The Yankees have successfully labored through injuries to 27 different players in 2019. But the line needs to be drawn with these five players…
It’s been said the Yankees will go as far as their starting pitching takes them in 2019. That’s true, but a corollary needs to be added which states the team needs to remain healthy while suffering no further loss of key players to injuries.
This has nothing to do with who returns and who doesn’t from the list of Yankees currently on the IL. Instead, it has everything to do with these five players remaining healthy. Each is a core part of the team – now! For some, their contributions have been mighty, while others are listed mainly for the intangibles they bring to the team. In any case, in no particular order, the Yankees need these five players active and healthy:
Brett Gardner is the heartbeat of the New York Yankees. He’s the catalyst at the top of the lineup who never gives away an at-bat. He’s a warrior reminiscent of the days when Paul O’Neil roamed in right field and Don Mattingly patrolled first base. Brett Gardner gets it done.
In eleven days, Brett Gardner will be 36 years young. Always in shape, Gardner has appeared in 104 games, the bulk of which came during the first half when the Yankees were short on outfielders. Still a threat on the bases, Gardner has adjusted his play to meet the fact he’s lost a step, reducing his number of stolen bases.
Replacing speed with power, Gardner is on the cusp of bettering his best home run season, when he hit 21 in 2017 (he has 17 now). Moreover, he’s picked up his batting average from a pedestrian .246 in the first half to .309 in the second half. In August, he’s hitting .444 with a whopping 1.069 OPS (the league average is .754). (Baseball Reference)
One of two Yankee holdovers from the 2009 Championship Team along with CC Sabathia, Brett Gardner is the tonic younger players with no playoff experience will need when the playoffs begin. Gardner is an integral part of this team.
Only 22, Gleyber Torres plays the game as if he was a ten-year veteran. No Yankee has appeared in more games than Torres this season. It took something called a “core injury” (whatever that is) to give Aaron Boone an excuse to sit him down for a few days, even though doctors never defined what was wrong.
Flipping between second base and shortstop, Gleyber Torres solidifies the Yankees middle infield. A .283 hitter this year, the power has come in spades. Already, Torres’s 26 home runs eclipse last year’s total of 24. He just keeps getting better.
A two-time All-Star, Torres, unlike last year when he was caught staring into space at times, is in every game. Much like Derek Jeter, Gleyber Torres seems to be in the middle of everything that goes well for the Yankees. And it needs to stay that way. Torres is a mainstay of the Yankee’s lineup for at least the next decade. Amen.
Aroldis Chapman – Yankees Closer
Quietly, but very efficiently, Aroldis Chapman is having his finest season as a Yankee. With 32 saves, Chapman has already equaled his total last season. But it’s not about the numbers.
Instead, it’s about perseverance, attitude – and staying healthy. Chapman’s epic 13-pitch battle against Vladimir Guerrero Jr. the other night is exhibit number one for the naysayers who wondered last year if Chapman was washed up.
Three pitches came in at 100 mph or better in that duel, including one that Guerrero hit foul into the upper deck. Thirteen pitches as catcher Austin Romine and the Yankees bench looked on in stunned silence.
Watching, you could almost visualize Aroldis Chapman versus Cody Bellinger in the seventh game of the World Series…
Unlike many of his brethren, Aroldis Chapman is still a supreme closer. Even with Zack Britton as a backup, the Yankees need him more than ever.
It goes without saying that Gio Urshela is the biggest Yankees surprise this year. Coming out of nowhere, this self-made hitter has added a dimension to his value in the field no one could have dreamed was possible.
And he just keeps getting better. With particular attention to the month of August, look at Urshela’s incredible rise as a most valuable Yankee in this table:
And that does even measure his steady and often exceptional play at third base.
Almost 28 now, Urshela will play his 100th game of the season tonight when the Yankees face off against the Orioles at Yankee Stadium. Aaron Boone will need to monitor Urshela, providing more days off than Urshela may want.
Oh, and by the way, did you see that monstrous 461 ft. home run Urshela hit yesterday…
DJ LeMahieu – Yankees MVP
Brian Cashman has a boatload of beneficial free agent signings on his resume. But none may prove to be as significant as his endorsement of DJ LeMahieu during the past offseason.
With one batting title already, LeMahieu is challenging for another one – this time in the American League with the New York Yankees.
A hitter’s hitter, LeMahieu is built in the same mold as a Stan Musial or Ted Williams. See the ball – hit the ball. More importantly, hit the ball where it’s pitched and take what the pitcher gives you. LeMahieu has been doing it all season with a consistency unparalleled to any we have seen:
Versatile, Aaron Boone has his choice each night as to where he should play LeMahieu. Much like his teammates covered before, LeMahieu has played in 107 of the Yankees 120 some game this season. At some point, Boone will force LeMahieu to sit down, even with a batting title on the line.
Of all the players discussed here, LeMahieu is the most critical to remain healthy throughout the remaining forty or so games, and on into the postseason.
Honorable mentions go to Didi Gregorius and Aaron Judge.
Gregorius, after missing the first two months of the season, appears to be coming alive. As a left-handed bat in a righty stacked lineup, Gregorius adds a much-needed dimension to the Yankees lineup. One of the most popular Yankees on and off the field, Gregorius brings a veteran presence in the clubhouse.
Aaron Judge remains a critical component in the Yankees lineup. He’s still in a battle with himself, trying to “find it”. When he does, bar the door. Much like Alex Rodriguez, Judge gives pause to any pitcher facing him.
Luke Voit is currently on the IL. He may or may not have surgery before the end of the season to mend a sports hernia. Voit says no surgery, he’ll play through the pain which is considerable. He’s been an integral part of the Yankees lineup when he’s in there – and he’s been missed. A plus for the team if he comes back.