This list could pretty much include every single player on the active roster, but we don’t need to waste your time more than we already do.
The fact of the matter is that the 2021 New York Yankees, even though they have a winning record, are an absolute mess. Expectations are far from being met. Unthinkable regressions are happening at an even more unthinkable rate. Every loss the same. Over and over.
It feels like a miracle that things aren’t much worse than they are. And the more we think about it, the more we realize that a shred in the uptick of a handful of players’ production could move the needle exponentially. That’s really all the Yankees need when the second half of the season arrives.
Go into the break hot, regroup, take a few deep breaths, and begin an entirely new (kind of) season.
Let’s be optimistic for a second. Let’s say the Yankees go on a little run before the All-Star break, general manager Brian Cashman gets his list together of trade deadline acquisitions that could further improve the squad, and the World Series talk flips back on.
Assuming disaster doesn’t force the Yankees to make sweeping changes to the roster and everything remains intact, more production from these important players could really make the Bombers a powerhouse from mid-July to (hopefully) October.
The Yankees need more from these players during the second half of 2021.
3. Jameson Taillon
Don’t think you needed much of a clue here. When the Yankees acquired Jameson Taillon from the Pittsburgh Pirates in the offseason, some fans were excited. Some thought it was the wrong Pirate they went after. Nobody really had high expectations from the jump since he had just battled testicular cancer and had his second Tommy John surgery, resulting in him making only seven starts across 2019 and 2020.
But we can assure you nobody expected this. Taillon is 3-4 with a 5.43 ERA, 1.36 WHIP and 73 strikeouts in his first 15 starts (69.2 innings). His 4.74 FIP suggests things aren’t that bad, but the eye test suggests otherwise.
Though many felt Taillon’s ceiling was a bonafide No. 2 starter, that’s not happening this year. It may never happen. He’s undergone a mechanics change after his most recent elbow surgery and there’s no telling what his career will look like the rest of the way. There are so many unknowns.
At this point, the Yankees don’t need him to be Gerrit Cole’s version of Robin. They simply need a low-4.00 ERA pitcher at the back end of their rotation who can give them a decent amount of length. If there’s a regression to the mean for Taillon, conventional wisdom suggests we can expect a much more successful second half of the season.
That means avoiding barrels because when he’s hit, he’s hit very hard. He ranks near the bottom in exit velocity, barrel percentage, expected slugging percentage and hard-hit percentage.
If there’s any sort of turnaround, the Yankees will be grabbing many more wins when he takes the bump.