5 Stray Thoughts on the 2023 Yankees
by EJ Fagan
July 3, 2023
NOTE: The following comes from EJ Fagan's substack page and is shared with permission.
Please check out EJ's substack page for more great articles.
One thing that I’ve struggled with since starting my Substack is how to cover little things about the Yankees. Some points are interesting, but aren’t big or important enough to justify muddling up your inbox. If this format works (shamelessly stolen from Slow Boring), I might do it regularly.
Here are some stray thoughts about the 2023 Yankees:
The most surprising perfect game ever?
After the game, Higashioka remarked that he always thought German had a chance to do something like throw a perfect game. That makes a lot of sense - when German is on, he’s economical as hell. He’d definitely be my Yankee pick to throw a Maddux. But when you look at the list of recent perfect game throwers, German really stands out as the least talented: Felix Hernandez (2012), Matt Cain (2012), Philip Humber (2012), Roy Halladay (2010), Dallas Braden (2010), Mark Buerhle (2009), Randy Johnson (2004), David Cone (1999), David Wells (1998). Humber is the only player who stands out as a not great player, but for whatever reason perfect games were common between 2009 and 2012. Add in German’s suspension and off field history and I think his perfect game is one of the biggest anomalies in MLB history.
I’m sure that I’ll be sick of hearing about the perfect game a few years from now, but for the time being, damn this was fun.
Everson Peirera is a dark horse for the playoff roster Anthony Volpe has graduated, and Oswald Peraza is almost at the rookie threshold. I think we all expected Jasson Dominguez to be the next #1 prospect in the system, but he’s hitting below .200 in Double-A. The Yankees would kill for a young outfielder to solve their biggest deficiency, but it turns out their best shot in the near time might be Everson Pereira. He’s right on the cusp of a promotion to Triple-A, hitting .286/.356/.547 with a 29% strikeout rate, including a ridiculous .422/.447/.800 against left-handed pitching. He’s one of the youngest players at Double-A, with only three plate appearances against pitchers younger than him. Pereira would probably be at Triple-A right now if he didn’t miss a month to a mystery injury, but has now hit 3 home runs in his first five games back. Given that he is on the 40-man roster, it wouldn’t take much to call him up. Other than Peraza, I think he’s your #1 prospect.
The Yankees have a catcher problem After an incredible 2022 season, Jose Trevino has turned back into the player who the Yankees were able to acquire for some prospect named Robby Ahlstrom. He’s having the worst hitting season of his career at .213/.255/.305, while the new base running rules have exposed his weak arm. Simultaneously, Kyle Higashioka is having one of his worst seasons, hitting .214/.259/.341. I really hope that the Yankees find some reason to put one of them on the IL and test out Ben Rortvedt, who is hitting .301/.427/.521 at Triple-A. The Yankees are doing okay at the position thanks to strong defense, but Rortvedt could be a huge upgrade.
Is IKF good now? Isiah Kiner-Falefa is quietly hitting really well. He’s hitting .260/.307/.387 on the season, .285/.331/.463 since May 1st. Statcast rates him in an average centerfielder. He seems to be living up to his aspiration to be the best bench player in baseball. When the Yankees are finally healthy, IKF could be a huge asset. Now just let the man play catcher for one inning.
Maybe the aging curve is getting steeper. LeMahieu, Donaldson and Stanton are all having career-worst seasons. Anthony Rizzo has been just okay. Looking around the league, there seems to be fewer hitters in their mid-to-late 30s than ever. Baseball used to have a pretty gentle aging curve, as elite hitters gained in wisdom and pattern recognition as they lost physical ability. It may be the case that pitchers have gotten so good that older hitters just can’t keep up. That’s an ominous conclusion given the length left on Stanton and LeMahieu’s contracts, but also a good reason to call up Oswald Peraza sooner rather than later.