Perspectives – Being Right, Being Wrong Part 2 (The Players)
by Paul Semendinger
July 15, 2021
Dating back to last year and throughout the first half of the season, I have made observations, comments, and prognostications about many of the 2021 Yankees. The following is a summary of my observations about each player and my predications of each along with if I have been accurate to date. I’ll also share some thoughts, predications, or opinions on where each heads going forward.
Luke Voit: I’m not sold on Luke Voit. He’s been hurt a lot. I’d much rather have a solid lefty at first base. Voit has had some solid games and some duds. I think what we see is what we’ll get. He can lead the league in homers over a two-month stretch, but it’s not sustainable. That being said, I think he’s here to stay, the Yankees love his upside. He seems to be a good guy who the players like, but I don’t think he’s the answer at first base.
D.J. LeMahieu: I was spot on with D.J., but much more so in May when he hit .253 than in June when he hit .292. Still, he’s not, nor will he be again, the guy who hit .330. That never was his profile going forward. The D.J. the Yankees have is a quality ballplayer, a great player to plug at second base, first base, and third base. I think he’s a leader, a grinder, a great guy to have as a role player or as the second baseman – as long as the Yankees realize he’ll hit between .270 and .290 and be a 12-15 homer guy, with some years him hitting even less. The problem is the Yankees (and many of their fans) think he’s the player they signed for six years- the player he was in 2019 and 2020, and he’s not. He’s also clogging second base where the current shortstop should be.
Gleyber Torres: I didn’t want Gleyber Torres playing shortstop. I wanted him at second. He’s at the wrong spot because the Yankees doubled down on D.J. LeMahieu when they should have been moving Torres to second base and getting a shortstop. That being said, I still had confidence that Torres would hit. Instead, he’s fallen into the Yankees’ trap of swinging for the fences and coming up short far too often. He seems like a lost case on most nights – a plethora of potential unfulfilled. He’s Exhibit A on why the Yankees approach to exit velocity, launch angle, and such doesn’t work. They have set a super talented player backwards. Way backwards. This is shame. All of that being said, he’s the youngest of the young stars and with a new approach (a new manager and coaches?) maybe he can be fixed. If the team’s approach isn’t to be changed, he should be traded while he has value and upside.
Gio Urshela: There is only good to say about Gio Urshela. He had an injury that was taken care of over the winter and he’s come back being a core part of this team’s success. He hits more than enough and plays great defense. Outstanding defense. A few years ago he surprised us all, but now he’s a solid piece who is essential to the overall team. To me, he’s one of the rocks this team is now built on.
Brett Gardner: We all knew Gardy was old. No one expected that he would be an everyday player. I stated that if he was playing every day that there was a problem with the team. That is very true. Gardner has played way more than he should have. This will be, I suspect, his final season.
Clint Frazier: I had high hopes that this was finally Clint Frazier’s time to shine. It hasn’t been. At this point, I think it’s time for the Yankees to Frazier to find a new home. His injuries, all sad, along with the Yankees’ continually moving him up and down along with changing his swing on a nightly basis (or so it seems) has deprived him of success and taken away the potential he had. He is Exhibit B in regard to how the Yankees’ coaching/growth approach isn’t working. In 2016, the Yankees got two players with future superstar potential – Frazier and Gleyber Torres. They have not come close to meeting this upside. Now the Yankees must look at how they handled these two players, what they did, how they coached them, counseled them…everything – and learn from these mistakes. These could have been two core players. They actually, by now, should be core pieces, and yet, five years after the trades, they are huge question marks. To be blunt, this is unacceptable. Completely. It’s an organizational failure that must be addressed.
Aaron Judge: He has been healthy, strong, powerful, and great. I still wish he’d get more RBI’s that come outside of the home runs, but he’s been super terrific this year. I figured that he would spend much more time out of the lineup. I am VERY GLAD I was wrong on Aaron Judge thus far this year. VERY WRONG. That being said, I’m still not convinced the Yankees should give him a long term big money contract after next year. I think the risk is too great. I love Judge. He should be a core piece forever, but if the Yankees are too concerned about luxury tax hits, they cannot afford this luxury. If the luxury tax is a driving force in the Yankees’ organizational philosophy, then the Yankees have to act like a small market team and trade Aaron Judge. Otherwise, he’ll tie up too much of the cap space to allow them to be successful – especially considering their history with developing high quality young talent (see Torres, Gleyber and Frazier, Clint).
