We are two months into the 2017 season, and the New York Yankees are sitting atop the A.L. East with a 32-22 record. As the season began, many fans (including this writer) had tempered optimism, figuring this season as a likely season of transition as the team gradually becomes younger.
Only someone forgot to tell the players this. After a 1-4 start, the “Baby Bombers” proceeded to set the league ablaze. The team scored 11 runs or more in the span of a week, including a thrilling comeback against the Baltimore Orioles on April 28 when Matt Holliday hit a walk-off 3-run homer to beat the O’s, 14-11.
Periodically, I’ll be evaluating the team and giving readers a report-card, of sorts. I’ll give a summary of their stats, and break down what has went right, as well as what may have gone wrong. The objective is to give a fair assessment. This time, we will cover the position-players. Next time, we’ll cover pitching.
Gary Sanchez – (.267, 6 HR, 15 RBI) “El Gary” missed time from mid-late April into early May with a right biceps strain, but has begun to get his home-run stroke back in shape. He hit two homers on June 1 in Toronto, of which both were his trademark line-drive bullets. Sanchez has only thrown-out 3 of 13 would-be base-stealers, but the majority of steals came with pitchers with slower deliveries. Gary is very good at calling a game and handling his pitchers. To me, that’s the most important part of his game.
Austin Romine – (.230, 2 HR, 10 RBI) Every team needs an Austin Romine on their roster. Romine has always been a catcher you can plug-in and play and not have to worry. While he won’t provide the power Sanchez has, Romine is still a serviceable hitter. Most importantly, he will give excellent defense behind the plate and handle his pitchers. Austin calls a good game and can step into the lineup and play well, as he did when Sanchez missed a couple weeks with injury.
Greg Bird – (.100, 1 HR, 3 RBI) Greg Bird bruised his right ankle in spring training and it never seemed to improve through the month of April. The injury obviously hampered him, especially at the plate. Mercifully, Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman shut him down and DL’ed him to let Bird’s ankle heal. He should be returning in the next couple weeks.
Chris Carter – (.180, 4 HR, 14 RBI) Carter may be the most vilified Yankees player since Stephen Drew, if you follow along on Twitter during the games. As many expected, when Carter is at bat, the breezes created by all his swings and misses could rival Carrier as a leader in air-conditioner manufacturing. He strikes out 43% of the time (48 K’s in 111 AB) and is adept at killing rallies. Thankfully, the team can afford to bat him eighth or ninth while Bird finishes rehab. In fairness, Carter is quite good at scooping bad throws out of the dirt, saving errors and potential runs.
Starlin Castro – (.315, 9 HR, 31 RBI) – Castro started hot right out of the gate in ’17, hitting .352 for the month of April. He had 10 games of two or more hits in April and 11 more in May. His emergence has been reason for Yankees brass to have top prospect Gleyber Torres playing third base in AA Trenton and now AAA Scranton. From time to time, Castro will boot a ball at his second-base post, but his defense is worlds better than his early days with the Chicago Cubs.
Didi Gregorius (.308, 4 HR, 20 RBI) Didi missed the first twenty games of the season while recovering from a shoulder injury sustained in the World Baseball Classic. Upon his return, Gregorius started off hot, with seven hits in his first 15 at bats over three games. As of this writing, he has only one error in 32 games, which is a far cry from his early days in Pinstripes. Gregorius has displayed his cannon of an arm, easing any worries whether his shoulder is healthy.
Chase Headley – (.228, 3 HR, 23 RBI) Hoo boy. It seems hard to believe only six years ago Headley hit 31 HR’s and drove in 115 with the Padres, but it’s been all downhill from there. Strikeouts have always been a part of his game, but it’s easier to tolerate a 25% K rate when there is production. On the defensive side, Headley can make diving stops to his right and left that evoke memories of Graig Nettles. The problem is he has to make the throw to first base, which is usually an adventure. As of this writing, Chase has committed nine errors to the tune of a career-low .931 fielding-percentage. It’s not hard to imagine the possibility of a trade by the July 31st deadline with Gleyber Torres manning the hot corner in AAA Scranton.
Ronald Torreyes – (.284, 1 HR, 14 RBI) “Toe”, as manager Joe Girardi calls Torreyes, has been a reliable utility man since coming to the Bronx last season. He’s the kind of guy you can plug in to second, third or shortstop and not have to worry. On defense, Torreyes has 4 errors across 107 career games in Pinstripes, and a fielding percentage of .984.
Rob Refsnyder – (2 for 16, 0 HR, 0 RBI) Refsnyder has spent essentially the ’17 season in Scranton, and has only played sparingly the couple times he has been recalled due to injury. However, it seems manager Joe Girardi is giving preference to “Ref” at 1st base over Chris Carter while Greg Bird finishes his rehab. That said, he needs to hit better than 2 for 16 to keep getting regular at bats.
Brett Gardner – (.269, 12 HR, 26 RBI) Gardy has apparently been eating his Wheaties. As of this writing, he has 12 home-runs, after hitting seven all of last season. Gardner’s career high is 17 homers in 2014. At this pace, that will be shattered by the All Star Break. This display of power hasn’t caused any downturn in batting average. In fact, his .269 average is five points above his career average. His slugging percentage (.518) is over 150 points higher from 2016 (.362). In the field, Gardy provides Gold Glove defense and isn’t afraid to sacrifice his body to make a play.
Jacoby Ellsbury – (.281, 4 HR, 14 RBI) Jacoby was off to a very productive start to the season when he made a great running catch off the bat of Alcides Escobar on the first pitch of the game against the Royals on May 24. His head immediately hit the wall, shaking him up. He finished the inning, but left the game at the top of the 2nd inning. After a series of tests, Ellsbury was diagnosed with a concussion and was placed on the 7-day disabled list. He was supposed to take batting practice in Toronto on June 2, but his headaches returned and was subsequently shut down. With concussions being what they are, let’s hope these symptoms go away soon for the sake of his well-being.
Aaron Hicks – (.321, 8 HR, 31 RBI) Aaron Hicks is showing the potential the Yankees were looking for when they traded for him in November 2015. He has upped his game defensively, as of this writing, he has yet to make an error. On the offensive side, Hicks has taken things to the next level. Over the past two weeks, he is 16-41, including a game against the Blue Jays on June 1 where he went 4-5 and drove in six runs. He’s also getting on base to the tune of .432 and his OPS is 1.009. Impressive.
Aaron Judge – (.324, 18 HR, 41 RBI) I don’t think anyone figured Aaron Judge would be putting up these numbers quite this soon. His homers are rarely ever cheapies and even his at-bats that AREN’T home-runs often result in balls that are scalded. Most impressively, Judge is third in the American League in pitches per plate appearance at 4.38. That’s unheard of for someone with his level of playing experience. Oh, and his defense has been pretty darn good, too (2 errors in 50 games). You must be doing something right to get your own cheering section names after you.
Matt Holliday – (.271, 12 HR, 37 RBI) The Yankees brought Holliday in to give the lineup another veteran presence who can drive in runs, as well as help mentor the young kids who are emerging. Holliday started off hot, going 8-22 to begin the season, and his production has been pretty steady. When needed, he can play first base and left field and won’t embarrass himself, but he’s here primarily to hit. He’s going to strike out a lot, but he won’t strike out at Chris Carter-type levels, but that’s what happens with most power hitters.
With Brett Gardner showing more power, he and Holliday have been having fun with a little “home run competition”.
Between the All Star break and July 31 trade-deadline, we will reassess and do this all over again.
NEXT: Yankees Report-Card: Pitchers
See ya next time!