The Major League Baseball season was quickly out of the traps this year with the New York Yankees’ opening game coming as early as the 29th of March. Unfortunately, the team were not as quick getting started (neither was the weather, the 2nd of April home opener was snowed out) and the team looked decidedly average and lukewarm until the middle of April. After that things came together in a very exciting way.
Let’s see who the players pushing that momentum were. Batters up first:
|New York Yankees 2018 – Batting – Month – March – April|
With Kyle Higashioka back to struggling with the bat at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders, it is fortunate that the Yankees have had no injury concerns at this position but that is not to say there won’t have been some head-scratching about Gary Sanchez‘s performance – both defensively and offensively. He has struggled particularly with allowing passed balls and aside from hitting for power, he has only 5 singles. His times at the plate are improving as time has moved along and the Yankees will be looking for much more from him in May. Austin Romine is defensively much stronger and whilst he has little or no power, he has 11 singles and walks compared to Sanchez’s 12. Sanchez has 103 plate appearances over the period compared to Romine’s 33.
First base duties, in the absence of the injured Greg Bird, have been split between Tyler Austin and Neil Walker. In this period, Walker was marginally more used than Austin but it is Austin who has been more productive. Walker has also seen time as an occasional 2nd basemen whilst Austin’s remaining time saw him used as DH. Austin has looked the better player defensively and his figures are far superior to Walker in terms of getting on base and hitting for power.
With injury concerns paramount, Tyler Wade was a slightly surprising choice to be added to the Yankees infield out of Spring Training and for the first two-thirds of April was still the player seeing most time at second base. However, with his batting average slumping to a miserable .086, it was decided that it was time to turn to another rookie youngster in the form of 21 year-old highly thought of Gleyber Torres. Any suggestion that this might be a temporary measure was quickly removed as Torres hit .323 in his first 9 outings. He looks likely to be a long term fixture in this role. Ronald Torreyes is the ideal bench player. Whilst appearing in 8 games at second base, he also has seen time at third and shortstop and ironically it might be that versatility that keeps him on the bench. He leads the team in batting average through the first weeks and seems to be able to produce whenever the Yankees slot him into the lineup.
Even before the Yankees had needed to place new third base acquisition Brandon Drury on the disabled list (migraines and blurred vision), they had called up rookie, Miguel Andujar in time for their first home stand. Andujar has done extremely well at the plate. He gathered 12 doubles, 1 triple and 3 homers in April and batted .289. There is an argument that Drury may be the better defensive player but Andujar is learning and it will be interesting to see what happens with the pair as the season develops as it will be difficult for the Yankees to keep both of them on the 25-man roster.
Didi Gregorius was not available in April last year because of injury. This year he has shown the Yankees what they missed. He has been excellent defensively and exceeded all expectations at the plate. In this period, he has batted .327 (best amongst the everyday players), he has slugged .735 (best by a very wide margin), he has 24 runs and 32 hits (tied for first with Aaron Judge). He also hit 10 home runs which makes him the team leader over these weeks.
With Jacoby Ellsbury injured and out of favour, the outfield has been mostly a pick 3 from 4 mix of Aaron Judge, Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks and, new guy, Giancarlo Stanton. Hicks was placed on the disabled list shortly after the season started and has begun to settle back into the routine but it is too early to tell. Whilst he was absent, the Yankees attempted to fill-the-gap with Billy McKinney, Shane Robinson and, peculiarly, second baseman, Jace Peterson. None of these experiments lasted long – McKinney wound up on the disabled list, Robinson is no longer on the 40-man roster and Peterson is now developing his career with the Baltimore Orioles.
Of the regulars, Stanton took a long time to settle, finding himself booed at Yankee Stadium as he accumulated strikeouts. He has bounced back a little and will get back to something more like his old self. Brett Gardner’s .210 batting average with 4 extra base hits is also concerning. The only member of the outfield who is at the top of his game is Aaron Judge – the one you might have thought would have most difficulty living up to the burden of that rookie season. No such problems. .317, 6 doubles, 7 homers and still that rifle of an arm from the rightfield corner which settled the argument about whether it was Judge or Stanton who would be the first choice in right.
During the last seasons of Joe Girardi‘s management reign, he seemed to develop a clearer idea of using the same player in the DH role – that was at least until events showed that Matt Holliday‘s time had run out. Now again, we have a huge number of potential DHs with Giancarlo Stanton’s 12 appearances proving the high number amongst eight shares. The others have been Sanchez, Judge, Andujar, Austin, Robinson, Hicks and Walker. With the exception of Robinson, these were all players being rotated out of their normal fielding positions. It is one way to approach the DH role but it scarcely gives anybody the opportunity of what it takes to be a successful batter straight off the bench.