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Top 20 New York sports stars going into 2018

Welcome to Newsday’s list of the top 20 New York sports stars, but if last year is any guide these guys and gal might want to buy a rabbit’s foot, or more disability insurance.

The 2017 list was full of jocks who came up injured, traded, released or benched included:

Odell Beckham Jr., Yoenis Cespedes, Eli Manning, Noah Syndergaard, Carmelo Anthony, Matt Harvey, Jeremy Lin, Brandon Marshall, Darrelle Revis, David Wright, Derrick Rose, Curtis Granderson and Victor Cruz. Yikes.

Last time we had 25 names. This has been such an awful sports year, 20 seems sufficient.

Some rules: Current athletes only. No coaches, executives or sports talk radio hosts. Only players based east of the Hudson, other than the Jets and Giants.

20. Jamal Adams, Jets

The rookie has breakout potential on and off
Photo Credit: Lee S Weissman

The rookie has breakout potential on and off the field, and showed promise in tandem with fellow rookie safety Marcus Maye.

19. Tina Charles, Liberty

After finishing second in WNBA MVP voting in
Photo Credit: Steven Ryan

After finishing second in WNBA MVP voting in 2016, the center from Queens followed with another strong season for the Liberty, averaging 19.7 points (third best in WNBA) and 9.4 rebounds (fourth best). The two-time Olympic gold medalist has been the face of the franchise since 2014.

18. Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants

JPP has not been quite the same player
Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS / Ron Schwane

JPP has not been quite the same player since severely injuring his right hand in a fireworks accident on July 4, 2015. But he was good enough in 2016 - seven sacks in 12 games - to earn a huge contract before the '17 season. He has had 6 ½ sacks and 62 combined tackles in 14 games.

17. Tim Hardaway Jr., Knicks

Eyebrows were raised when the Knicks brought back
Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Eyebrows were raised when the Knicks brought back Hardaway in July by offering him a four-year, $71 million deal that the Hawks declined to match. But early in the season, he showed promise as a complement to Porzingis, and had games of 34 and 38 points before being sidelined in early December with a leg injury.

16. David Villa, NYCFC

The forward from Spain followed up his 2016
Photo Credit: Errol Anderson

The forward from Spain followed up his 2016 MVP season with 22 goals in 31 games. The club finished with the second-best record in MLS. Villa scored two of NYCFC's three goals in a playoff series loss to Columbus.

15. Jeremy Lin, Nets

Yes, Lin played in a grand total of
Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Yes, Lin played in a grand total of one game for the Nets this season before being lost to a knee injury. But that does not change the facts that he is an effective player when healthy and still has a massive following in the New York area and around the world. Linsanity lasted for a month six years ago, but it continues to echo.

14. Luis Severino, Yankees

Severino, at 23, emerged as the young pitching
Photo Credit: AP / Elise Amendola

Severino, at 23, emerged as the young pitching ace the Yankees needed in the rotation, finishing third in American League Cy Young voting after going 14-6 with a 2.98 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 230 strikeouts. The postseason went less well for him.

13. Didi Gregorius, Yankees

Replacing an iconic player is not supposed to
Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Replacing an iconic player is not supposed to look this easy. But Gregorius has continued to develop in the three years since succeeding Derek Jeter at shortstop, improving every season in batting average, slugging percentage, home runs and RBI. He had career highs in 2017 in homers (25), RBI (87), batting average (.287), slugging (.478) and OPS (.796).

12. Aroldis Chapman, Yankees

There was understandable concern when Chapman landed on
Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

There was understandable concern when Chapman landed on the DL in late spring and later briefly lost his job as the Yankees' closer. But by season's end, the lefty reliever seemed to be back to his usual, 100-mph-plus self, looking like the intimidating ninth-inning shutdown man to whom the Yankees paid top dollar last December to lock up for five years.

11. John Tavares, Islanders

Playing as a contractual lame duck for a
Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Playing as a contractual lame duck for a franchise not sure where it will call home after next season does not seem to have distracted the Islanders' longtime pillar. He was tied for third in the NHL with 17 goals through Dec. 10, and had 14 assists. More importantly, he gives the franchise a recognizable star and identity in a crowded media and marketing landscape.

10. Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers

Stars on other teams come and go but
Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Stars on other teams come and go but King Henrik keeps rolling along as the face of the Rangers at age 35. He looked shaky at times early this season, then seemed to figure things out in mid-November and through Dec. 10 was 14-7-2 with a 2.69 goals-against average. And he still looks sharp in a suit.

9. Jacob deGrom, Mets

DeGrom was the last healthy man standing from
Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

DeGrom was the last healthy man standing from the Mets' original - and allegedly historic - pitching staff, and he kept the Mets from being even worse by going 15-10 with a 3.53 ERA and 239 strikeouts.

8. Gary Sanchez, Yankees

Departed manager Joe Girardi, a former catcher, was
Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Departed manager Joe Girardi, a former catcher, was either too easy or too hard too hard on Sanchez regarding his defensive weaknesses, depending on when and whom you ask. Regardless, he needs to improve there. Then again: 33 home runs and 90 RBI in 122 games for a 25-year-old catcher? The Yankees can work with that.

7. Noah Syndergaard, Mets

Mets fans put their fingers in their ears
Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Mets fans put their fingers in their ears and hummed before last season when hearing about Thor's new, bulked-up frame, expecting the worst. Then the worst came, in the form of a torn lat muscle and a season in which he started only seven games. Syndergaard was a rising superstar before all of that. He needs to get back on track early and often in 2018.

6. Yoenis Cespedes, Mets

Before the Yankees trotted out Aaron Judge and
Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Before the Yankees trotted out Aaron Judge and now Giancarlo Stanton, Cespedes was New York's most dynamic, flamboyant slugger, complete with prodigious blasts and fluorescent forearm sleeves. He totaled 17 home runs while playing in half the Mets' games in an injury plagued 2017. When healthy, his at-bats are can't-miss.

5. Eli Manning, Giants

The Giants' quarterback of the century - or
Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Giants' quarterback of the century - or of any century, really - had a poor season and might be on his way out of town as he nears age 37. But the depth of feeling among fans for the two-time Super Bowl winner revealed itself when the Giants bungled the end of his 210-game starting streak. A week later, Manning was back; his coach and GM were gone.

4. Kristaps Porzingis, Knicks

With Carmelo Anthony in Oklahoma City, the Knicks'
Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

With Carmelo Anthony in Oklahoma City, the Knicks' young "unicorn" of a talent has had a chance to shine and he has grabbed it, along with 6.6 rebounds per game to go with a 25.5-point scoring average through Dec. 20. The 7-3 Latvian scored at least 30 points in seven of his first nine games, proving that he is capable of being the centerpiece of a playoff contender.

3. Odell Beckham Jr., Giants

Beckham ranked No. 1 here last year, then
Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Beckham ranked No. 1 here last year, then stuff happened. He missed the opener with an ankle injury and was lost for good in Week 5 because of a broken ankle. He had 25 catches, 302 yards, three TDs and one kerfuffle over celebrating a touchdown by pretending to urinate like a dog. One look at replica jerseys in the stands, though, confirms he remains a megastar.

2. Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees

Such was the magnitude of the bombshell mid-December
Photo Credit: AP / Lynne Sladky

Such was the magnitude of the bombshell mid-December trade with Derek Jeter's Marlins that Stanton ranks among New York stars without having yet played a game for the Yankees. The only guy in baseball who hits the ball as hard as the Yankees' Aaron Judge, the NL MVP had 59 home runs, 132 RBI, 123 runs and a slash line of .281/.376/.631 in 2017.

1. Aaron Judge, Yankees

It was not just the AL Rookie of
Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

It was not just the AL Rookie of the Year Award or runner-up finish in the MVP vote or even the 52 home runs, 114 RBI, 128 runs scored and .284/.422/.627 slash line. Judge's appeal goes beyond that. He is physically enormous, and he strikes the ball with enormous force. He is Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle, minus the off-field baggage. In short, he is a Bomber in every way.

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