This week we asked our writers:
Which 2021 Yankees player has impressed you the most this year?
Here are their answers:
Lincoln Mitchell – The player who has most surprised me, in a positive way, is Aaron Judge. Judge’s 12 home runs and 177 OPS+ demonstrate that he is having an excellent season, but we have long known that he can hit, so that does not qualify as a surprise. For me the most encouraging, and surprising, data point for Judge is that he has played in 44 games and come to bat 182 times. I expected Judge to have missed at least ten games and have spent at least one stint on the injured list by now. Judge’s health has surprised me. I just hope he can stay healthy for the rest of the season.
Chris O’Connor – While stars like Aaron Judge, Aroldis Chapman, and Gerrit Cole have been as advertised, I want to shout out Jonathan Loaisiga. With a 2.49 ERA underscoring fantastic peripherals out of the bullpen, has has quickly become one of Aaron Boone’s most trusted arms after Aroldis Chapman. Coming into the year, it appeared that the Yankees bullpen had thinned a little after the departures of Adam Ottavino and Tommy Kanhle, particularly after injuries to guys like Zack Britton, Darren O’Day, and Justin Wilson. Loaisiga has really stepped up and filled the void with his performance thus far and is a big reason that the Yankees have recovered so well since the 5-10 start. Honorable mentions go to the entire starting rotation and Gleyber Torres for his clutch performances and terrific defense after a poor start to the season.
Ed Botti – Entering the 2021 season, I was somewhat apprehensive and unenthusiastic about the prospects of Corey Kluber having any real significant contributions to the staff. Since not having pitched in almost 2 years, I was not overflowing with a lot of confidence in him. I was of the opinion that it would take him and Taillon about half the season to get their command back. Well, it is taking Taillon that much time, but Kluber has shattered any of those thoughts, at least up until this point. His command of all his pitches has been extremely impressive, and he seems to have his stamina back. I will admit when I am wrong, and I was wrong on Kluber. He is more than I would have anticipated.
Paul Semendinger – A few weeks ago, Gleyber Torres, following a disappointing 2020 season was overswinging during every at bat and playing poor and uninspired baseball. I was wondering if he was following the all-to-familiar trajectory of the hot-shot prospect who flames out. All seemed lost with no ability to change the bad direction this was heading…
But, in the intervening weeks, all has changed. He’s playing with heart, he’s found his old swing, and his defense has improved. Just watch the life on his throws from the hole or on a double play. Torres is playing with the energy and promise that made him a “can’t miss” prospect.
I couldn’t be more pleased. Torres is one of the young players that I hope the team is able to build around to be a force for many many many years.
Honorary Mention – Rougned Odor. Yes, he’s been in and out of the lineup. Yes, he’s hitting only .171. But he did bring some energy to a team that seemed flat. He’s performed better than I thought he would. Once he arrived the Yankees seemed to start winning. He doesn’t get all the credit for that, but he gets some… even if only a little.
Mike Whiteman – I’m going to tweak the question just a bit and answer “What 2021 Yankee has impressed you the most this year”. That would be Aaron Boone.
I choose Boone not because of any particular moves he made (and not all moves have worked out), but because of how he has conducted himself this season, especially during the depths of April. Losing in New York has eaten up many a manager and coach, but Boone did not appear to be rattled in the least even when it felt like the team would never get out of the funk. He reminded the press, fans and perhaps most importantly his players that this was a talented team and they would get through this. His team believed him, and he provided cover for them to recover and change the course of the season.
Let us not forget, this isn’t the first time Boone’s leadership skills were on display. His steady hand during the 2019 “Next Man Up” season was invaluable, and his players thrived under his calm style in what could have been a disaster of a season.