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Which Yankees are poised for an improved second half?

Some players have been unlucky, and some just plain bad. Who is most likely to break out?

Divisional Round - New York Yankees v Cleveland Indians - Game One Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

With the All-Star break mercifully over, the second half of the season has officially begun. Usually at the midpoint of the season, I like to look back on the first half and reflect. Instead of reminiscing, however, I’m going to look ahead to the second half, embrace my inner-optimist and see who is likely to outperform their slow starts.

Gary Sanchez

I don’t want to spend too much time on Sanchez because his struggles have been well documented. The Kraken was projected to be the third best hitter on the team, behind Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, yet sported a .190/.291/.433 triple-slash heading into the Subway Series. A few power surges and clutch hits have helped keep him afloat, posting a respectable, albeit below average, 96 wRC+. The consistency, however, has not been there. I think the fact that Sanchez struck the hardest hit ball of the season at 121.1 mph and it resulted in a lineout encapsulates his 2018 quite nicely.

Greg Bird

Another promising young bat stifled by injury and a bit of bad luck. Not unlike Sanchez, Bird’s first-half line of .214/.317/.457 doesn’t look great on the surface. He’s actually been an above average hitter, though, and that’s largely in part to a recent surge after being moved down into the bottom third of the lineup. In the two weeks leading up to the All-Star break, Bird slugged .588 with five home runs. If Bird can keep hitting like that — 139 wRC+ — over the course of the second half, that will put him in the same neighborhood as All-Stars like Joey Votto and Scooter Gennett.

Sonny Gray

Now it’s on to the other side of the ball, and probably the most frustrating Yankee to watch all year. Not only has Gray shown flashes of being not terrible this season, throwing seven quality starts, he was an established pitcher before being acquired by the Yankees in 2017.

With no apparent loss in velocity or movement on his pitches, it’s hard to pinpoint the source of Gray’s struggles. Based on the numbers, though, it’s fair to say that Gray was a bit unlucky in the first half.

His xFIP (4.22) is a full run lower than his ERA (5.46). His BABIP against is higher than average at .327, and his LOB% is below average at 69%. Gray’s future with the team is certainly cloudy, but with the trade deadline fast approaching and no real headway made towards acquiring starting pitchers, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Gray make 15 more starts this season. Hopefully the scales of luck tip back in his favor.

Tommy Kahnle

Remember Kahnle? He’s the other guy in the David Robertson trade, who turned out to be really good and a crucial part of last season’s playoff run. He’s still alive and well in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. After spending over a month on the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis, the Yankees optioned him to Triple-A in hopes that he would regain his velocity and find his command.

Kahnle’s command, or lack thereof, was a red flag even before the Yankees acquired him last season. Everything seems to be under control for him through 17 appearances with the RailRiders, pitching to a 2.65 ERA, with a 37.1% and 11.4% strikeout and walk rate, respectively. If Kahnle can return to 2017 form and rejoin the Yankees sometime in the second half, he could be a big boost to the bullpen. Every reliable arm in the bullpen is fewer innings Boone needs to get out of his struggling starting rotation.

I think I’m in the minority in my belief that the Yankees are good enough to win the World Series as they stand today. They are almost a lock for the playoffs, and I believe they can win the 11 games — 12 if they draw the Wild Card — necessary for championship number 28. That is, however, on the big condition that those who struggled in the first half right the ship, and quickly.