Surprises and Disappointments
Surprises and Disappointments
By Chris O’Connor
June 15, 2021
As we pass the 65th game mark in this season, the Yankees have certainly had an eventful year to date. Despite World Series expectations heading into the year, the Yankees sit at just 33-32 and have seen many of their players either regress, suffer injuries, or both. Still, there have been bright spots amid the dark. I wanted to take a look at four Yankees who have surprised with their play thus far and four who have disappointed. The standard is relative and based on preseason expectations. So, for example, while Gerrit Cole has been Cy-Young caliber, he is simply meeting his enormous expectations rather than really surprising.
Aaron Judge: The key number for Judge: he has played in 61 of the 65 games thus far. That Judge has mashed his way into MVP consideration is not a surprise, but the fact that he has stayed healthy and been a rare mainstay in the ever-evolving lineup has been huge for the team.
Jonathan Loaisiga: Loaisiga has developed into a key weapon out of the bullpen for the Yankees, going 5-2 with a 1.83 ERA thus far. Loaisiga has close to the opposite results of Jameson Taillon: he has struck out less hitters than ever (despite having the third-hardest average fastball velocity in the sport) while inducing more ground balls than ever. Under team control through 2024, I look forward to watching him continue to dominate in the bullpen for the next few years.
Domingo German: German has really just been solid all year. Having not pitched since 2019 (for reasons that were entirely his fault), it was difficult to know what to expect from German. He has become a key part of the rotation after Corey Kluber’s injury and Taillon’s struggles have put them in a hole. In 12 starts, he has thrown 65 innings and has a 3.88 ERA. Last start aside, getting that production from a guy who was just fighting for the number 5 spot in the rotation entering the season has been great.
Jordan Montgomery: Monty and German have remarkably similar production: Monty has given the Yankees 65.1 innings through 12 starts and has a 3.99 ERA. Nothing too flashy from a guy who was expected to be the number 4 starter, but just consistent and reliable production.
Clint Frazier: My personal biggest letdown candidate. Frazier finally seemed to be breaking out after a stellar 2020, but he has been one of the worst regulars in the entire sport. He has slashed a ghastly .185/301/.312 with awful defensive metrics that adds up to -0.9 fWAR through 54 games. It is no surprise that Miguel Andujar has become the primary starter in left field in recent weeks.
D.J. LeMahieu: I wrote in the offseason how D.J. was a prime regression candidate in 2021, but I did not see this coming. After back-to-back top 5 MVP finishes in 2019 and 2020, he has been below-average this year. His ground balls have stopped finding holes as his BABIP has dropped nearly 70 points, his strikeout rate has almost doubled, and his slugging percentage has fallen more than .250 points as his power has evaporated. Disappointing start in the first year of a 6 year, $90 million contract.
Aaron Hicks: It was not until Hicks suffered a long term injury that the lack of center field depth on the team became apparent Even before the wrist injury ended his season after 32 games, Hicks had struggled with a .194/.294/.333 slash line. His sprint speed has been declining for years to the point where he is now in the 49th percentile after being close to 70th in recent years, a troubling sign for an aging center fielder who has relied on defense for much of his value. With LeMahieu’s regression, Luis Severino’s injuries, and Hicks’ combination of both, the Yankees have really been burned thus far in committing a combined $200 million to the trio.
Jameson Taillon: The 29 year old has been just plain bad. Despite posting a career high strikeout rate, Taillon has a 5.74 ERA. The Yankees have predictably abandoned his sinker in favor of more four-seam fastballs, curveballs, and sliders in a (successful) attempt to get more strikeouts, but this has come at the expense of inducing less ground balls and more home runs. His peripherals look better than his ERA, so he probably is getting unlucky, but he has significantly underperformed thus far.