At the All-Star break the Yankees were a boring .500 team on the surface, but the way they got there was far from bland. It was a first half full of surprises, both good and bad, so let's dig into the major ones.
Solarte's rapid rise and fall
After bouncing around the minor leagues for eight years without even a cup of coffee in the bigs, it was a miracle that Yangervis Solarte even made the Yankees roster out of spring training. It was even more miraculous that less than a week into the season he was the biggest reason for the Yankees' modest success. His Cinderella season quickly went south by the time June rolled around and he was sent back to the minors. Just a week later he was recalled to the Bronx, so it would be nice if he could recapture some of that early magic in the second half.
Gardner's power surge
Last year the typically slap-happy Brett Gardner turned a new leaf and set career highs in doubles, triples and home runs. He was rewarded with a four-year contract extension over the winter that has paid immediate dividends. This season he's on pace to pass last year's triples mark and has already surpassed last year's home run total with nine. As Chris pointed out earlier in the week, this boost in power is the result in a change in approach by Gardner. He should continue to hit the ball with authority.
Tanaka's red hot start
Despite making a big splash by signing a mega-deal to join the Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka was expected to be their third starter and ease his way into the major leagues. Apparently everybody got the memo except him. From his first start he's not only been the Yankees' ace but also one of the best pitchers in baseball. His elbow injury has put a damper on things, but let's hold our breath and hope we see him pitch again this year.
Ineffectiveness of McCann and Beltran
Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran each signed hefty contracts with the Yankees to inject life into their weak offense. If anything, they've made the offense weaker. McCann has been among the worst producers in the league at catcher while Beltran, when he's not missing time due to injury, has been even worse. If the Yankees expect to make any noise in the second half, it will have to start with these two turning their seasons around.
Once a top prospect in the Yankees' minor league system, Dellin Betances simply stopped throwing strikes in 2012. Out of desperation, he was converted to a reliever and impressed in his audition for a setup role this spring. He's grabbed his opportunity with two hands and never looked back. The video game numbers he's put up thus far earned him a spot on the AL All-Star team. He and David Robertson should continue to be one of the best 1-2 bullpen punches in baseball.
Starting rotation's injury plague
Of the five starters that the Yankees broke camp with, four of them have spent, or are expected to spend, significant time on the disabled list. The last man standing is Hiroki Kuroda, a 39-year-old in the middle of the worst season of his career. Through all of this the Yankees have maintained league-average production from their starters thanks to David Phelps and a bunch of spare parts. Even if some of the injured arms return, though, it won't mean much if they continue to get little to no run support.
What do you think has been the biggest surprise for the Yankees this year? Cast your vote in the poll below.