Well, the time has come once again. For the past few seasons, I have graded New York Yankees players based on performance. I then recommend to either take ’em or trash ’em. Former Yankees beat writers Wallace Matthews and Andrew Marchand had their own annual take ’em or trash ’em when they were with ESPN, they deserve the credit. When they left ESPN, it was no more. I always enjoyed it and missed it, so I decided to do it on The Titanium Spine.
This first installment of Take ’em or Trash ’em will cover position players. Without further adieu, let’s begin with the catchers.
Gary Sanchez – OOF. It’s been a long ways down since Sánchez made a splash back in 2016, when he hit 20 home runs in 53 second half games for the Yankees. This year, he averaged roughly one hit every seven at bats and his on base percentage (OBP) fell to a career-low .253. He did manage 10 home runs, but he just can’t hit. Coupled with his ongoing defensive problems, it doesn’t seem feasible to hang onto Gary when an established star like Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto will be available in free agency. That said, Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner gave Sánchez something of a vote of confidence when speaking to the media yesterday.
That may well be lip service. Yankees GM Brian Cashman addressed the media Wednesday afternoon at his season-ending press conference, and did not commit to Sánchez as the full time starting catcher in 2021.
My opinion? Trash ’em!
Kyle Higashioka – Higgy became a popular man with “#YankeesTwitter”, simply by being a reliable guy with his bat and behind the dish. After spending a chunk of August on the shelf with an oblique strain, Higashioka returned in September and played the bulk of games as their starting catcher. He cemented that status when he slugged three home runs in a 13-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium. However, his defense and game-calling made him popular with the pitching staff. Higgy became Gerrit Cole‘s personal catcher, or as Cole describes it, “I’m his personal pitcher”. It made a difference. With Gary Sánchez catching, Cole’s ERA was 3.91 after eight starts. With Higashioka behind the plate for seven starts (including the playoffs), it fell to 1.79. The ace of the Yankees staff is clearly more comfortable with Higgy, whom he was college teammates with at UCLA.
Luke Voit – In a season full of injury and instability, Voit was one of the few sure things the Yankees could count on day in and day out. The 29 year old slugging first basemen played 56 of the teams sixty games, and led the major leagues with 22 home runs. Voit’s OPS (on base plus slugging percentages) of 948 was second on the team, only behind D.J. LeMahieu, and he cut his strikeout rate from 33 percent to 25 percent. Luke also provided a steady glove at 1st base, all while dealing with a painful foot-injury often described as “foot stuff”. He did have a platelet rich plasma injection and will spend some time in a walking boot.
Mike Ford – This one hurts. When Ford hit a walk-off game winning home run off Oakland A’s closer Liam Hendriks in 2019, I thought he might have cemented himself a place on the Yankees roster going forward. Like Tyler Wade, I watched Ford play a good number of games at Triple-A Scranton and he had grown on me. As fate would have it, Luke Voit seized the Yankees 1st base job from him and hasn’t looked back. Ford hit a paltry .135 with only a pair of home runs, and went 0 for September in 22 plate appearances. Ford was sent to the Yankees alternative site in Scranton. One of the last memories of the Yankees postseason was manager Aaron Boone sending Ford to the plate to pinch hit for Kyle Higashioka late in Game 5 of the ALDS. The reactions were as you would expect.
I hate saying it because Ford is such a good guy, but Trash him.
D.J. LeMahieu – There aren’t enough superlatives to properly describe how much LeMachine means to this team. Simply put, the 2nd baseman is the Yankees heartbeat. When D.J. missed nine games due to a left hand injury, they went 2-7 in those games. The Yankees went 30-20 in games D.J. played and 3-7 when he didn’t. He led Major League Baseball in hitting with a .364 average and 1.011 OPS. The Machine gets on base 42 percent of the time, a true catalyst. He’s going to command a large salary this winter as a free agent, and the Yankees can’t afford to let him walk away. Oh, and he can play anywhere in the infield except shortstop.
Tyler Wade – I’ll admit I always had high hopes for Wade, having watched him play a lot when he was with the Yankees Triple-A club, the Scranton Wilkes Barre RailRiders. It goes to show the talent in the minors doesn’t always translate to the big leagues. T-Wade hit a lethargic .170 in his limited at bats, which made him about as popular as a case of the clap. That said, Tyler is still a solid defensive replacement in the infield and can steal bases as a pinch-runner. I suppose there still is value in that, plus he’s still only 25 years old.
Take him (if you don’t have to rely on him every day)
Gleyber Torres – Gleyber had a very uneven, up and down 2020 season for the Yankees. After whacking 38 home runs in 2019, the number fell to three. In a normal full season, that would probably equate to 10-12. Torres’s average fell from .278 to .243 and the OPS from .871 to .724. In the field, Gleyber made nine errors in 40 games at shortstop. It was a painful season to be sure, but he did rebound in the playoffs and absolutely raked. Ten hits in 23 at bats, a pair of home runs, 5 RBI and a 1.262 OPS. And still, Torres is 4-5 years from even entering his prime. He will be ok, just keep working on defense.
Gio Urshela – Gio picked up where he left off last season, providing excellent defense at third base (only one error) and reliable offense. Urshela really took off in September, raking to the tune of a .390 average with a 13 game hitting streak. The power numbers dipped, likely due to painful bone spurs in his throwing elbow. Gio will not require surgery at this time, as noted in the tweet above in Luke Voit’s paragraph.
Miguel Andujar – When Andújar went down with a shoulder injury early in 2019, Urshela took over and Miguel has been unable to wrestle the third base job since. Miggy made the Yankees 28 man roster at the beginning of the season in late July, but his playing time was sparse. In order to keep him in playing shape, Andújar was optioned to Scranton to play every day in daily simulated games. His agent wasn’t happy about that.
