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My Grading of the New York Yankees At The All-Star Break

Grading the New York Yankees At The All-Star Break

by Owen Hetherington

July 15, 2021

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At this year’s All-Star break, the Yankees hold a disappointing 46-43 (.517) record and are 8.0 games back of the first place Boston Red Sox. The team has not lived up to expectations and are lucky to be above .500 this season. For the Yankees to even be in the conversation of playing baseball in October, the Bombers would need to have an explosive second half.Embed from Getty Images

With sloppy mistakes on the base paths, errors, poor pitching, and lifeless at-bats in big situations, the Yankees are just three games over .500 with 73 games remaining on the schedule. All season long, fans have heard coaches and front office executives in the Yankees organization repeat themselves saying, “The bats will come along. It’s early in the season. We’re going to keep fighting. This team will play to their potential. We know who we are”. But time and time again, fans have not seen changes being made within the organization, both on and off the field, to give the Yankees the spark they need.

Whether or not the Yankees will make any noise at the trade deadline, the current assembled team has faced much adversity this season with more lows than highs.

In this article, I’m going to grade the Yankees across various categories at the mid-point of the season.

Catcher

Gary Sanchez struggled at the beginning of the season to produce offensively, but turned things around at the plate, hitting .289 (24-for-83) with 7 doubles, 8 home runs, 19 RBI, 11 walks, and 15 runs scored in 24 games during the month of June. During the 24-game stretch, Sanchez ranked 1st on the Yankees in HR (8), SLG (.663), OPS (1.035), 2B (7), XBH (15) and TB (55).

Four of Sanchez’s last six home runs and seven of his 14HR this season have either tied the game or given the Yankees the lead. He has carried the load catching this season (58 starts) with Kyle Higashioka also starting in 30 games this season. As Gary has begun to heat up, we have seen the coaching staff relying on him more often than we had seen earlier in the season. If Sanchez can continue the route that he is on, both offensively and defensively behind the plate, expect the Yankees to have an impressive second half. When Sanchez is hitting the ball like his vintage self, the offense is fun to watch.

Grade: B-

First Base

If it wasn’t for DJ LeMahieu, first base might be the lowest grade out of any of the Yankees positions up to the All-Star break.

At the beginning of the season, it was hoped that Luke Voit would repeat what he did offensively during the shortened 60-game 2020 season, as he led all of baseball in home runs. Unfortunately, Voit began the season on the I.L. after getting surgery and was placed back on the 10-day I.L. on May 27 with an oblique injury. On June 22, Voit was activated and has been helping carry the offensive load since his arrival back with the team.

But, before Voit’s arrival, five other players (LeMahieu, Gittens, Bruce, Andujar, Ford) have made appearances at first this season. In 89 games between the six starting first basemen this season, Yankees’ first basemen are hitting .202 (68-for-337) with 21 XBH, 11 HR, and have struck out 98 times. Now that Voit is back, the first base role will not be as diverse as Voit settles back into the starting lineup.

Voit has reached base in 13 of his last 22 plate appearances over his last five games, batting .471/.591/.529 with two runs, 1 double, 4 RBI, 4 BB, and 1 HBP. In his last eight games, Voit has raised his batting average from .188 to .241.

For the Yankees to be successful in the second half of the season, Voit will need to continue producing offensively. The Yankees rely on Voit to come up big in late game situations and that’s exactly what I expect from Voit in the second half.

Grade: C/C+

Second Base

Yankees fans rejoiced this offseason as the organization resigned the reigning AL batting champion, DJ LeMahieu. After signing a six-year contract, LeMahieu is hitting just .270/.257/.425 with 36 RBI and 7 HR. Not exactly what Yankees’ fans were expecting after LeMahieu hit .336 in his first two seasons wearing pinstripes.

LeMahieu has picked things up offensively, he’s had a 26-game on-base streak. During those 26 games which began on June 10, LeMahieu has hit .315/.383/.472 (34-for-108) with 13R, 5 doubles, 4HR, 21RBI, 11BB and 1HP. The 26 games were also LeMahieu’s third-longest on-base streak of his career. Those are the numbers that Yankees fans will hope to see in the second half of the season.

Two other players that have seen time at second base this season are Tyler Wade and Rougned Odor, who the Yankees acquired on April 6th for two prospects. In 49 starts this season at second base, Odor and Wade are hitting a combined .215 (37-for-172) with 21 RBI, 24 R, 9 HR, 15 BB, and 51 SO. Aside from LeMahieu, Odor has been the only second basemen to provide any spark offensively. In his last nine games since June 23, Odor is hitting 360/.448/.640 (9-for-25) with 6R, 1 double, 2HR, 6RBI, 3BB and 1HP. Of his 36H as a Yankee, eight have either tied the game (two) or given the Yankees the lead (six).

With Voit back at first, DJ LeMahieu has found his home back at second base and will continue to start unless Voit needs an off-day. Wade and Odor will likely fill in when LeMahieu or Voit needs a day off and will need to be key pieces off the bench for the remainder of the season.

