As MLB prepares to start a truncated 60-game season, the New York Yankees are the overwhelming favorites in the American League. A shorter schedule might create more World Series contenders, though delaying Opening Day has allowed the Yankees to get healthy.

Had the 2020 season started on time in late March, New York would’ve begun the year without some of its top players. It appears that won’t be the case, assuming baseball does return on July 23 as intended.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told YES Network’s Meredith Marakovits that he expects slugger Giancarlo Stanton, center fielder Aaron Hicks and starting pitcher James Paxton all to be ready for Opening Day. Cashman said that preliminary signs point to right fielder Aaron Judge being ready to start the season on time, as well.

When the Yankees learned that Judge had a broken rib during spring training, they expected him to miss several months of action. The 2017 AL MVP runner-up is arguably the team’s most important hitter. Judge has hit 27 home runs in each of the last two years, missing 110 total games.

Stanton barely saw the field in 2019, playing 18 regular-season games and just two of nine playoff games because of multiple injuries. A calf strain was expected to keep him sidelined for the start of the season, but that changed when spring training was halted on March 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Judge led the AL with 52 home runs in 2017. Stanton was that year’s NL MVP with a league-high 59 homes. Stanton hit .266/.343/.509 with 38 home runs in 2018 for the Yankees.

Hicks had the best season of his career in 2018, hitting .248/.366/.467 with 27 home runs in 137 games. That prompted the Yankees to give Hicks a seven-year, $70 million extension. He only played 59 games last season and underwent Tommy John Surgery in October.

In early February, it was announced that Paxton would miss three to four months because of back surgery. The left-hander posted a 3.82 ERA in 150.2 innings last year in his first season with New York. Paxton is set to become a free agent after the 2020 season.

The Yankees won 103 games last season and were eliminated by the Houston Astros in Game 6 of the ALCS.

The New York Post has reported that the Yankees will begin the season against the defending champion Washington Nationals on July 23.

Aaron Judge New York Yankees Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees lines out to right field against the Boston Red Sox during the first inning in Game Three of the American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium on October 08, 2018 in the Bronx borough of New York City. Photo: Mike Stobe/Getty Images