When a team is without two starting outfielders, one of them being their franchise player, its catcher, shortstop, replacement shortstop, designated hitter/fourth outfielder, ace, and a stellar backend reliever, you’d think their playoff aspirations would be shot. Then there’s the New York Yankees, who are making no excuses and are a model of resiliency.
Right now, Yankees manager Aaron Boone has been running his team without the likes of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Didi Gregorius, Aaron Hicks, Troy Tulowitzki, Luis Severino, and Dellin Betances. At one point, he was without Gary Sanchez and, until Saturday afternoon, Miguel Andujar. Last week left-hander James Paxton was placed on the injured list, and Greg Bird hasn’t played in nearly a month. Throughout it all the Yankees are 21-14. How in the world is this possible?
Judge and Stanton are two of the most dangerous hitters in Major League Baseball; Hicks is a great defensive outfielder and a power hitter; Severino is their ace; Andujar was the 2018 American League Rookie of the Year runner-up; Betances is a filthy late-inning reliever. Now Paxton is out, and their starting rotation is deprived of arguably its two best arms. Incredibly enough, the Yankees have gotten bang for the buck production and internal growth from several players. Infielder Gio Urshela epitomizes the Yankees season to this point.
Once a Cleveland Indians castoff, Urshela has been a vital component to the Yankees holding down the fort. He’s getting on base, hitting an impressive .360, pushing runners across the basepaths, and playing great defense at the hot corner. Another player whose presence has been irreplaceable is first baseman Luke Voit. He has blasted 10 home runs, driven in 29 runs, and is a threat to go yard whenever he steps foot in the batter’s box; he has proven his late-2018 success was no fluke.Despite the number of injuries the @Yankees have suffered in early 2019, the team has not slowed down. As @RPStratakos writes, they are of a resiliency.Click To Tweet
A pair of infielders have been just as vital: Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu. After a splendid rookie season at the plate, Torres has shown some improvements in the field, as he’s fielding grounders at his natural position (shortstop) with more poise; he has also driven in 16 runs. On the other hand, LeMahieu was expected to be a reserve at the outset of spring training, but given the multitude of injuries, he has been starting nearly every game. The 2016 National League batting champion is hitting .330, has driven in 18 runs, and has been his Gold Glove self in the field.
There’s also outfielder Clint Frazier, whose days with the Yankees appeared numbered in the offseason. Granted he missed some time due to injury as well, he has been extremely dangerous at the plate when healthy, hitting .303 while totaling six home runs and 17 RBIs. Frazier is getting on base and appears to be finding himself at the plate — which gives the Yankees some tough decisions to make down the road. Heck, Cameron Maybin is hitting .360 and making great plays in the outfield.
It has been the same story with their starting rotation.
Sure, J.A. Happ has been shaky and is surrendering home runs at a high rate, but outside of the left-hander, the Yankees have held their own on the hill. Masahiro Tanaka is off to a respectable start, as he currently owns a 3.77 ERA; C.C. Sabathia has been his efficient self in the five starts he has made; Domingo German has been pitching deep into games and is coming into his own as a reliable starter every fifth day; before suffering a knee injury, Paxton was pitching some of the best baseball of his career.
Now, has the Yankees high-profile bullpen experienced some blunders and failed to close out, or keep them in games? Yes, but if your team’s biggest problem is the bullpen, which features several proven commodities such as Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, and Adam Ottavino, when you’ve been depleted by injuries, you take it.
This is a team made up of players who are either getting their first crack at consistent playing time at the MLB level, trying to revive their careers, or looking to keep a roster spot. There’s not a team in baseball with this amount of prominent players out due to injury, yet getting viable and reliable production from their replacements, outside of the Yankees.
The Yankees also haven’t made any panic moves, whether it be spending big money on a current free agent, or taking away from their minor-league depth to acquire a temporary replacement. They’ve stuck with their guns and are finding ways to win games as they wait for some of their prominent players to get healthy. They don’t do anything special. It’s a team that has become a home run savvy unit, yes, but they’ve transformed themselves into a small-ball team who grinds out runs and at-bats at the plate and on the rubber. Concurrently, they’re leaning on identity veterans such as Sabathia and Brett Gardner.
Now, the Yankees will have their hands full with the AL East as the season goes on. The Tampa Bay Rays have arguably the best pitching staff in baseball, a rising lineup, and have played their way into first place with Matt Duffy and Joey Wendle combining for just 22 at-bats. Meanwhile, regardless of their bullpen’s deficiencies, the Boston Red Sox have an electric lineup, a reliable starting rotation, and are the defending World Series champions. With that said, the Yankees swept a two-game series with the Red Sox and are 4-2 against the Baltimore Orioles. Outside of the division, they’re fresh off taking two out of three games from the Minnesota Twins, who went into the series with the best record in the sport.
The Yankees won’t make it to the World Series and likely won’t win their division given how this roster could run out of gas, as currently constructed. But once the Yankees are at full strength, or close to it, they’ll get back to posing the pennant threat the baseball world expected in spring training. If anything, injuries have given the Yankees the chance to show off their depth.
What the Yankees are doing without several crucial players is captivating, regardless of how the 2019 season ends.