The Yankees and Mets have reached the quarter-pole in the 2021 season. Head to head, let’s assign some grades to players at each position.
The Yankees and Mets are both bringing a winning season to their fans. We’re roughly at the quarter-pole, and for the most part, there’s been ample time to evaluate their players at each position.
It’s a subjective endeavor, of course, but let’s see if you agree with these ratings and assigned grades.
Aces On The Mound
What is there to say about the Mets Jacob deGrom and Yankees ace Gerrit Cole?
Compare the numbers if we wish, with deGrom at 3-2, .080 ERA, and a 0.600 WHIP, to Cole (6-2, 1.81 ERA, and a 0.84 WHIP, and what do you have but the choice between to-ma-toes and to-may-toes.
Jacob deGrom is on his way back from a couple of lost starts due to a 10-day stint on the IL, temporarily derailing his quest for a third Cy Young. Still, as the Mets stopper, he came through Tuesday night to lead the Mets to a much-needed win over the Rockies, signed sealed, and delivered by the Mets bullpen after deGrom completed five innings of one-run ball.
Gerrit Cole has been in there in all of his ten starts for the Yankees, and his performance start after start is a clinic watching him as he seeks to refine his craft. Like deGrom, there’s an extra lift in the step of his teammates whenever it’s his turn to take the hill.
Yankees Cole: Grade A – Mets deGrom Grade A
Signed as a free agent to be the Mets regular catcher, the only bright spot in James McCann‘s season to date has been he’s healthy.
Struggling with the bat, hitting only .196 with three extra-base hits, McCann has virtually lost his catching job to Tomas Nido, who is contributing clutch hits, as well as displaying an inordinate ability to frame pitches.
Given the rash of Mets injuries, McCann otherwise would likely have a seat on the bench, but instead has a breath of life given to him at first base, courtesy of Pete Alonso‘s injured hand.
One of the few bright spots in a dismal season for Mets hitters, Nido is capitalizing on an unexpected opportunity, batting .260 with three home runs and 9 RBI.
Over in the Bronx, the Yankees are experiencing a similar situation between Gary Sanchez and Kyle Higashioka.
Sanchez (.174 BA, with only eight extra-base hits in 129 tries) is flopping away like a stunned fish in a pond with the bat again, and while his defense is creeping upwards, ask any Yankee pitcher who they’d rather pitch to, and the choice hands down is Higashioka.
The Yankees have thrived with good-field no-hit catchers before (think Joe Girardi). So while Higashioka’s .200 batting average is about par for the course for him, his nine extra-base hits in only 76 tries explain why he’s Aaron Boone‘s go-to guy as his regular catcher (without saying so)
Mets McCann: Grade D Nido: Grade A- Yanks Sanchez: Grade D Higashioka: Grade B+
Neither the Mets nor Yankees have received the production they expected from Pete Alonso or Luke Voit (respectively).
Alonso elected to play through a nagging injury while the Mets racked up players on the IL, but eventually, it caught up to him, sidelining him when the Mets said that’s enough.
A .236 BA, with a .433 SLG, together with six home runs, and 19 RBI for the Mets, a team at the bottom of runs scored in the majors, has been not only disappointing but frustrating for the Mets and Alonso.
Luke Voit, the American League home run champion in 2020, misses the first five weeks of the season rehabbing from injury, kept out of the Yankees lineup until May 11. Ironically, he has hit the IL again and will be missed for an indeterminate number of games.
The toll was noticeable for the Yankees as they struggled to score runs. Still, Voit’s return (.182, 1 Hr, 3RBI) has not met the expectations of the Yankees or Voit himself as the team’s offense continues to sputter even while their pitching has risen to the task, driving the team to a 24-10 run. C-
Mets Alonso: Grade C- Yankees Voit: Incomplete
The Yankees played cat and mouse with DJ LeMahieu for most of the offseason before signing him to a six-year $90 million deal to solidify him (save for his versatility) at second base.
If he were anyone not tagged with the name DJ LeMahieu, a .260, .347 OBP, and a .694 OPS might be considered a decent enough year, and someone any team would like to have as a player with those stats.
But clearly, the Yankees will be quick to say this is not what we signed up for in private moments. Come back at the season’s end, and the grade will almost certainly be different, but for now, LeMahieu remains one of several Yankees who are not contributing.
With the Mets, who would have told you Luis Guillorme and Jonathan Villar would be handling second base at this point in the season. But that’s how it went when Jeff McNeill landed on the IL, with no return expected until late June.
Villar has 12 RBI, many in clutch spots for the Mets, but make no mistake, this is a stop-gap for the Mets at best.
Mets Villar et al.: Grade A (For Effort) Yankees: LeMahieu: Grade C-
C’mon, really? Would you have said Francisco Lindor would be hitting at a .185 clip, with nine RBI, a .272 SLG, and a .575 OPS after 48 games and 179 plate appearances? Go to Vegas if you did because there is a jackpot waiting for you.
But that is the state of Lindor and the Mets, with no signs of a resurgence within sight.
Meanwhile, across the Whitestone Bridge, the Yankees are enjoying a revival in the play of Gleyber Torres, both defensively and offensively.
Subject to near ridicule by Yankees GM Brian Cashman for reporting out of shape after last year’s second Spring Training, Torres went on to have a sub-par season in 2020.
Flexing the skills the Yankees always believed in, Torres is batting a torrid .500 clip, with 8 RBI and a 1.204 OPS, while more than holding his own at shortstop. Better late than never.
