Yankees 1st Half Report Card: Position Players

The first half of the season is over in Major League Baseball. Players not included in the All Star Game festivities are resting up, spending time with their families and taking a break in the middle of what is always a grueling season.

It’s also a time for fans to reflect on the first halves of their favorite teams and media to assess teams they cover.

With that, let’s break down the first half of 2017 for the New York Yankees. Today, we will grade position players. Next time, we will grade the pitchers. Let’s begin!

Catchers

Gary Sanchez – (.276, 13 HR, 40 RBI) Gary Sanchez, a 2017 All Star, has been a key part of the Yankees lineup. He’s not slugging to the beat of the ridiculous pace he put on in the 2nd half of 2016, but his .491 slugging percentage is very respectable. His defensive stats are a bit lacking in comparison to last year. Sanchez had three errors and six passed balls in his abbreviated 2016. In 2017, he already has nine errors and seven passed balls. He is throwing out close to the same amount of would-be base-stealers; in 2016, Gary gunned-down 13 of 19, in 2017 he’s nabbed 11 of 19.

Grade: B

Austin Romine – (.231, 2 HR, 17 RBI) Romine is a career backup who does a respectable job behind the plate on the occasions Gary Sanchez needs a breather and also can play 1st base in a pinch.

Grade: C


1st Base

Greg Bird – (.100, 1 HR, 3 RBI) 2017 was supposed to be the year of Greg Bird’s resurgence. Instead, it’s been a mess. He fouled a ball off his right ankle at the end of March, and started the season hoping his ankle would heal as he played. After 19 games, he won’t on the DL and hasn’t played since. Six days ago, a member of Yankees management questioned Bird’s desire to play. Stay tuned.

Grade: Incomplete

Chris Carter – (.201, 8 HR, 26 RBI) Oy. Chris Carter‘s time in the Bronx was a disaster, both with the bat and his glove. Brian Cashman pulled the plug on Carter for good, DFA’ing him for the 2nd (and last) time after the Yankees’ game on July 4th, and releasing him on July 11.

Grade: F (if there was a lower grade, I would give it)


2nd Base

Starlin Castro – (.313, 12 HR, 45 RBI) Castro began the season hitting like a man-possessed and carried an average hovering around the .350 mark three weeks into May, including a 9 game stretch from April 27-May 6 where he was a blistering 18-39 (.461). Since then, his average has slowly trended down until he went on the disabled list after pulling his hamstring on June 26. He’s scheduled to be activated from the DL for tomorrow’s game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway.

Grade: A-


3rd Base

Chase Headley – (.251, 4 HR, 36 RBI) Ever since Stephen Drew left, it seems Headley has become #YankeesTwitter’s favorite scapegoat, with the exception of Chris Carter in his short stay. In ’16, he cut his errors by more than half (10) compared with 2015 (23 errors). This season he already has eleven. In the batter’s box, Headley is striking out more frequently with each passing year. In ’15, he K’ed in 23% of his at bats. In ’16, it rose to 25%. So far this year, it’s 29%. Before Gleyber Torres went down with Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing elbow, there was talk of him taking over at third by the end of July. Now it seems Headley will continue on as the Yankees as the third baseman through at least the end of the season.

Grade: D+


Shortstop

Didi Gregorius – (.291, 10 HR, 38 RBI) Didi missed the first month of the season while he let his right shoulder heal after straining it in the WBC. Upon his return, he promptly recorded seven hits in his first fifteen at-bats. He never missed a beat. In mid-June, Gregorius’ average stood at .344. He’s tailed off in the last month, but his .291 average is still very good. In the field, Didi’s fielding has vastly improved. In his first two seasons, he recorded 28 errors between the two seasons. In 2017, he has two errors total, and he fields the ball cleanly 99.2% of the time, up from 97.5%. Each year, Didi gets better and better.

Grade: A


Utility Infielder

Ronald Torreyes – (.278, 2 HR, 20 RBI) – “Toe” has become a fan favorite, with his ability to play almost anywhere on the field and produce. Yankees manager Joe Girardi has plugged Torreyes in everywhere on the field except first base, catcher and CF. Torreyes has one error on the season, testimony to him being prepared to play almost anywhere. At bat, Ronnie hits well enough that there isn’t no real drop-off in production if he needs to fill in long-term, as he did when Didi and Starlin Castro were out with injuries.

