On paper, with 18 players having hit the injured list thus far in 2019, many baseball fans would have forecasted the New York Yankees as being in serious trouble. They certainly would have said this if you told them that Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Dellin Betances, Miguel Andujar, Jonathan Loaisiga, Luis Severino, James Paxton, Troy Tulowitzki, and C.C. Sabathia all being on the list on May 23rd. On top of this, the Yankees are still awaiting midsummer returns from a left handed MLB caliber starter Jordan Montgomery, possible bullpen depth in Ben Heller, and starting shortstop Didi Gregorius.
One good thing is that 2019 returns are expected for all but one injured Yankee, as young third baseman Miguel Andujar recently underwent season-ending surgery to repair his torn labrum. The ravaged roster won’t be fully healthy anytime soon, but there has been some good news lately and reinforcements are on the way. As of now, Judge, Betances, Tulowitzki, and Gregorius look to be on tap for returns in early to mid June. Giancarlo Stanton could join that group after he returns to rehab from his latest setback.
Offseason acquisition James Paxton (knee inflammation) should be returning for a start this weekend against the Kansas City Royals, which will be huge for the Yankees as the big lefty was dominating on the bump before he went down, racking up a 3.11 earned run average in 37.2 innings of work. It also will provide a rotation replacement for another fallen Yankee, as veteran lefty C.C. Sabathia just went on the IL with knee inflammation.
Luis Severino is not expected to make his season debut until after the All-Star break in July, as he is still recovering from a lat strain suffered in Spring Training. The good news is that Severino is likely to start throwing soon, according to Yankees skipper Aaron Boone.
What would you have guessed the Yankees record would be through 48 games? I wouldn’t have said 31-17, and you wouldn’t have either. So how have the Yankees been so prolific and dominant en route to the third best record in Major League Baseball?
There are many players who have been key to the team’s immense success, but perhaps none more important than right hander Domingo Germán, third baseman Gio Urshela, and middle infielder D.J. LeMahieu. In a season full of unknowns, these three have been the most consistent players for New York.
Germán has been a pleasant surprise for the Yankees, as he’s become the unexpected ace of the staff in 2019. Coming off of a rough rookie season in the Bronx, the 26 year old made the Opening Day roster and has dominated ever since. He leads the MLB in wins with 9, having lowered his walks and home runs allowed per nine innings. In 55 and a third innings, he’s pitched to a 2.60 ERA and opponents are hitting just .184 against him. He also has a sub one WHIP at 0.98. If he continues pitching like this, an AL Cy Young award would not be out of the picture.
Urshela was acquired for basically nothing from the Toronto Blue Jays last season, and he’s off to a torrid start manning the hot corner in the Bronx. He’s played in 38 big league games, made some spectacular plays at third base, and has been an extremely clutch hitter for the Yankees in late situations. Two weeks ago, down by two in the ninth and with one runner on, Urshela connected on his second homer of the year, tying the game against the Mariners before D.J. LeMahieu won the game for the Yanks a few batters later. Last Friday, tied at 3 in the ninth with the Rays, Urshela lined a walkoff hit over the head of Kevin Kiermaier to give the Yankees the division lead.
Looking back at the offseason, one of the most underrated signings was D.J. LeMahieu to the Yankees on a relatively team-friendly deal. He’s undoubtedly been the team’s most consistent hitter, as he’s sat with an average safely over the .300 mark for most of 2019 to date. He’s also hit four home runs and has 25 RBIs. Signed as utility infield depth, D.J. has certainly proven himself to be an everyday impact starter heading into the summer.
After these guys, there have been so many impactful players on the roster. Masahiro Tanaka has been utterly consistent and has been dominant in the month of May. Overall, the 30 year old right hander is 3-3 with a 3.09 ERA in 58.1 innings pitched. A big key for Tanaka in 2019 has been the lowering of the number of homers he is giving up per nine innings. Before his knee inflammation caught up to him, C.C. Sabathia was putting up solid numbers as he went 3-1 with a 3.48 earned run average. J.A. Happ is struggling to start the season (5.16 ERA in 52.1 innings), but the rest of the team is picking up the slack.
The fierce bullpen is starting to shape into form with plenty of All-Star caliber guys involved. Tommy Kahnle appears to have bounced back from a tough 2018 campaign. He has been a reliable reliever thus far in 2019, appearing in 22 games, racking up a 1.42 ERA in 19 innings. Zack Britton has been his nasty self so far as well, racking up a 2.53 ERA in 22 appearances and a total of 21.1 innings pitched. Adam Ottavino (1.54 ERA) and Aroldis Chapman (1.83 ERA) have been a lock down duo late in games. If Chad Green (12.41 ERA) figures himself out and reverts to something close to his 2017 self or even 2018 self, this could be an even more dominant bullpen.
22 year old rising superstar middle infielder Gleyber Torres has been superb in 2019 and has been really hot as of late. He’s hit 12 home runs and has 26 RBIs with a .302 batting average. Torres also is clocking in at a .906 OPS percentage. Luke Voit has been really solid following up his torrid two month stretch to end 2018, batting .259 with an .858 OPS, 11 homers, and 34 RBIs. Perhaps the biggest and most welcomed turnaround is that of catcher Gary Sánchez, who has bounced back from a historically bad 2018 campaign. The MLB’s best offensive catcher is batting .270 with a team-leading 15 home runs and a ridiculous 1.018 OPS.
When the injured Yankees start to get healthy, they should be feared by the rest of the MLB. There will also be a bunch of decisions that they’ll have to make, and some of them will be really tough. Looking at a healthy Yankees lineup later this season, you would see the likes of Sánchez, LeMahieu, Torres, Gregorius, Urshela, Stanton, Hicks, Judge, and Voit at the designated hitter spot. On the bench, you could have bats like Frazier, Gardner, Romine, and Tulowitzki.
You’re looking at a guaranteed four man pitching rotation of Tanaka, Severino, Germán, and Paxton. To fill the fifth spot, they’ll have to make a tough decision with three left handers in Sabathia, Happ, and Montgomery. Right now, Sabathia would be my choice and I’d move Happ to the bullpen. The bullpen would consist of Chapman, Betances, Ottavino, Britton, Kahnle, Holder, Happ, and possibly Chad Green if he figures it out.
What if the Yankees want to make a move at the trade deadline? Well, they certainly have the organizational depth to do so, but I don’t know what they would look for. The Giants will almost assuredly look to deal 29 year old ace Madison Bumgarner, but the Yankees would have a lot of competitors in that market. If the Indians fall out of the playoff race, they may trade 28 year old starter Trevor Bauer, and the Yankees reportedly attempted to acquire him in the offseason. The Nationals may opt to trade pending free agent third baseman Anthony Rendon, and the Yankees may look to get involved if Gio Urshela comes down to earth.
The Yankees could possibly dangle guys like Jordan Montgomery, Clint Frazier, Thairo Estrada, and some of their top prospects to acquire a big piece for the postseason push. But if they continue to play like this, they may not have to do so. It’s been an unbelievable run for the injury plagued Yankees and it doesn’t look to be close to stopping soon.