17 of 19 and Rolling: How the Yankees are shaping up to be the best team in baseball

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Writing an article of this sort seemed probable in December, but I thought I’d overhyped the New York Yankees once I saw their subpar start to the season. I started to question that maybe I’d been wrong and that the addition of reigning NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton wasn’t going to help bolster the lineup.

I mean, on April 20th, the Yankees looked like one of the few overhyped clubs in baseball. At this point in the season, the Bronx Bombers were considered a team that would stick in the Wildcard race in the American League. They’d limped out to a 9-9 record and their division rival, the Red Sox, the hottest team in baseball at the time, had fired its way to a 17-2 start. And I know it was way early in the season, but at this point, it felt like the Red Sox were the most complete team in the league.

The Yankees just hadn’t been good to start off the season. Sonny Gray was struggling to take command on the mound in his starts and Masahiro Tanaka struggled to consistently dominate deep into his starts. The bullpen was just remotely off and they needed more than just a few hot bats to win ball games.

It All Clicked:

But when the pieces seemed to have been unglued, Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman came to a consensus on calling up top prospect infielder Gleyber Torres. Heading into 2018, Torres was ranked as the fifth best prospect in baseball and his major league debut was expected by fans at some point this season. But I can guarantee you most of these fans expected him to debut during the summer, and definitely not in the middle of the first month of the season. I can confidently tell you that the move was warranted however.

The Yankees needed a spark in the clubhouse, on the field, and in the dugout. They didn’t have an everyday second baseman on the active roster and Torres got the call. Torres debuted on April 22nd, going 0 for 4 in his first game. But since he got to the Bronx, he seems to have a tremendous fit, and he certainly always had the potential to be the next great Yankee on a roster filled with all-star talent. He’s been tearing it up since his debut, batting .344 in 18 games, along with two home runs, including a walk off homer against the Indians last Sunday. And not to mention, the Yankees have only lost twice since Torres debut.

Now while it hasn’t been a pretty start for star slugger Giancarlo Stanton, I expect him to find his stride soon. He’s a great hitter and great hitters tend to eventually figure it out. Stanton hasn’t had to be great however, as these Yankees are the hottest team in baseball right now and they show no signs of bowing out. They’ve won 17 of their last 19 games and it’s certainly not a cheap hot streak to take for granted. Of their 17 wins, only four have come against a team with a record that is below .500. And that team is a Minnesota Twins team that’s starting to heat up.

An Unmatched Streak:

The Yankees swept the Twins, Angels, won 3 of 4 on the road against the defending World Series champion Astros, swept the Indians, and took two of three from their division rival Red Sox. The Red Sox are also the second best team in baseball. But it’s becoming quite clear that the New York Yankees are the best team in baseball.

The Bronx Bombers are already reaching new heights this season and it’s scary to consider that two of their best hitters have really yet to catch fire in Gary Sánchez and Giancarlo Stanton. And don’t forget that first baseman Greg Bird, expects to soon return from an injury. Bird is a very talented and young hitter who adds to the power and nightmare aspect of the Yankee lineup.

The streak truly started off with shortstop Didi Gregorius. He has looked exactly like the kind of player we saw a glimpse of in the postseason last year, as he is a perennial AL MVP candidate who is officially a star and deserves recognition as a top five shortstop in the league. He’s been arguably the team’s best player this season and has put together career numbers thus far, batting .280 with 10 HR and 31 RBIs. And to be fair, nobody expected Didi to be one of the top three hitters in this loaded Yankees lineup. His breakout to stardom is an added bonus to a team full of all-stars. And while Didi has been in quite a slump as of late (5 hits in his last 48 at-bats), he’s established himself as an impact player and he’ll likely get back into that form soon.

Gregorius and Torres aren’t the only impactful bats so far this season. Star outfielder Aaron Judge looks just as good as how he started off last season. In 37 games, he’s batted .311 with nine home runs and 28 RBIs. He’s also quite the defensive right fielder and he’s one of the more underappreciated defenders in baseball.

Even through his struggles, Gary Sánchez has been a clutch hitter in multiple games this season, as he has hit two game winning longballs in 33 games. He’s batting a very rough .202, with nine home runs and 29 RBIs. The Kraken has also been a extra base hit machine so far this season, with 17 of his 25 hits going for extra bases or more.

Sánchez still needs to improve his skills as a defensive catcher and it will come in due time, but his value as a hitter is untouched by any catcher in the rest of the league. Giancarlo Stanton’s rough start has gotten better lately, and he’s got his batting average up to .238, as well as having nine home runs and 23 RBIs. Once he gets on a tear, I don’t see any way a pitcher can get out of the game without giving up at least 5 runs.

Brett Gardner, the leadoff hitter in most games for the Yankees, hasn’t been amazing to start the season, but he still puts together quality at-bat after quality at-bat at the plate. He’ll eventually see his .208 batting average rise and hopefully his home run total too.

The Pitching Is Mostly Spectacular:

The Yankees are once again seeing true ace colors from young star pitcher Luis Severino, who has started off the season as dominant and fearless as they come on the mound. He has made eight starts, compiled a 5-1 record with a 2.21 ERA in 53 innings of work. He also is pitching strongly with a 0.87 WHIP and recently threw a complete game shutout against the Astros.

C.C. Sabathia has been resurgent as the veteran pitcher for the rotation. He’s made seven starts, has a 2-0 record in 36.1 innings pitched, with a 2.23 ERA. Aroldis Chapman has been the dominant closer like always, making 17 appearances this season, totaling nine saves with a 1.59 ERA. The Yankees bullpen has been rough at times, but they have a really solid couple of pitchers in Chad Green, David Robertson, and Dellin Betances. They are hopeful that relievers Tommy Kahnle and Adam Warren soon make their returns from the DL.

The Yankees have battled the injury bug a ton throughout the young season. Brandon Drury, Greg Bird, Jordan Montgomery, Tommy Kahnle, and Adam Warren are all on the DL. With Montgomery out at least six weeks, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for general manager Brian Cashman to pursue a fifth starter as both insurance and a fill-in for Montgomery.

What To Watch For This Summer:

The Yankees could be big players on the summer trade market. They have a loaded farm system with top prospects like OF Estevan Florial, LHP Justus Sheffield, RHP Albert Abreu, RHP Chance Adams, and a young and injured MLB-ready outfielder in Clint Frazier. The Yankees could pursue a bit more in terms of bullpen help, so look out for guys like Royals closer Kelvin Herrera, Orioles relievers Darren O’Day and Mychal Givens as potential targets. They could pursue a talented starting pitcher like Tigers starter Michael Fulmer, Rangers starter Cole Hamels, or Rays starter Chris Archer.

No matter what happens over the next month or two with these Yankees, I’m confident that they are a prominent World Series contender until they prove otherwise. They are talented, hungry, and are in a great position with Cashman having tons of trade chips to work with come July. They’re tied for the AL East division lead with the Red Sox. They start a three game series tonight at home against the Oakland Athletics. Sonny Gray will be on the mound in a game that will start at 7:05 p.m., and will be aired on MLB Network (subject to market).

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