuation of that trend should produce the difference in OPS which will tip the scales in Judge’s favor.
  • Sanchez: Sanchez struck out in a career-high 25 percent of his plate appearances in 2018; he then topped that by whiffing at a 28 percent clip in 2019. That disturbing pattern indicates he’s going to have trouble getting his average up over .250 for the first time since 2017. Also, since he’s a catcher, he’ll top out at 135 or so games if he’s healthy.
  • Torres: Like Stanton, Torres will most likely fall well short of Judge’s OPS mark, due to a much lower OBP. Plus, he’ll most likely peak at 35 homers if the MLB alters the baseball in favor of pitchers. That number will pale in comparison to a potential 50-to-60 from Judge.

One final thought, for what it’s worth: this entire argument is predicated on Judge improving on his rookie numbers; not one of Judge’s internal rivals has ever posted a WAR as high as his 8.1 total in 2017, per Baseball-Reference.

Cy Young: Luis Severino

Yeah, yeah, Gerrit Cole is now in pinstripes. But that doesn’t automatically make him the New York Yankees’ best chance for a Cy Young. In fact, the newness and pressure of the situation, the high improbability of him topping his insane 2019, and a certain hitter-friendly short porch in right field will likely coalesce to cause a dip in Cole’s numbers.

That will give Luis Severino a chance to sneak in and take the award for himself.

Sevy should be ready to rock after missing most of the 2019 season with shoulder and latissimus dorsi injuries. He proved that in his three starts at the end of the year.

In those starts, Severino posted a 1.50 ERA and fanned 17 batters in 12 innings while only allowing six hits. He did so with his average fastball velocity down from the previous year by 1.5 mph and his slider speed down by four mph, per Fangraphs.

It’s a small sample size, but if Severino can do that with minimized stuff, imagine how good he can be with a full offseason and spring training to get ramped back up to full strength.

James Paxton could also bust out in a big way and take the Cy Young. He probably won’t, though, considering his track record. He’s been a consistent high-3.00s ERA pitcher for the past five years, with the exception of his 2.98 season in 2017.

Additionally, Paxton could easily return to his oft-injured ways in 2020, effectively derailing any Cy Young momentum he builds.

ROY: Deivi Garcia

If Mike Ford hadn’t depleted his rookie status in 2019, he’d be the most likely Yankee to win ROY. Instead, it’s right-handed pitcher Deivi Garcia.

Garcia will have an outside shot to make the Yankees out of spring training, either as a reliever or as a stopgap in Domingo German’s rotation spot. German is suspended for the first 63 games of 2020 for a 2019 domestic violence incident.

Admittedly, while Garcia is the Yankees’ best hope for a ROY, he is unlikely to succeed. He won’t even be old enough to buy beer until May 19, and there’s no need to rush him and potentially lower his super-high ceiling.

But there’s still a chance Garcia’s talent forces the Yankees’ hand.

Garcia was in low-A ball in 2018, but rose like a rocket to end up at triple-A in 2019. He even generated speculation he’d be called up to the Bronx in September, but ultimately wasn’t.

His career 12.7 K/9 rate and the fact that he’s only allowed 211 hits in 293.2 minor league innings clearly demonstrate his massive upside, not to mention the fact that he keeps throwing no-hitters.

If that’s not enough evidence, consider what one of his minor league managers had to say about him, per the New York Post’s Mark W. Sanchez: “His size, the way the balls come out, the only name that comes to mind is Pedro Martinez.”

The other awards

The MVP, ROY, and Cy Young generate the most media buzz, but there are other notable awards as well. The Yankees can easily pull them too.

Here’s a quick look at the Bombers most likely to win the rest of the MLB’s individual prizes.

  • Hank Aaron Award: This accolade goes to the best hitter in each league. If Aaron Judge is MVP, then he’s most likely to win, but don’t count out two-time winner Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres, and DJ LeMahieu.
  • Comeback Player of the Year: Several New York Yankees could fight for this award. Luis Severino is an obvious choice if he wins the Cy Young after missing virtually all of 2019, but southpaw starter Jordan Montgomery is probably a more intriguing candidate. Montgomery made just six starts in 2018, before undergoing Tommy John surgery. He worked his way back to throw four innings at the end of 2019; if he steps back in like he never left, a his typical sub-4.00 ERA and a career-high in wins (that’s more than nine) could earn him this award. Likewise, if Miguel Andujar returns as a similar version of his 2018 self, he’ll be hard to ignore for this award.
  • Reliever of the Year: Aroldis Chapman won Reliever of the Year in 2019, and he’s most likely to win it again, since he’s still the guy who gets the ninth inning.

What really matters

Again, if the New York Yankees win it all, these individual accolades will just be the cherries on top of the championship sundae. But after suffering through a World Series-less decade, the team and its followers deserve such a decorated treat.

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