None of the top dozen or so contenders in baseball heading into spring training has suffered more injury threats to the first month of its season since camps opened than the best projected team from the best and deepest division.
The good news for that team is that it’s the deep and resourceful New York Yankees, and that it’s a long season.
But the bad news for Las Vegas’ second-favored World Series contender a month ago will be visible in the names filling up their injured list when the season opens — putting a serious crimp, tweak and strain in the start-to-finish romp to the American League East title that many have predicted.
And the rigorous early schedule in April and well into May.
As the baseball wags like to say, you can’t win a pennant in April, but you can lose one.
The New York Yankees aren’t going to lose the pennant in April, even if $162 million newcomer Carlos Rodon doesn’t make his Yankees debut in the rotation until May. There’s too many ways into the playoff field and too much time to find one — if not find reinforcements along the way.
But they figure to be tested like no other playoff contender through maybe the first quarter of the season. And if that doesn’t derail their longer-term efforts, it might at least boost the chances of a few other teams to hang with the Bronx Bombers.
Consider the early personnel challenges — and the greatest potential benefactors.
With the news in the past week that a forearm strain has pushed Rodon return into at least late April, it puts 40 percent of the Yanks’ stalwart rotation on the shelf for the start of the season — Frankie Montas out until perhaps August after having shoulder surgery last month.
Gold Glove center fielder Harrison Bader also has an oblique strain expected to sideline him until at least late April; All-Star catcher Jose Trevino is nursing a sprained wrist that might require an anti-inflammatory injection — though the hope for now that he’ll avoid the IL.
And significant bullpen pitchers Scott Effross (Tommy John surgery), Lou Trivino (elbow strain) and Tommy Kahnle (biceps tendinitis his latest malady) all are expected to open on the IL — with Effross out for the year and Trivino until sometime in May.
None of that takes into account the fact the New York Yankees plan to open the season with a rookie at shortstop, whether the better fielding Oswald Peraza or the better hitting Anthony Volpe, or the fact that one of the three projected starters still healthy, Luis Severino, spent much of the second half of last season on the 60-day IL with a lat strain (and has struggled this spring).
Even the healthy Nester Cortes Jr. opened camp with a hamstring injury that kept him out of the World Baseball Classic (though he looks fine now).
Gerrit Cole can do a lot, but he can’t do it all.
Which teams benefit most from New York Yankees’ injuries?
So who might benefit the most if the New York Yankees struggle to patch things together for, say, the first four to six weeks of the season?
1. The AL East-rival Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays in particularly might be able to take advantage — each with half their series against the Yankees this season (seven games each) coming in the first 46 games of the year.
2. The top two teams in the AL Central play all their games against the Yankees this year early in the schedule. The Minnesota Twins, who are trying to return to the playoffs with the return of Carlos Correa and upgraded pitching after missing the field last year, play all seven of their games against the Yankees in April; Cleveland plays all six by May 3.
3. Even the defending NL-champion Philadelphia Phillies could see a boost from a depleted Yankees team since their only series against them is April 3-5. And the hopeful Texas Rangers, with Bruce Bochy managing and Jacob deGrom at the front of the rotation, get four of their seven season matchups against the Yankees at the end of April at home.
All of which also underscores the fact the New York Yankees already faced a gauntlet to open the season that makes all the injury news as costly as any team is dealing with.
Gordon Wittenmyer covers Major League Baseball for Sportsnaut. You can follow him on Twitter at @GDubCub.