Mets Lindor: Grade D- Yankees Torres: Grade B+
This one is pretty cut and dry. J.D. Davis, the Mets player, penciled in as their regular third baseman, has been limited to 41 at-bats before going down with another Mets entry on the IL.
The numbers he put up before then are just what the doctor ordered for the run starved Mets (.390 BA, .479 OBP, .520 SLG, and 1.089 OPS), but a couple of false starts during his rehab with Triple-A Syracuse have sobered hoped for an immediate return to the Mets lineup.
Davis is the real thing, and once he rejoins the Mets, his production can be expected to continue.
Gio Urshela, the Yankees’ third baseman since taking over for heir apparent Miguel Andujar, who had finished runner-up in the Rookie of the Year Award in 2019, has not let up since then.
Whatever Urshela did to make himself a major league hitter after seasons in which he struggled to meet the Mendoza Line, it needs to be bottled.
Nothing spectacular, Urshela with the bat carries a .276 BA, with 5 HR and 23 RBI, many of which have come in clutch situations. Add his defense at third base, and you have Yankee pitchers giving high-fives and hugs to Urshela after the side has been retired due to another superb play.
Mets Davis: Grade B+ Yankees Urshela Grade A
A converted first baseman, Dominic Smith, is receiving most of the Mets’ playing time in left field. Even with Pete Alonso’s stint on the IL, Mets manager Luis Rojas is using James McCann at first base, an indication of Rojas’s trust in Smith to handle what comes his way in the outfield.
If only Smith’s bat were producing at previous levels, the circle would be complete. While Smith’s batting average creeps upwards (.245), only seven of his 35 hits have been for extra bases. Of more concern is Smith’s .623 OPS, which is down 370 points from last year’s .993, and .881 in 2019.
When swinging at the first pitch, Smith’s numbers soar (.438 BA and 1.083 OPS). However, once he has two strikes on him, he belongs to the pitcher this year (0-2 .111, 1-2 .071, 2-2 .125, and .222 with a full count).
While the trend is May is ticking upwards, the run-starved Mets, racked with injuries, need even more production from Smith, especially in the power department where a mere two home runs stick out like a sore thumb.
For the Yankees, left field has belonged mostly to Clint Frazier, who was passed the torch by Aaron Boone this past offseason.
The season has been anything but kind to Frazier thus far. Carrying a .183 batting average with four home runs and seven RBI is not what the Yankees expected from a full-time outfielder.
But injuries to Aaron Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton have forced Boone to keep running Frazier out there when otherwise a demotion to the minors would have been in order.
Over the years, Frazier has been known to lobby Aaron Boone for a chance to play centerfield, and with Brett Gardner, at 37, playing nearly all of the Yankees’ last 13 games there, Frazier’s dream will come true as Boone appears ready to press the go-button.
This could be the spark Frazier, aka Big Red, needs to turn his season around.
Mets Smith: Grade C+ Yankees Frazier: Grade C-
Do either the Mets or Yankees have a true centerfielder this year is the question?
Aaron Hicks, who is fast becoming the Yankees’ newest version of Jacoby Ellsbury, is skimming $11 million off the top of the team’s payroll for not playing.
Out for the season after only 126 plate appearances, Hicks has not been helpful even when he does play (.194 BA, with a paltry 78 OPS+, meaning he’s 22 points shy of the league average of 100).
Note: Hicks gets an F- for a grade.
Forgetting Hicks and the Yankees love affair with him, Brett Gardner has become the Yankees regular centerfielder by default. It’s a position he’s familiar with, but at age 37, Aaron Boone knows he’s rolling the dice by running Gardner out there every day.
While the numbers don’t show it (.202 BA with only five extra-base hits), Boone will tell anyone who asks that Gardner’s presence and value on the Yankees go far beyond his production on the field.
The Mets have used a hodgepodge of centerfielders this year. Three of the four main players used there are on the IL (Brandon Nimmo, Kevin Pillar, and Johneshwy Fargas).
Mets GM Zack Scott finally made a move bringing in former Yankee Billy McKinney, who is expected to get an extended look by the Mets.
But if there is one position magnifying where the Mets’ desperation is exposed this year, it’s in centerfield.
Mets (None): Grade Incomplete Yankees Gardner: Grade A (For effort)
Limited to 113 at-bats this season, Michael Conforto was beginning to find his stroke when an injury took him down on May 16 during a three-game set playing on Tampa Bay’s astroturf with a serious hamstring pull.
The Mets will be without Conforto for the next month, but as we know, these hamstring things are tricky, and it could be longer.
This is Conforto’s walk-year with the Mets, and following the World Series, he will be an unrestricted free agent.
Again, the Mets Depth Chart reveals no suitable replacement for Conforto, save for Cameron Maybin, who is hitless in all of his 21 at-bats with the Mets, Khalil Lee, and McKinney plays all three outfield positions.
Over in the Bronx, Aaron Judge is having his finest year since 2017, and most significantly, he’s playing.
In 45 games for the Yankees, Judge is batting .308, with 12 home runs and 26 RBI, which is more than he had all of last year.
Playing his usual stellar defense, Judge has committed only one error and has cut three runners down who was trying to advance or score.
A linchpin for the Yankees team, Aaron Boone is watchful of Judge every day, looking for signs that a day’s rest is best for the team.
Mets Conforto: Grade Incomplete Yankees Judge: Grade A
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Here’s What Readers Are Saying…
Steven Kenworthy With one exception, I think you nailed it. In my humble opinion, DJ, although not the DJ we have come to love, ranks a B+ with me. Still plays brilliant D no matter where you put him and not far off from what we have been spoiled with at the plate.