When Urshela went on the injured list in September, Andújar was recalled and gave the Yankees offense a shot in the arm. He went 11-31 in nine games (eight of them starts) for a .355 average and .975 OPS in that span. When he gets regular at bats, Miguel has proven he can hit. Still, defense is an ongoing issue with Miguel. In six games at third base, he made three errors and made another in left field where he looked uncomfortable. With Gio Urshela firmly entrenched at third and nowhere to play, I believe the Yankees would be best served to seek to trade Andújar for more pitching help.
Brett Gardner – Gardy has been a mainstay in the Yankees outfield since his arrival in 2008. He’s the last remaining holdover from the 2009 World Series winning team. Brett hit a personal best 28 home runs and drove in a career high 74 RBI in 2019. Unfortunately, time is catching up with Gardy, now 37 years old. His average dipped to a career-low .223, his worst as a full time player. Gardner’s bat speed has slowed after six thousand plate appearances. Gardy said he still wants to play in 2021, and would be a good fit as a reserve outfielder and defensive replacement. That said, I don’t think he fits as a productive every day player anymore. The offensive stats back that up. However, his speed in the outfield and glove still play. And his hitting could easily rebound if not subjected to the rigors of playing every day.
Take him – only as a back up.
Clint Frazier – Frazier came to the Yankees back in 2016 when Brian Cashman traded then-closer Andrew Miller to Cleveland in a trade-deadline deal. After a series of ups and downs, Frazier is now healthy from post-concussion symptoms and showing why the Yankees were and are excited about his future. “Red Thunder” provided thunder with his lightning-quick bat speed when he was recalled from Scranton in mid-August. In his first four games, Frazier went 8-15 with a pair of homers and five extra-base hits. Before hitting a 1-20 skid to end the 2020 regular season, Clint was hitting .306 with a 1.017 OPS. Frazier finished at .267 with 8 HR, 26 RBI and an OPS of .905. I believe he’s earned a shot at the left field job full time. He’s paid his dues.
Aaron Hicks – I can best describe Aaron Hicks as a case in frustration. One category he improved in is staying healthy and on the field. Hicks also improved his walk rate. Everything else offensively is in decline, at a time when most athletes are in their prime. Hicks’s average, slugging percentage and OPS are in decline since 2017. Aaron made only two errors, but he made a few misplays in center field that shouldn’t have happened. At times, he looked disinterested. No worries, though. He’s under contract through 2025 at the minimum, when he will be 36 years old. It’s not a bank-breaking annual salary (in relative terms, at least), but still a long time to be tied to a player who has regressed when he should be improving. This was NOT one of Brian Cashman’s best signings.
I would love to trash him, but doubt he’s going anywhere.
Giancarlo Stanton – Stanton started off the season hot, whacking a pair of home runs in Washington against the Nationals. After five games, Giancarlo had eight hits in 16 at bats, with 6 RBI. Unfortunately, bad luck struck once again and Stanton missed five weeks with a bad hamstring. After he came back in mid-September, he went 7-35 (.200) in nine games with one home run. But Stanton was there when the Yankees needed him in the postseason. In seven playoff games, he went 8-26 (.308) with 6 HR’s and 13 RBI, and showed truly fun Stanton is to watch when locked-in.
In Cashman’s post-mortem presser this afternoon, he indicated Stanton will be primarily a DH going forward.
He’ll here through the 2028 season. Try the veal. Take him.
Mike Tauchman – After emerging as an excellent left handed option in the Yankees outfield in 2019, Tauchman had an equally uninspiring 2020 campaign. He finished at .242 with no home-runs and 14 RBI. After a three game series sweep at home against the Red Sox, Tauchman had six hits in 12 at bats. After that, he promptly fell off the face of the earth. From August 17 through season’s end, Mike had eight hits in 65 plate appearances for a .151 average and .462 OPS. Like Tyler Wade, Tauchman is a defensive replacement and pinch runner, and can’t be counted on for production as an everyday player. The sentimentalist in me would take Brett Gardner over Tauchman.
Take him (strictly as a reserve/defensive replacement).
Aaron Judge – Let me start by saying I love Aaron Judge. I really do. The broken hand he suffered from an errant inside pitch from Jakob Junis in 2018 wasn’t his fault. He pulled an oblique on April 20, 2019, the day after my son and I were lucky enough to watch him play from the Judge’s Chambers at Yankee Stadium. He fractured his rib in September 2019 on a diving play in the outfield that wasn’t officially diagnosed until March. The extra time from the season being delayed gave Judge more time to heal.
When the season started in late July, Judge hit the ground running. After 18 games, Judge hit .292 and slugged 9 HR’s with 20 RBI. Then he pulled his right calf. The injury bug nailed him less than three weeks into the season. After missing nine games over 15 days (thanks to an unscheduled COVID break), Judge returned for three at bats against the Baltimore Orioles in the second game of a doubleheader. He was removed in the sixth inning after reaggravating the calf, missing 21 more games as a result.
Judge returned for the team’s final ten games, but he looked out of sorts. He had no home runs, two RBI and only seven hits in 36 at bats. In the postseason, Judge didn’t look much better, with four hits in 35 plate appearances (.133 average). At least he hit the ball a long way when he DID make contact, sending three of them over the fence.
Bottom line, Judge has to find a way to stay on the field. People with large bodies like his are more prone to injury. But he’s not doing the Yankees any help in the dugout (the same can be said for Stanton). Judge is better off as a DH but Cashman said Stanton is a DH going forward. It’s a conundrum, but I think Judge and Stanton should split their time in RF and DH to help preserve both of them.
Anyway, Take him.
Thanks for reading my “Take ’em or Trash ’em”, next time we’ll take a look at Yankees pitchers.