1. Gerrit Cole
Cole did not successfully lead the Yankees to a World Series title in 2020, but it’s hard to argue that he didn’t live up to the hype last season. The organization would be thrilled to see him pitch to last season’s ERA of 2.84 over the course of a full season in 2021.
The only real question about Cole is whether or not he can continue to pitch at such a high level as he gets older. It’s unlikely New York will experience any real age-related regression for Cole in his age-31 season. There’s always a danger in potentially overusing a pitcher of his caliber, but look for the Yankees to exercise an appropriate level of caution when it’s called for.
Cole’s ability to mentor some of the younger members of his pitching staff might be almost as important as what he does when he’s on the mound himself in 2021. Guys like Garcia and Schmidt need to be led by example. They also need Cole to share the wisdom he’s accumulated during his distinguished career with them as they prepare to pitch.
The mission for Cole this and every season he enjoys in pinstripes is crystal clear. It’s World Series title or bust for the spectacular right-hander. If he’s going to succeed in that ambitious endeavor he’ll need a lot of help from the other four starters that join him in the rotation. Time will tell if Cashman assembles enough talent around Cole to win big in 2021.