Giancarlo Stanton: He’s also been healthier than I figured. His numbers have been quite good. I wish he’d be put into the outfield. This DH only stuff bothers me. I do not think Stanton is that fragile. And if he is, that’s also a huge problem. But, he’s been better than I could have hoped. I’m glad he’s a Yankee, but with his resurgence, now would be the time to eat some of the contract (if necessary) and trade him to a contender.
Aaron Hicks: I have not been high on Hicks these last few years. I think he has peaked. I have also noted that he can’t stay healthy. He can’t. I like Hicks as a player because he plays solid defense, seems to be fundamentally sound, but he cannot stay in the lineup. The fact that he’s out for the season is no surprise to me. If I were the Yankees, I would not count on Hicks going forward.
Gary Sanchez: For all the talk about how Gary Sanchez is back, at the end of the day, he’s hitting just .217. He’s the best the Yankees have at catcher, so he has to stay, but I’m not enthused about his pattern of two good weeks followed by three or four poor ones. It’s a viscous cycle. He’s not as bad as the haters say, but neither is he as good as he seems during a hot streak. He’s been exactly what he has been these last few years, a very talented hitter, who has some amazing hot streaks. He has been better defensively, to my eye at least, than I would have predicted.
Jay Bruce: I had high hopes that maybe, just maybe, he’d be a 20-type homer guy, the needed lefty bat. Every fighter thinks he has one last great fight in him . Jay Bruce didn’t. Too bad.
Gerrit Cole: The ace has been an ace. I am high on Cole and well I should be. I was concerned about the sticky stuff and all of that, it seemed he knows how to win without it. Thank God. Cole should be a top starter this season, next season, and going forward. Not forever, of course, but for a few years at least.
Aroldis Chapman: The Cuban Missile began the year pitching better than anyone thought possible. Lately, he’s been worse than anyone could have imagined was possible. I think he is done. I think it’s time for the Yankees to once again trade him again mid-season only this time, I doubt he’ll return again. And he shouldn’t.
Jameson Taillon: I hoped he’d be good. I was cautiously optimistic. But, I didn’t know. We’ve seen a lot of pitchers come to the Yankees and just not do well. His last few starts give reasons to be optimistic.
Corey Kluber: I really liked this signing. I didn’t, necessarily, think he’d stay healthy all season, but I thought the Yankees would treat him with kid gloves and he’d be ready, strong, and able for the pennant push. His injury has hurt the team, but the Yankees shouldn’t have counted very much on him. It’s okay to take a flier on a reclamation project, but that project should not be counted on as a core piece. That’s one of the mistakes the Yankees made going into 2021.
Domingo German: Decidedly mediocre. I thought he would be exactly as he has been. He is a mediocre pitcher. I’m not a big fan. I won’t be. I was hoping he’d be trade bait and I still hope that.
Deivi Garcia: I thought he’d be starting and doing well by now. Instead he’s not doing well in the minors. Not good. I still have hopes, but maybe it’s not to be. He might be traded. I wouldn’t trade him as he has hit a low point, but seeing him in another uniform wouldn’t surprise me. Is this Exhibit C in the way the Yankees develop young talent? Garcia is way too young to write off. 2021 hasn’t been kind to him though.
Luis Severino: I have stated, many times, that the Yankees cannot count on this oft-injured pitcher. They also can’t assume that he’ll even be good when he returns. He hasn’t been good since 2018. I figured he’d get some innings this year as the Yankees look with hope to 2022. For Sevy, it might be that next year, 2022, becomes the year for him to build back better as the Yankees look, with hope, to 2023. Injuries often derail careers. I think, sadly, that’s what happened here. I wish it weren’t so.
Overall: The 2021 season has been a huge disappointment, but the problems the Yankees faced were ones many saw coming. This is the frustrating part – when fans see things clearly that the organization doesn’t, something is wrong. I do not see the Yankees, unless they go in big at the trade deadline, making a legitimate run this year. In fact, in some ways, I hope they do not as the window is closing fast (or has closed) on so many of these players. I don’t want a 2021 World Championship at the expense of poor seasons from 2022-2026. I’d rather see the Yankees right the ship now, and have a disappointing 2021 and growing hope in 2022-23 that leads them to the next golden era. Now is not the time to trade the future. The future is worth trading for this club. BUT, in order to guarantee a great future, the Yankees have to critically assess their philosophies that have not worked. I talk a lot about how the Yankees haven’t been in the World Series since 2009, but there’s a more telling stat – The Yankees have only one won World Series since 2001. For a team with this many resources, this wealthy, and with such a great history, this is unacceptable.