To say that April has exceeded expectation for the Yankees is an understatement.
They knew it would be difficult to play without big-name players like Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Curtis Granderson for the first month of the season; such stars simply cannot be easily replaced. Even A-Rod's replacement, Kevin Youkilis, missed roughly half the month with a back injury that eventually landed him on the Disabled List. Yet here we are with the Yanks at 16-10, a better start than they had in last year's division-winning campaign.
Who were the men that led the team to the league's third-best record? Who was an utter dud?
Mitre of the Month
Ivan Nova, SP
4 starts, 1-1, 16.2 IP, 18 K, 23 H, 8 BB, 3 HBP, 6.48 ERA, 3.62 FIP
The Yanks hoped that Nova would turn a corner after a disastrous follow-up to his great rookie season in 2012. Unfortunately, they got more of the same from Nova, who struggled with control and quality pitching in April before landing on the DL with an elbow strain. With David Phelps subbing for him in the rotation and the rehabbing Michael Pineda both breathing down his neck, Nova is not doing himself any favors.
Dishonorable mention: Shawn Kelley
Kelley's pitched like crap, but he's a mop and his innings have been lower-leverage innings than Nova. He avoids the title named for the terrifying Sergio Mitre by irrelevance. Yippie!
Pitcher of the Month
Mariano Rivera, RP
11 games, 10.1 IP, 10 saves, 11 K, 9 H, 1 BB, 1.74 ERA, 2.44 FIP
It had to be Mo. It was his first month of competitive baseball in nearly a year, and he looked better than ever on the mound at age 43. He was perfect in save opportunities, gave up just two inconsequential runs, and kicked off his final season in grand style. The Yankees appear to be just as secure at the back end of the bullpen as they were in Mo's younger years. This man is clearly retiring simply because he's grown weary of dealing with such mortal opposition.
Honorable mention: Hiroki Kuroda.
It's tough for me to favor a reliever over a starter, but while HIROK's numbers were quite nice, he did have that shortened first start due to injury and a disappointing game in Cleveland as well. It's nothing to be ashamed of to finish second to Mo.
Espinoza of the Month
Ben Francisco, "DH"/OF
13 games, 33 PA, .103/.212/.103, 0 XBH, 8 K, 3 BB, .165 wOBA, -7 wRC+
Ben Francisco has started nine games as the designated hitter; the other four were innings of defensive replacement in the outfield at the end of games. He had to have been truly horrid to beat out bad months at the plate by Jayson Nix and Eduardo Nunez, both of whom were forced into starting roles. Francisco did it! Maybe it was just nine bad games, but oh my. He has three hits, and his batting average could very easily have been .069 if Jeff Kellogg hadn't felt generous. (Merciful?) He has -0.5 WAR almost exclusively from terrible numbers at the plate. What else can you say? Even with a hot week, Francisco will probably be packing his bags once Granderson returns.
Dishonorable mentions: Jayson Nix, Eduardo Nunez
As noted above, Nix and Nunez have been quite bad at the plate in starting roles, but Francisco is just on another level of bad.
NB: "Who is Alvaro Espinoza?" you might ask. Oh, are you in for a treat. He was somehow given 1,528 plate appearances with the Yankees.
Player of the Month
Travis Hafner, DH
22 games, 80 PA, .318/.438/.667, 3 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 12 BB, .460 wOBA, 192 wRC+
Choosing the Yankees' Player of the Month was tougher than any of the other three. Yankee hitters needed to step up at the plate with so many important cogs to the offense on the DL. Francisco Cervelli surprised us all with a hot 140 wRC+ start before breaking his hand on a foul ball. Robinson Cano was his typical Cano self after a slow first week, and Vernon Wells stunned everyone in the game with his resurgence at the plate to a 145 wRC+. SBN's Rob Neyer even named him to his April All-Star team.
Any of those players would have been a good call, but I'm giving my vote to Pronk. His April was a huge step forward in a comeback season attempt. He's stayed healthy when the team desperately him and his lefty power, and he leads leads the team in walks despite having fewer plate appearances than six of his teammates. Hafner has been just about the complete opposite of Francisco in the batter's box. The deciding factor for me was WPA--Pronk's 1.25 WPA leads the Yankees by 0.26 over Cano and 0.61 over Wells. He's been doing the most to help the Yankees win games with the bat in April, and for that, he gets the Pinstriped Bible Yankee Player of the Month Award. I'm sure he will highly value it on his career resume.
Honorable mentions: Robinson Cano, Vernon Wells