For a moment, imagine that you’re a hitter for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Braves or any other National League contender. Its a cold October evening in 2021 and you look up to see 50,000+ Yankees fans yelling at you. Already down one game to none, you can feel the pressure of the situation mounting. The day before, you were dominated by Gerrit Cole and you know that no team has won a World Series down two games to none since 1996. You step into the batters box and looking back at you is the resurgent Luis Severino.
After two quick strikes you dig in and choke up on the bat, unsure if a 98 MPH fastball will blow you away or a slider on the outside corner. One thing that you do know, and so do the Bronx faithful, is that the Yankees have a dominant one-two punch and Major League Baseball is in trouble.
The Injury and Timeline
Last February, the Yankees received the devastating news that the young right hander would miss the 2020 season due to Tommy John surgery. After missing most of 2019, losing Severino for a second year was the beginning of the Yankees pitching problems. Now, looking towards 2021 the Yankees rotation is filled with more question marks than answers. The Yankees will (thankfully) be losing JA Happ and may lose one or both of Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton.
The Yankees did receive an encouraging update regarding Severino’s arm.
Luis Severino's Tommy John rehab is going well, Cashman says. He's throwing at distances of about 90 feet. June or July seems like a reasonable time frame for MLB return.
While a June or July timeline may lead to some early season rotation struggles, Severino will be ready to go for a Postseason push. Having missed him the last two years, it is easy to forget how dominant he was. And at just 26 (27 in February) Severino still has the potential to become the next dominant pitcher.
In 2017 and 2018 Severino threw 384 innings, struck out 450 batters and pitched to a 3.18 ERA. Severino was one of the most dominant forces in baseball and if he can recapture his magic, Cole and Severino will be the best duo in baseball.
The Rest of the Rotation
Now let’s go back to imagining that you are Cody Bellinger, Mookie Betts, Ronald Acuña Jr. or Freddie Freeman. After a frustrating opening to the World Series, you get dominated by Severino. Scrapping just a few hits over the first two games you head back to the National League with your back against the wall.
Awaiting you could be a newly signed Trevor Bauer, James Paxton on a prove-it one year deal and/or the young but talented Deivi Garcia. This offseason the Yankees can turn one of their most glaring weaknesses into the beginning of a dominant pitching decade.
Mark my words, 2021 will be the year that Luis Severino makes his dominant return to baseball. And serving as the Robin to Gerrit Cole’s Batman, the Yankees will strike fear into the hearts of the rest of baseball.