As much as I love the home run, the true peaks of a highlight package are the defensive gems. Leaps at the wall and diving stops in the infield add so much intensity to the regular pace of a baseball game. As ballplayers get better and better, the absurdity of their defense proportionally grows too. Let’s look back at the best Yankee webgems of 2018, in chronological order:
1. Aaron Judge - April 6, 2018
In the last two years Judge has established himself as one of the very best players in all of baseball. I think he’s still underrated for his defensive ability, though. He posted the second-highest DRS of any right fielder, trailing only Mookie Betts, possibly the best defensive outfielder in baseball. Judge did that while missing six weeks with a broken wrist. Here, late in the game on a cold April night, Judge absolutely robs Caleb Joseph of what should have been a home run. Extending his jurisdiction indeed.
2. Gleyber Torres - May 28, 2018
Probably the toughest play for an infielder is tracking a ball behind you. You’re running with your back to the plate, looking over your shoulder for a ball that’s probably dying quickly, and hoping you don’t collide with a charging outfielder. Given that the Yankees have two NFL tight ends that make appearances in the outfield, that latter risk is even greater for pinstriped infielders. Against the Astros in early May, Gleyber Torres does everything right on a lunging grab to retire one of the best players in baseball.
3. Gary Sanchez - May 29, 2018
This is one of those plays that, when I watched it happen live, I couldn’t believe it. Not in the sense that it was some incredible catch that I, a short and temperamental Canadian, could never make in my wildest dreams, but in the sense that it was almost physically unbelievable a ball could ricochet back to Gary Sanchez so perfectly and he could time his throw to gun down Tony Kemp.
Everything about this play is incredible. Aroldis Chapman fires a 100-mph pitch well out of the strike zone, Gary pops up to retrieve it only for the ball to bounce back right into his hands. He then steps, throws, and Kemp is out by a good margin - look how early Miguel Andujar is tagging him! Add to that it ended the tenth inning and the Yankees came back in their half to win the game, and the Don’t Run on Gary warning flashes even brighter.
4. Didi Gregorius - Aug 12, 2018
It’s hard to pick just one play from Didi in a season. He’s made the incredible look pretty routine for four years now in the Bronx, but this play might be the best of all. A diving stop and throw from his knees is one thing, but the player he gets is something else. He’s not throwing out Kendrys Morales here, but Delino DeShields. DeShields is the seventh fastest runner in baseball by Statcast’s sprint speed, averaging 30 ft/sec from home to first. He’s clearly going max effort on this play, making Didi’s defensive wizardry even more noteworthy.
5. Adeiny Hechavarria - October 3, 2018
Aaron Boone caught a lot of flak for his sub-optimal playoff managing. In the Wild Card Game, though, he pushed all the right buttons, including inserting Hechavarria at third before the sixth inning. The move was roundly criticized as Boone managing scared and not trusting Rookie of the Year candidate Miguel Andujar. The critics were silenced almost immediately, as Hech went way up the ladder to snag a screaming line drive for the out.
Did we miss anything? What was your favorite defensive play of the year? Let us know in the comments below!