Grade: B+


Outfielders

Brett Gardner – (.256, 15 HR, 40 RBI) Gardy started slow out of the gate in April, but raised his average gradually through the end of May, where his average stood at .280 on May 24. His average has dropped steadily since, as seems to happen with Gardner as the season wears on. It’s possible the beating he takes with his hard-nosed style of play takes it’s toll on his body, lowering his productivity as the season progresses. Fielding is never a problem with Brett. He has yet to make an error this season.

Grade: B

Jacoby Ellsbury – (.266, 4 HR, 17 RBI) Ellsbury’s season was off to a good start, hitting .281 through May 24, when he crashed into the wall making a running catch in a game against the Royals, sustaining a concussion. After missing a month, Ellsbury’s average dropped 15 points during the eleven games since his return (9 for 42). In the field, he is generally sure-handed and can run down most balls in the gaps.

Grade: B

Aaron Hicks – (.290, 10 HR, 37 RBI) Until his season was rudely disrupted by a strained oblique muscle, Aaron Hicks was busy making Yankees fans forget his forgettable 2016. In 200 at-bats, he has already out-produced most of his numbers from last season. His OBP is over 100 points higher and he’s taking as many walks as strikeouts, while his walk to K ratio was 1:2 in 2016. In the outfield, he can play anywhere with no drop-off in defense. Hopefully Hicks will return around the middle of August.

Grade: A

Aaron Judge – (.329, 30 HR, 66 RBI) Hey, this guy is pretty good! Needless to say, Aaron has opened eyes everywhere in the world of baseball with his mammoth home-runs and ability to hit every baseball with authority. Don’t overlook his defense, though. He’s made several great plays in the field this season, including the diving catch against the Blue Jays.

Grade: A+


Designated Hitter

Matt Holliday – (.262, 15 HR, 47 RBI) Holliday’s first season as the Yankees’ DH has been solid. Before going down with an illness later diagnosed as Epstein-Barr virus, known to cause Mononucleosis, he was producing as well as ever. His days in the field are most likely done, but Holliday’s bat still has plenty of pop. Along with Starlin Castro, plans are to have Holliday return for Friday’s game in Boston.

Grade: B

In the next entry, we will take a look at Yankees pitchers and their grades for the first half of the 2017 season.

See ya next time!

Charlie

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Yankees Report Card – Position Players

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.

Catchers:

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.

Grade: B

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.

Grade: C+

Infield:

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.

Grade: Incomplete

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.

Grade: D

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.

Grade: A-

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.

Grade: A-

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.

Grade: D+

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.

Grade: B

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.

Grade: Incomplete

Outfield:

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.

Grade: A-

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.

Grade: B

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.

Grade: A

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.

Grade: A+

Judges-Chambers-Yankees

Designated Hitter:

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”.

Grade: B+

 

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!

Charlie

Not a Good Night for MLB Umpires

Last night was not a banner night for MLB umpires. The ongoing abomination that is the Baltimore Orioles vs. Boston Red Sox series continued to provide more drama last night. In the bottom of the 2nd inning, Kevin Gausman hit Xander Bogaerts in the fanny with a 77 mph curveball and was quickly ejected by home-plate umpire Sam Holbrook.

I am not sure what Sam Holbrook was thinking, because he’s been an umpire for many years and he wasn’t made a crew-chief by accident. There’s no question him and his crew needed to be on “high alert” (as Holbrook claims) given the recent animosity between the two clubs, but ejecting Gausman without so much as a warning is absurd at best.

Unfortunately, there was more to come for umpire Holbrook. In the top of the 5th inning, Adam Jones was tossed out of the game for voicing his displeasure with a called strike on a high curveball from Boston starter Drew Pomeranz.

Given everything Jones endured during this series, I think Holbrook should have just let him have his say, and he was already walking back to the dugout when he ejected him. Holbrook should have just let it go, given the circumstances.

Meanwhile, shoddy umpiring wasn’t confined to Fenway Park last night. In the Bronx, home-plate umpire Bill Welke didn’t have his finest night. It wasn’t as rough a night as Sam Holbrook, but it’s enough to warrant mentioning.

Throughout the game, Welke’s strike-zone was inconsistent and roughly the size of a postage stamp. He heard from both New York Yankees players as well as the Toronto Blue Jays.

The normally very mild-mannered Brett Gardner took exception to a called strike by Welke and destroyed a dugout recycling bin after his 6th inning at-bat.

 

Yankees manager Joe Girardi got the boot for voicing his displeasure over Welke’s inconsistency. All in all, the evening of May 3rd, 2017 wasn’t the finest day in baseball history for MLB.