Grade: B+

Shortstop

Let’s face it, Gleyber Torres has been less than impressive this season.

If he’s not making errors in the infield, he’s not producing in big situations at the plate. After hitting 38 home runs in 2019 (144 G), Torres has hit only 6 between 2020 and 2021 (109 G). He is not making solid contact and is not posing as a threat at the plate as he did in recent years.

Gleyber is hitting .240/.326/.308 to start the season and has been mediocre in the field. Whether or not the Yankees will look to continue with Torres as the starting shortstop in future years has yet to be decided, but the question is worthy to note, nonetheless. Torres has reached base safely in 59-of-76 games played this season and will need to have a huge second half to make up for the first 89 games.

Grade: D

Third Base

Gio Urshela has been one of the Yankees most consistent hitters this season, batting .275/.315/.441 with 11 HR, 1 3B, 14 2B, 38 RBI, 30 R, 17 BB, and 78 SO. Over his last 19 games, Urshela is batting .315 (23-for-73) with 4 HR, 3 2B, 11 RBI, and 10 R since June 17.

Urshela’s glove at the hot corner has also been impressive this season. He continues to be reliable in the infield and give the Yankees a chance at making outs on difficult plays.

Batting .275 isn’t necessarily 2019’s mark of .314, or even last year’s .298, but Urshela continues grinding. He will need to continue to light it up offensively and continue his stellar defense to give the Yankees any shot at the postseason.

Grade: B+

Outfield/DH

Aaron Judge was just named to his third career All-Star team (also 2017-18 and is one of five position players drafted by the Yankees to make the All-Star team multiple times as a Yankee (also Thurman Munson, Don Mattingly, Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada). He has been the Yankees’ best hitter this season, batting .282/.388/.552 with 21 HR, 13 2B, 47 RBI, 51 R, and 46 BB.

In his last 15 games, Judge is hitting .300 (18-for-60) with 6 HR, 4 2B, 11 RBI, and 1 SB. He has 5HR in his last 12 games and 6HR in his last 15G. Judge has pulled his weight offensively and has not been an issue in the outfield.

Other than Judge, the rest of the outfield has not been impressive whatsoever.

Brett Gardner poses no threat at the plate and has declined in his later years; Clint Frazier is dealing with vision issues and has struggled to get started offensively and Aaron Hicks is out for the remainder of the year.

The Yankees will look to lean on newcomer, Tim Locastro, who was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday in exchange for RHP Keegan Curtis. He is a threat defensively with quick speed which will translate to the base paths as the Yankees will look for him to steal bases. He has appeared in games at all three outfield positions in his career, playing 65 games in center field, 55 games in left field and 40 games in right field. His versatility will provide much needed help to the Yankees in the second half of the season.

Giancarlo Stanton, when he is playing is mashing the ball. His 15HR and 42RBI are impressive.

Grade: B-

Starting Pitching

Starting pitching has been an issue on this team this season. In the first 89 games of the season, Yankees starters have gone a combined 24-26 in 461.2 IP with a 3.96 ERA. Aside from Gerrit Cole who erased his poor month of June by pitching a complete game shutout against the Astros on Sunday, the rest of the starters haven’t pulled their weight.

Corey Kluber will likely miss most of the remainder of the season, Jameson Taillon looks to have shaken off the dust, and both Jordan Montgomery and Domingo German have been streaky. With Luis Severino out until likely August, starting pitching will need to improve, but who can the Yankees turn to?

If the Yankees could make a trade at the deadline, it should be for another starter who can provide 6 innings and give the offense a chance to score runs. After Cole, there are no guarantees of what you’ll see from any of the other starting pitchers on the roster. For the Yankees to have any chance at playing in the playoffs, the overall starting pitching needs to improve.

Grade: D-

Bullpen

Everyone in the Yankees bullpen is being overtaxed because of the lack of distance from starting pitchers this season.

First, Aroldis Chapman has been extremely frustrating to watch in recent weeks. In those games, he has blown four of his last nine save opportunities after converting his first 11 saves of the season and has allowed 15R/14ER in his last 10 appearances after allowing just 1ER in his first 23 appearances of the season. I’m not too sure what has happened to Chapman, but his recent struggles have made him unreliable at this moment in big situations.

Next, Chad Green has been a positive light in the Yankees’ bullpen with seven of his eight relief appearances of at least 2.0 innings this season have been scoreless. In 46.2 IP this season, he has a 2.89 ERA with a 6.25 SO/BB ratio.

The other pitchers have been up and down. Johnny Loaisiga has been brilliant. Lucas Luetge has been a great surprise. Luis Cessa has stepped up well. The rest, though, it’s been a mixed bag.

Granted, injuries are a big reason behind many of the struggles. For example, Zack Britton missed time recovering from elbow surgery and wasn’t back long before straining his hamstring.

For the Yankees to have any hope in the second half, Brian Cashman will need to trade for a reliable bullpen arm.

Grade: C

Next:

It will be interesting to see where this team goes. I am looking forward to the trade deadline to see if the Yankees can get the pieces they need to make 2021 a season to remember!

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