The Yankees are about to get healthy and make the AL East sick
The Yankees imagine adding four middle of the order bats in time for September. That would be a dream for them, and a nightmare for others.
The Yankees are not going to make any trades. They are not going to sign any pret-a-porter Cuban stars. But this team, a team already holding down a playoff spot and contending for the division title, is about to add four impact players, and finally, fulfill the vision of the most powerful offense in the east.
There seems to be so much consternation about where this team is, as well as the road ahead. But, to paraphrase Anton Ego, life is all about perspective. If this team was merely going to maintain the status quo, the chicken little-izing of the Yankees season would be well warranted.
My guess is there is at least one alarmist headline in a box somewhere above or below this one.
But the team that has been on the field for the last month or so is not the one originally envisioned. Nor is it the same team that stormed through the league for the first three months. That looks likely to change.
A Pair to Draw To
The Yankees will not only spend the next month getting the band back together but also add a whole new rhythm section.
First up: Aaron Hicks. The last time we saw him, he was slashing .290/.398/.515 en route to collecting 58 hits, ten home runs, and 37 RBI’s. Some of those numbers might not sound like much, but try to remember Anton’s good advice.
Hicks has so far gotten 200 at-bats for the 2017 Yankees. When his numbers are projected over 600 AB’s, Aaron’s impact—and subsequent loss—becomes more clear. Hicks’ production projects to 174 hits, 30 homers, and 111 RBI’s. And he was on pace for 21 stolen bases, as well.
Clint Frazier and, yes, even Jacoby Ellsbury have done some good things, but Hicks was playing at an All-Star level when he went down. And he’s now about to return. Hicks will be back in the line-up on Friday, and he’s likely to be followed by the Yankees once and future first baseman, Greg Bird.
Most think of Bird as the ever-injured mirage of a baby Yankee. Some even questioned his desire to return, a ludicrous suggestion about this intense competitor. Even so, by the All-Star game, Bird’s season seemed lost.
But finally, the 14,397th specialist Bird saw found a fracture in an otherwise useless bone. And the subsequent surgery has seemingly solved all his podiatric problems. Bird has not only been performing baseball activities pain-free, but also he is about ready for a rehab assignment.
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All of which takes me back to the last perspective we had on Greg Bird in full health; that was all the way back in Spring Training. And way back then, Bird looked more ready to launch a campaign for Rookie of the Year than MVP (Most Valuable Patient).
Even if he is somewhere between the player the New York Yankees saw in 2015 and the one they ogled earlier this year, he would still profile as the best number three hitter on the team.
And one of the best in the American League East. If he does indeed go on a rehab starting next week, he could be ready to rejoin the Yankees in ten to fifteen days. He could still play the last five or six weeks of the season, otherwise known as crunch time. That’s called a great late season addition.
Define the Word, Perhaps
Starlin Castro’s return might be an even better one, if for no other reason than that he’s a proven player. We imagine what Greg Bird can do, but we’ve seen what Castro has done. The second
baseman was hitting .307/.344/.472, over 316 AB’s, leading him to collect 97 hits and 45 RBI’s all while scoring 52 runs.
Like Hicks, Castro was playing at an All-Star level. Perhaps the best evidence of this is that Castro was, in fact, voted to the 2017 All-Star game; note that I wrote, “perhaps.”
It’s good that the Yankees are taking time with his injury (this time) because a full-strength Starlin Castro bats fifth or sixth in this lineup. And second in most other teams. That’s how deep this lineup will be when those three all start hitting again.
That looks to be close to the start of September, which might coincide with another harvest from the Yankees bumper crop. Miguel Andujar looks to have conquered the International League at 22. Andy has gotten 140 AB’s since his promotion and has not wasted any of them.
His slash is impressive enough: .329/.364/.550; his power, though, is as good as his average. Miguel has 46 hits, but they have netted him 77 total bases. But that’s what happens when you have seven home runs and ten doubles.
Andujar’s most impressive number, however, is three. That’s the number of errors Miguel has committed in 293 innings at Scranton, after committing ten in his 493 innings at Trenton. It’s the kind of improvement that moves him from Scranton prospect to Pinstriped player.
A Full Yankees House
That’s not to suggest he will take over the hot corner once September first arrives. But it does make it more likely he will get match-up starts and pinch hits. And if he hits like he’s capable of, and his footwork around the bag is as improved as his reduced errors indicate, he might just take over.
Bird will send Headley back to third; Andujar might send him to the bench. And he could do that as early as four weeks from now. By then, the Yankees might have already added the other three and not only re-created their intimidating first half offense, but improved it.
That’s the right way to look at this team and their recent record. It’s a very good group holding down the fort while it waits for two of their best hitters and run producers to return, and another to fulfill the promise of spring. By September first, they will likely be at full strength for the first time in a long time.
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Think of the implications. The Yankees will add two proven All-Stars and at least one player who looked every bit the All-Star when he was last healthy. And it might mean that Didi Gregorius–.307/.332/.501 with 17 home runs and 54 RBI’s—will bat ninth in this lineup. That might keep me awake at night, dreaming of the possibilities.
But, more importantly, it might instill nightmares into the rest of the division…and put the Red Sox to sleep.