With one exception, the Yankees are prepared to enter the 2020 season with a balanced attack. Their infield defense falls short, and improvement is needed…
The Yankees have nearly the ingredients necessary to ensure a World Championship in October. The games, of course, must be played.
But when you look at their current active roster, the Yankees have a starting staff equal to or better than any team in the league, power to spare, professional hitters who work the count, and a bullpen equal to none.
A dash of salt, however, is needed to complete the recipe.
The outfield defense looks good led by Aaron Judge and Brett Gardner, with the team ranking in the top ten of all teams, according to Fangraphs.
But while the Yankees infield cannot be described as porous, there is much room for improvement before the team can claim to have a championship infield defense.
All stats are based on the thirty MLB teams, and we’ll use Fangraphs again to assess each position:
- Catcher 16th
- First Base 28th
- Second Base 17th
- Shortstop 21st
- Third Base 24th
Oddly, the best of the worst is the catching position occupied mainly by Gary Sanchez. And what we thought to be one of the best at third base and Gio Urshela turns out to be a miscalculated hype.
Fangraphs, of course, is noted for its in-depth analytics and sabermetrics, and you can go there if you wish, but I suggest you take this dictionary along with you – you’ll need it.
For our purposes here, all we need to know is what’s displayed above. Adding Gerrit Cole isn’t going to help if the infield can’t catch the ball – consistently.
Running down the Yankees infield
Most surprising, I suppose it is Urshela, who was touted by the Yankees as a superior defender before he learned how to hit. And yet he falls within the range of an average third baseman in fielding percentage – .958 for the league and .954 for Urshela.
First base appears to be the biggest problem. Without factoring in Gary Sanchez and Mike Ford, who received ample playing time there, Luke Voit also falls below the league’s fielding percentage for a first baseman.
While Voit appears to be sure-gloved, making only seven errors, his range is lacking based on stats provided by Baseball-Reference.
Adding to the mix is the departure of Didi Gregorius, who flew the coop to the Phillies and Joe Girardi, forcing the move by Gleyber Torres from second base to shortstop.
Torres is a gifted athlete and was drafted by the Chicago Cubs as a shortstop. But his game is in flux, and he is still a growing boy.
Last season, he bulked up to the tune of 38 home runs, and, likely, he has yet to hit his power ceiling.
Thus the question for the Yankees to monitor – is his (current) body structure a fit as a major league shortstop?
Yankees: Certainly something to observe
We can go round and round on the Yankees infield, but it doesn’t matter one bit. Sanchez, Voit, Torres, and Urshela will all be in the Yankees Opening Day lineup. I’m not arguing they shouldn’t be there.
Voit will receive a challenge from Mike Ford, and Urshela the same from Miguel Andujar if he’s still with the team.
Instead, this is to point out something Yankees fans and the team itself should closely watch as the season moves along.
If the infield defense stays the same, the Yankees, with the rest of their arsenal, are probably okay.
But “okay” is not what championship teams are typically made of…