Injuries are Bringing the Yankees Back to Earth, But the Future is Still Bright

Recently, it looks as though the Yankees hot streak has been replaced with an ice cold one. They have lost 14 of their last 20 games, and have now slid 3 games behind the Red Sox in the American League East. While some of the blame can be placed on the inconsistent rotation and faltering bullpen, injuries have not helped the cause either. Although it is only the first half of the season, the Yankees have already had a quite a few injuries, and unfortunately many of them have been to promising young prospects. The first prospect to go down this season was James Kaprielian. Although his injury took place during spring training, it was equally as devastating. Kaprielian was a highly praised starting pitcher due to get his first chance in the big leagues this year, but it looks as though that will have to be put on hold for a while. His Tommy John surgery will require at least a year of recovery time.

The next wave of injuries came began during the regular season. The first player to go was Greg Bird. After a red-hot spring, Bird stumbled out of the gate due to an ankle bruise (injury) he sustained during a spring training game on March 30th. His ankle never quite healed right, and he is currently evaluating various rehabilitation options. Then on May 14th, Aroldis Chapman went on the 10-day DL. This was perhaps one of the most concerning injuries because it could easily lead to a more serious problem in the future. Shoulder inflammation on a pitcher who throws 100+ mph is not a good sign, especially on an $86 million closer. The next major injury occurred when Jacoby Ellsbury slammed into the center field wall attempting to catch a fly ball. He suffered from concussions afterwards, and subsequently went on the DL for a short while. After that, the injury bug moved on to the rest of the team. Adam Warren, CC Sabathia, Aaron Hicks, Starlin Castro, and Matt Holliday have all spent time on the 10-day DL within the past month. Warren’s reliability has been sorely missed in the bullpen and Hicks, Castro, and Holliday really helped round out the Yankees lineup. Without them in there, they simply do not have the same kind of firepower.

The final and most crippling injuries, however, occurred to a pair of young Yankees prospects. On June 19th, Gleyber Torres tore his UCL sliding awkwardly into home plate, and was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery. Torres was the Yankees top rated prospect, and was likely set to make his first major league appearance this year. He had been taking reps at third base, so his debut was coming soon. His injury was definitely a heart breaker for Yankee fans. However, the worst injury of the season came on June 29th against the Chicago White Sox. Twenty-two year old Dustin Fowler was hitting .293 with 13 home runs in AAA, so he had recently earned himself a promotion to the major leagues. During the very first inning of his debut, Fowler (playing RF) sprinted after a foul ball headed towards the seats and brutally crashed into the wall. However, no one knew just how bad it was until Fowler tried to get back on his feet. Immediately after putting weight on his right leg, Fowler winced and stumbled to the ground. He had torn his patella tendon on a hidden electric box, and his season was now over. Just an inning into his first game, and he was already headed for surgery and rehabilitation.

Although Fowler’s injury somewhat summarizes the Yankees luck as of recently, there is absolutely no reason to panic in New York. In a year where the Yankees were not predicted to do well, they have already exceeded expectations. No one would have guessed that Aaron Judge (age 25) would be this good, and for that Yankees fans should be thankful. Judge has been a blessing to watch this year, and hopefully he will continue to have many more seasons like this one. Aaron Hicks (age 27) has finally found his stroke this year, and hopefully he can return to form when he gets back from the disabled list. Another player who has successfully rebounded from an off year is Luis Severino (age 23). Severino has already racked up 114 strikeouts in 99 innings of work this year, and he looks like he could be a valuable piece of the Yankees rotation for years to come. Starlin Castro (age 27) and Didi Gregorius (age 27) have also put together fine seasons this year, and appear to have found their place on the Yankees. And last but not least, Clint Frazier (age 22) also looked pretty good out there in his first major league game. Although he has only had a few at bats thus far, you can tell there is something special about Frazier. His bat whips through the zone at a crazy speed and it carries a ton of pop. His line drive over the left field wall in Houston was just the first home run of many to come. However, he is going to need to improve his plate discipline and pitch recognition skills in order to be truly successful at the big-league level. Nevertheless, it is a distinct possibility that the Yankees send him back down to AAA before the year is over anyways. Either way, look for big things out of Frazier by 2018.

In the previous paragraph, six Yankee players were named, and they all happen to be under 30 years old. Of these six players, one of them is likely to win Rookie of the Year and possibly even MVP. That player is of course Aaron Judge, and he has become one of cornerstones of the new age Yankees. At age 25, he definitely has a promising career ahead of him. The next three players: Castro, Hicks, and Gregorius, are all 27 years old. These players have steadily improved themselves over time and have finally found their groove this year. If they can maintain this kind of performance over the next couple years, they can be excellent franchise pieces as well. The last two players, Severino and Frazier, are really young players with a tremendous amount of upside. Severino (age 23) throws a high 90’s fastball and a nasty slider that he is able to use to get a lot of swing and misses. He has shown he can rebound from a bad season and has greatly improved his control this year. If he keeps working with Pedro Martinez in the off season, he can do big things in the future. And last but not least, we have Clint Frazier (age 22). Frazier probably won’t be around the entire year, but he will likely be a big part of their future. Look for his bat speed to generate a lot of home runs in the Bronx once he has improved his plate discipline.

With these six young players, the Yankees now have a solid base they can build upon. If a couple players like Gleyber Torres, James Kaprielian, Chance Adams, Dustin Fowler, and Justus Sheffield manage to pan out in the near future, then the Yankees will be in really good shape. Add in a couple of free agent signings (maybe Machado, Kershaw, or Keuchel) and you have a rock-solid team. Although the Yankees are struggling right now, there is still a lot of reason to be optimistic. So don’t give up now Yankees fans, the future is still very bright!

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