It was another mostly awful year in metropolitan-area sports, concluding a mostly awful decade. But the 2020s will dawn with an array of stars that offer hope — or at least intrigue. So this year for our annual list of New York sports stars, let's spin it forward and focus on those who should make an impact into the early years of the new decade — a top 20 for the '20s.
As usual, only current athletes are eligible, and only players who are based east of the Hudson — other than the Jets and Giants. And remember, performance counts, but star power counts more.
20. Aroldis Chapman, Yankees
Even in an era when hard throwers have become commonplace, the Yankees lefty still throws elite-level gas. Chapman had 37 saves in 2019 and struck out 85 in 57 innings.
19. Noah Syndergaard, Mets
The man they call “Thor” has seen his star dim a bit since he first took New York by storm, but Syndergaard still cuts an impressive, imposing figure as an intimidating righty.
18. D.J. LeMahieu, Yankees
LeMahieu, a veteran infielder, did not get much attention when he signed with the Yankees, but his 2019 season got plenty of it after he hit .327 with 26 homers and 102 RBIs.
17. Luis Severino, Yankees
The young righty signed a lucrative contract extension after a big season in 2018 but was limited to three regular-season starts and two in the playoffs because of a shoulder injury.
16. Jeff McNeil, Mets
The so-called “Squirrel” excelled in his first full season, helping the Mets with a .321 batting average, 26 home runs and 94 RBIs as a throwback who knows how to make contact.
15. RJ Barrett, Knicks
The third overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft showed enough early flashes to give fans hope he can be a centerpiece for a Knicks turnaround.
14. Jamal Adams, Jets
The metropolitan area has two NFL teams but only one Pro Bowler for 2019: Adams, a high-energy safety who emerged in his third season as one of the best in the business.
13. Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees
Despite a 2019 ruined by injury, Stanton remains one of the most feared sluggers in the American League. When he is right, he provides big-time pop in the middle of the lineup.
12. Artemi Panarin, Rangers
With the Henrik Lundqvist era winding down, Panarin is poised to become the face of the franchise, a high-scoring forward for whom the Rangers paid big bucks in free agency.
11. Mathew Barzal, Islanders
The young center is one of the most dynamic, entertaining players — and playmakers — in the NHL. Barzal also is the Islanders’ most visible star
in the post-John Tavares era.
10. Daniel Jones, Giants
It took two games for Jones, the No. 6 pick in the draft, to push aside Eli Manning as the Giants’ starting quarterback. He won two and lost eight before an injury sidelined him. But he showed enough to offer hope for the future.
9. Gleyber Torres, Yankees
The dynamic young middle infielder continued his meteoric rise with 38 home runs and 90 RBIs while establishing himself as a potential Yankees cornerstone for the next decade or more — or so the team and its fans hope.
8. Kyrie Irving, Nets
Apologies to Spencer Dinwiddie, but Irving is a worldwide star who made a splash in his first 11 games, averaging 28.5 points until being set back by a shoulder injury. Next season he will have a very tall new friend to pass to.
7. Sam Darnold, Jets
After a promising but up-and-down rookie season, Darnold has had a promising but up-and-down second season that included a three-game absence because of mononucleosis. The Jets need him to be a franchise quarterback.
6. Saquon Barkley, Giants
Barkley had a challenging sophomore season as the Giants’ losing continued and he was hampered by an early ankle injury. But on a roster sorely lacking in players for fans to latch onto, Barkley remains a face of the team.
5. Gerrit Cole, Yankees
The erstwhile Astros ace beat the Yankees, then joined them, signing a record nine-year, $324 million free agent contract to give the Bombers the pitching ace they needed and make them the favorite to win it all in 2020.
4. Jacob deGrom, Mets
Signing a pitcher over 30 to a lucrative long-term contract coming off a Cy Young season was a risk, but deGrom made it pay off, becoming the first Met to repeat as the Cy Young winner, with a 2.43 ERA and 255 strikeouts.
3. Kevin Durant, Nets
The guy is not scheduled to play until the beginning of next season, but if he is anything close to what he used to be, Durant will put the NBA's other team in New York City not only on the NBA map, but on the international one as well.
2. Aaron Judge, Yankees
For the second season in a row, Judge lost significant time to injury, but he still wowed with his presence and power, and finished with 27 home runs in 378 at-bats. He also was one of the best rightfielders in baseball.
1. Pete Alonso, Mets
It took two years for Judge’s rookie record of 52 home runs to fall, and it was done by a crosstown star in Alonso, who hit 53 and ran away with the NL Rookie of the Year Award. Fans fell in love with his personality, too.