The Tuesday Discussion: Better and Worse
January 31, 2023
This week we asked our writers to respond to the following:
Name one Yankee who will be noticeably better in 2023 and one who will be noticeably worse.
Here are their replies:
Lincoln Mitchell - This feels a little like a trick question. The easy answer to the second part of the question is Aaron Judge. Judge had such a great 2022 season that he will almost certainly be noticeably worse in 2023. He could hit .280 with 45 home runs and 7 WAR, be an MVP candidate and still be substantially worse than he was in 2022. Other than Judge, there are few non-pitchers who I expect to be worse in 2023 than they were in 2022 mostly because the Yankees, other than Judge, did not have a lot of good hitters last year. The other candidate to be worse is Nestor Cortes. I like Cortes a lot, but I could see him becoming a solid 3-4 starter, rather than the ace he was in 2022. One of my major concerns about this year’s Yankees team is that I don’t see many players with potential for improvement. If LeMahieu and Severino are healthy they will be bigger contributors. The rest of the team is either old or not that good. Gerrit Cole had an excellent year last year, but it is unlikely he will get significantly better this year. Giancarlo Stanton had an off-year, but I have no exception of him being both healthy and good again for a full season. Similar things can be said about many players on the team.
Paul Semendinger - The easy answers are that Aaron Judge won't hit 62 homers and Gerrit Cole won't set a single-season strikeout record, but, let me come up with something a little more original.
BETTER - Josh Donaldson. From 2013 through 2021, his OPS+ was always above league average. In that time, his average OPS+ was 139. The lowest it ever was came in 2019 when it was 119. Last year his OPS+ was only 94. Donaldson is getting older, but I can see him having a bounce back season in 2023.
WORSE - I love Nestor Cortes, but I think he's over-performed for a long while now. I see him becoming a league-average pitcher in 2023. I hope he stays amazing, I just don't think he is as good as his results have been.
Ethan Semendinger - The 2023 Yankees as they are constructed are going to require a lot of guys who were able to fly under the radar with having just okay seasons to really impress if they want to go far. Obviously, Aaron Judge won't replicate his once-in-a-decade type season, so here are two other picks:
For Better: Anthony Rizzo. Now back on another deal with the New York Yankees through the next two seasons (and maybe 2025 as well), I expect Rizzo to improve with his new deal in hand. Reason being: there is no major shift anymore. Teams will adapt to the new rules and pull hitters will still need to adapt their swing to the game, but as an overall profile, I think Rizzo will be leaps and bounds better than the .224/.338/.480 hitter he was in 2022.
Or For Worse: Jose Trevino. While he's going to maintain his status as one of the great framers behind the plate next season, I don't have a lot of faith that Trevino's bat is going to hold up well. He faltered a lot after the All-Star game last season. I could very well see there being talks about him losing his starting job to Kyle Higashioka if Higgy's bat lights up again in 2023.
Mike Whiteman - I think Gerrit Cole will improve over his 2022 performance and take home the Cy Young award.
Jose Trevino held his own throughout the 2022 season but faded with the summer heat. I think he will struggle at the plate throughout 2023, creating more time for Kyle Higashioka, who I think will be the second-most improved Yankee this upcoming season.
Tim Kabel - I believe Clarke Schmidt will be noticeably better and Aaron Hicks will continue his decline.
Andy Singer - On a certain level, the answer to this question is really the key to the Yankees' season. A better year from just one or two players in the everyday lineup (as currently constructed) means a far more dangerous top-to-bottom lineup than what Yankee fans saw against the Astros in the playoffs. Frankly, modest bounce-backs for a couple of players are exceedingly likely if only due to (hopefully) playing a full season healthy. But predicting injury bounce-backs aren't really the point of this exercise, are they?!?
For that reason, you won't see me extoll the virtues of Harrison Bader, though I do believe there is far more potential with the bat there than many observers have credited (for the record, I'm predicting a 120 wRC+ out of Harrison Bader this year). So, now that I've blathered on, let's get to it:
For Better: My answer will surprise many - Gleyber Torres. As compared to the previous two seasons, Torres' 2022 season was already a bounce-back: 114 OPS+, 115 wRC+, 4.1 bWAR, 2.7 fWAR. He showed pop that had all but disappeared in 2021 and 2022, played at least average-ish defense at 2B, and should have at least given people hope that the tools that made him one of the most exciting middle infield prospects in baseball remained. Gleyber had to unlearn some really bad habits at the plate, so I view 2022 as 'Year 1' of his offensive reset. Torres' batted ball metrics indicate that his average exit velocities, max exit velocities, hard hit rates, and barrel rates are all well above-average (on the 20-80 scale, the metrics place his raw power somewhere around 60, far more than expected of him as a prospect). What flew under the radar in 2020 and 2021 was that Torres actually made significantly better swing decisions in those years; he just wasn't doing anything with pitches to hit. Torres regressed in that department in 2022. I think he is capable of combining the swing decisions he made in 2020/2021 with the reappearance of pop he showed in 2022. That combination would make Torres an All-Star, and that's what I predict for him in 2023.
For Worse: It really pains me to say this, because I love the way he plays the game, but Jose Trevino will regress significantly in 2023. He's the best pitch framer in the game and he helps bring out the best of pitchers on the mound, and those skills have significant value (at least in 2023), but the Trevino you saw at the plate in the 2nd half of 2022 is sadly here to stay. Unless the Yankees can find a bat elsewhere in the lineup, I have a sinking feeling that Trevino is going to lose playing time later in the year, because his spot in the lineup is going to be really bad.