July was a peculiar month for the Yankees. After going 17-9 in June, they found themselves struggling with injuries and below-par pitching and having to settle for a weaker record in the new month. They still, however, came out 14-11 and with a half game increase on their lead in the American League East. The two game series at the end of June in London with the Red Sox which was followed by a two-games series against the Mets at Citi Field can’t have helped – but somehow they got through.
|New York Yankees 2019 – Batting – Month – July|
Gary Sanchez headed for the injured list on the 24th of the month, meaning that in the latter days of the month Austin Romine took over the primary catcher role and Kyle Higashioka was called up to serve as back-up. It is difficult to tell whether Sanchez was already carrying the groin strain which eventually took him to the injured list but certainly something was labouring him long before he became unavailable and the Yankees’ staff must have been wondering whether they were going to see a return to the Sanchez of 2018.
On the month he hit .102 with a double and home run whilst Romine thrived on the increased opportunities, hitting .433 in 11 appearances, with a .700 slugging percentage. Higashioka doesn’t have many problems defensively but at the plate his 2 hits in 11 at bats is still not likely to raise much excitement.
Luke Voit had to be removed from play during the “London series” and when he returned to New York, it was to be placed on the injured list on the 2nd of the new month, where he would remain until the 13th, only to return to the extensive catalogue of players unavailable because of the injury by the end of the month. His role, as a first baseman on the 25-man roster went to Mike Ford who was called up from the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders. Like Ford’s most recent call-up in May, this was to prove to be a very brief one, as he served only 4 days on the roster. He was replaced by Daniel Camarena, a left-handed minor league pitcher, who was gone within a day to be replaced by a middle-infielder, Breyvic Valera (more on him in a moment).
All of this swapping and changing should not leave the reader at all surprised that no-one particularly dominated in terms of time spent in the first-base corner. Voit played 12 games, Ford played there once as did Gio Urshela. Edwin Encarnacion who had been brought in from Seattle as a replacement for the faltering Kendrys Morales (Morales then found himself released in early July) saw himself pressed into more first base action than the Yankees had perhaps envisaged, playing in seven games this month. The balance was taken by DJ LeMahieu who continues to have an excellent season.
All of the three who played at first base on a semi-regular basis (Encarnacion, LeMahieu, Voit) performed respectably at the plate. Ford gathered up one hit in his two at bats, along with a walk which perhaps bodes well if they need to call him up again.
Gio Urshela, who merited a mention for his one appearance at first base, was significantly more notable for his twenty appearances at third base. Urshela and LeMahieu split the time there, with Urshela taking the lion’s share. His .333 batting average (BA) with 10 doubles and 5 home runs, put him at second in both of those categories and he continues to exceed all the expectations that the Yankees top brass could have had when they brought him in to cover for the injured Miguel Andujar.
Didi Gregorius who returned from the 60-day injured list in early June, continues to look like he is still finding his feet offensively. This month, he hit .256 with 10 extra base hits. On the month, he was a few points behind Torres in the BA column but exhibited significantly more power. All the signs are that the Yankees will have a nice problem on their hands later in the season if Voit recovers from his injury – with Luke, LeMahieu, Torres, Gregorius and Urshela trying into fit into 4 roles. This will become decidedly more complex next season when the Yankees decide whether to chase Gregorius when he hits free agent status.
The remaining infielders were the aforementioned Breyvic Valera and journeyman Tyler Wade. Valera has recently been with the Dodgers, the Orioles and the Giants before finding himself in the Yankees’ farm system. All the signs are that he is a player of mid-range ability who would be struggling to be on the Yankees eye level if it wasn’t for their crowded injured list. Wade is more likely to be a player with longer term possibilities as a bench player in the Bronx.
The outfield is one of the Yankees most complex situations. Giancarlo Stanton who was injured (again!) on the 26th of June, didn’t trouble the major league roster at all in July. Cameron Maybin who was also injured in the later third of June did return in July, but only just. This meant that Brett Gardner who the Yankees had begun to toy with the idea of making a bench outfielder, had plenty of chance to bounce back, only then for him to go to the injured list on the 25th retroactive to the 22nd.
And the answer in all this morass? It came in the unlikely figure of former-Colorado Rockie, Mike Tauchman. Tauchman made 12 appearances in leftfield as well as spending a little time in centre and right. He showed some adept touches in the field, but it was his .423 with 10 extra base hits which lit up the back pages of the New York press. Looking back to the Spring, Tauchman had been brought in at the last moment. His teammate, Aaron Hicks had been signed to a 7-year, $70 million contract and it was Hicks who, by comparison, was struggling. He did hit .259 in July and there were 11 extra base-hits but there was no question that the Yankees had expected more.
In right-field, unsurprisingly, it was Aaron Judge who was the almost-everyday-fixture but following his late-June return from injury, he too didn’t quite look himself. 9 extra base hits and a slightly lower average than Hicks on the month wouldn’t be too huge a problem if so many other players who could have been around him weren’t injured. Thankfully, Gardner had been batting at a .280 pace on the month before his injury and Maybin was looking bright on his return but with one too many pitchers looking below par, it was good that they had that significant lead to fall back on.
As expected, Edwin Encarnacion had taken over the designated hitter (DH) role. The difficult to plan for injuries meant that as already mentioned he was to spend a third of the month at first base. This meant that Voit, Judge and Sanchez were also pressed into action in that role. The good news was that Encarnacion was hitting for average much better than he had before signing for the Yankees and his extra base hit total was second only to Urshela on the club this month and his home runs gave him a July tie with Hicks for Yankees lead in those 31 days.