SB Nation Blog
The opponent in one sentence
Despite injuries to top players, the depth the Yankees have accrued through trades, free agency, and prudent scouting and development keep them in contention, another reminder as to why they’re the American League’s model franchise.
Up! Even with Stanton and Judge out, the Yankees have enough reinforcements to soften the blow. They are coming off a little two-game sweep of the Braves.
8/14: Bullpen vs. Gerrit Cole, 7:05 PM ET
Well, this is supposed to be a bullpen game. The fresh arms are Dylan Covey, Colten Brewer, Ryan Brasier, Heath Hembree, Austin Brice, Matt Barnes, Brandon Workman, and anyone they decide to recall. No, this does not bode well for Boston.
Cole’s still got the monster stuff that overwhelmed hitters all last year. The fastball still sits in the mid-to-upper 90’s with explosiveness and the slider sits high 80’s with sharp cut. The Rays made Cole throw early on in his last outing, getting his pitch count up to 80 after four innings before pouncing on him with two outs in the 5th. Cole left his fastball over the plate more than he’d like and paid for it, but still finished with ten strikeouts over 21 batters faced.
8/15: Nathan Eovaldi vs. James Paxton, 7:07 PM ET (FOX)
Eovaldi is closely resembling his 2018 form that helped get the Red Sox to a World Series. It won’t be perfect, but perfect isn’t what the Red Sox need right now. They merely need someone to go six innings and take heat off the bullpen. The danger with Eovaldi is that the top of the Yankees order can punish his stuff in the zone in a way the Orioles can’t, so it’s no guarantee that he can even make it six innings. He is what he is, a competent back-end starter.
Paxton came out of the gate looking like garbage, but he returned to form with 11 strikeouts in his last outing against the Rays. The fastball isn’t back to where it was last year just yet, so that’ll be something to look out for. He could just be slow to ramp up. If he regresses, the Sox could pound on him and eke out a rare victory. If this is another step towards 100%, this could get ugly.
8/16: TBD vs. J.A. Happ, 7:08 PM ET (ESPN)
No clue who starts here for Boston but I’m sure it won’t be pretty. I’d pop if Clay Buchholz walked out of the dugout, hair sopping wet, and gave us three innings before bowing out, but that’s not happening.
Happ was originally going to start on Monday, but was bumped up to Sunday. His last rotation spot was skipped over after he issued six walks in three innings against the Phillies on August 5th continuing a string of bad performances that date back to 2019. Since 2018, Happ has put up an 86 ERA+ in 168 ⅓ innings, allowing two homers per nine innings. This is as good of a chance as the Sox will have to steal a game from the Yankees.
8/17: Martín Pérez vs. Jordan Montgomery, 7:05 PM ET (MLB Network for out of market viewers)
Despite the strikeout rate ranking in the 20th percentile of qualified starters and a groundball rate below 40%,, Pérez has managed to get outs through weak contact. The sustainability of this is up for debate, but it’s beyond question that it’s worked for him so far. Whether this will work against a Yankees lineup led by DJ LeMahieu is another question. If you wanna feel young, Pérez is only 29. If you want to feel old, it’s been seven years since he ranked on a prospect list. This preview is a choose-your-own-adventure game.
Montgomery returned from Tommy John surgery last September and the numbers haven’t been pretty in a limited sample. He’s still sporting a 5:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, but the stuff is soft so his margin for error isn’t as big as, say Gerrit Cole’s. He, and J.A. Happ for that matter, have prospect Clarke Schmidt hot on their tails so it’s an important outing for both of those men. If he can keep the Sox in the yard, he can keep the game under control.
Notable Position Players
DJ LeMahieu’s contract was a steal at the time and it keeps getting better. After a down-ballot MVP caliber performance last year, LeMahieu has picked up where he left off. Currently leading the American League in hitting with a .431 average, you can make the case he’s the best second baseman in the American League.
Aaron Judge was held out of Wednesday’s game against the Braves with vague “tightness in his lower body”. It is unclear as of this writing whether he will play the opener against Boston. Currently leading the majors in home runs with nine, he will be missed if he’s on the bench. Clint Frazier played right field in his absence yesterday but Mike Tauchman could always set up shop in the 9 if needed.
Gleyber Torres has stumbled out of the gate hitting .161/.277/.232. Isn’t it amazing how good players occasionally hit badly for stretches of time? Nothing like that has ever happened to Boston! Gleyber is still Gleyber despite what he’s done over 65 plate appearances and should be feared.
The story of Gary Sánchez’s career going on three seasons has been inconsistency and strikeouts. After rebounding from a disappointing season in 2018, Sanchez is striking out at a 46% clip and only on-basing at .204. Although he’s been bumped to the 7 & 8 spots of the order, the bat speed is still there. A series against dismal Red Sox pitching could be what he needs to get back on track.
A former top prospect for the Twins, Aaron Hicks was acquired in November of 2015 for catcher John Ryan Murphy. Since then, he’s turned his career around and been a productive outfielder who gets on base for the Yankees.
The foremost example of Yankees devil magic, Luke Voit has been a monster first baseman since being dealt from St. Louis. His 141 wRC+ since 2018 is fifth among qualified first basemen.
A minor league veteran, Mike Ford came up and hit .259/.350/.559 with 12 home runs in 163 plate appearances last season. Another example of Yankees devil magic.
After spending four years in and out of the majors, Gio Urshela was picked off waivers by the Yankees in 2018. He’s now one of the best third basemen in baseball. Are you sensing a trend here?
Still kicking at 36, Brett Gardner rounds off the Yankee lineup in left field. The only Yankees that have played more games in left field in franchise history are Roy White and Babe Ruth.
Remember a couple of years ago when the Yankees traded for Zack Britton and a bunch of people thought he may have been cooked? He’s put up a 2.11 ERA in 93.2 innings. Don’t sweat his groundball rate being down over a 7 inning sample, he’s still The Sinkster.
Signed for 3 years/$27 million in January of 2017 when the Red Sox desperately needed a reliever of his caliber, Adam Ottavino has been one of the best relievers in baseball posting a 1.84 ERA since joining the Yankees. He’s improved among the already stellar adjustments he made during his time in Colorado that turned him into an ace reliever and became an even better one. His frisbee slider is one of the prettiest pitches in baseball.
Chad Green went from a 95 and a slider guy to a 95 and a curve guy. He still throws the fastball 3/4 of the time and is very good with it out the ‘pen.
Another wicked scouting find by the Yankees, Jonathan Loaisiga is presently being used as a bridge guy. Bobby from Views From 314 Ft makes the case that Loaisiga should be used more like a traditional reliever to help his fastball play up. If you’re unaware of Loaisiga’s story, read about it because it’s a good one.
Aroldis Chapman is still battling COVID-19. Who knows when he’ll be back.
Jon Heyman reported on Tuesday that Giancarlo Stanton has a grade 1 hamstring strain and that the timetable to return is usually 3-4 weeks.
Tommy Kahnle underwent successful Tommy John surgery on August 4th. Check back in 8-14 months.
Kyle Higashioka was placed on the 10-day IL with a right oblique strain on August 8th retroactive to August 6th. Aaron Boone said on Tuesday that his MRI was “pretty good”. It is unclear when he’ll return.
The skies are clear Friday and Saturday with temperatures in the high 60’s as the sun goes down, but there’s a possibility of showers on Sunday and Monday nights.