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Yankees' rotation: 2020 season outlook

Masahiro Tanaka #19 of the New York Yankees

Masahiro Tanaka #19 of the New York Yankees pitches during the first inning in Game 4 of the ALCS against the Houston Astros on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, at Yankee Stadium. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Even with Luis Severino lost for the year because of Tommy John surgery, 18-game winner Domingo German lost for at least the regular season because of a suspension and some uncertainty surrounding Masahiro Tanaka, who suffered a concussion when he was hit by Giancarlo Stanton’s 112-mph liner on July 4, the Yankees’ rotation still shapes up as one of the best in the American League.

The primary reason, of course, is Gerrit Cole, the jewel of last offseason’s free-agent class, whom the Yankees signed to a record nine-year, $324 million contract. James Paxton, by all accounts fully recovered from the back procedure he underwent Feb. 5, slots in behind Cole, and when he is fully healthy, Tanaka likely will be right behind him. Tanaka, a solid and at times spectacular Yankee, especially when it comes to October, is entering the final year of his seven-year, $155 million deal. The righthander, who was back throwing bullpen sessions within two weeks of the concussion, is 75-43 in six seasons and 5-3 with a 1.76 ERA in the postseason.

The expectation is for lefthander J.A. Happ to have a bounce-back year after going 12-8 with a 4.91 ERA and allowing a career-high 34 homers in 2019. Happ, a fairly consistent performer in his career, is 121-90 with a 3.99 ERA in 13 seasons.

Based on the small sample size provided in spring training and in his outings in Spring Training II, lefthander Jordan Montgomery has fully healed from Tommy John surgery in 2018. Montgomery, 27, who was sixth in the American League Rookie of the Year voting in 2017 after going 9-7 with a 3.88 ERA, was off to a good start in 2018 when his elbow gave out in the first inning of a May 1 start in Houston.

The Yankees were evaluating their options behind that group when spring training was shut down. Jonathan Loaisiga, a hard-throwing 25-year-old whose filthy stuff in the minors has wowed rival scouts but hasn’t consistently translated to the majors, could be an option, though the Yankees at the moment prefer him in the bullpen. Touted prospects Clarke Schmidt, Mike King, Nick Nelson and Deivi Garcia are likely to get chances, whether out of the bullpen or in the rotation in case of injury, at some point.

 GRADE: A-

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