Yankees slumping outfield bats have caused a power outage

Tom Szczerbowski

While Jacoby Ellsbury continues to be everything the Yankees hoped he would be, the power hitters in the outfield - namely Carlos Beltran and Alfonso Soriano - have been mired in a slump over the past couple weeks.

After a disappointing 2013 season, the Yankees went looking to spend money on some middle of the order power. With the departure of Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira publicly wondering about how his wrist might hold up, the Yankees found the slugger they were looking for by signing Carlos Beltran, a career .283/.358/.495, 121 wRC+ hitter. Coupled with the trade deadline acquisition of Alfonso Soriano, it looked like the Yankees had some serious power threats to prop up an offense that ranked 16th in runs scored in 2013.

Beltran did certainly get off to a hot start, and while Soriano has had a few good games, recently they've been struggling mightily at the plate. Without the recent power surge of Mark Teixeira, the Yankees would be getting almost no power from their lineup (no, Brian McCann isn't helping, as Michael Brown pointed out here). Since April 20 (during which the Yankees have gone 7-7) Beltran has hit just one home run, scored one run, had four RBI, and hit just .208/.263/.321 with a 60 wRC+. Over at An A-Blog for A-Rod, there's a good write-up of the differences in Beltran's spray charts from the beginning of the season and from the past two weeks. Basically, Beltran has been pulling the ball a lot more recently, while he hit the ball solidly up the middle a lot more during the beginning of the season, and even sprayed a fair number of hits to left field (even while hitting from the left side of the plate). While Beltran did start off relatively well, he's really begun to slump over the past two and a half weeks, leaving the Yankees with a dangerous power outage.

Someone who could dull the sting of Beltran's slump is Soriano. Historically a feast or famine hitter, Soriano hit four of his five home runs during a nine-day stretch in April. While Soriano's been (slightly) better than Beltran since April 20, he's still hitting just .228/.254/.368 with a 63 wRC+, while striking out a whopping 27.0% of the time. In that span, Soriano has just one home run, has scored five runs, and has knocked in seven runs. So yes, he's doing a bit better than Beltran, but that's not saying a whole lot. These two (who are generally both in the lineup, one as an outfielder and one as the DH, compounding the effect of their dual slumps) have really left all the power hitting up to Tex over the past two and a half weeks.

While all slumps end (in Soriano's case, it'll no doubt end gloriously, with him hitting six home runs in three days before going back to hitting .230), the Yankees recent stretch of rough play is certainly exacerbated by their lack of power hitting lately. And while Soriano and Beltran will both certainly improve, this recent lack of production has put extra pressure on a starting rotation that has already been stretched too thin, and the already struggling McCann (who's been in a slump all season). The month of May will present the Yankees with a relatively soft schedule (one free of AL East opponents), which will give them a great chance for the Yankees to bank some wins early in the season. If they're going to take advantage of this great opportunity, these big bats had better wake up.

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