Plenty has been said of the Yankees’ offense in recent weeks (or maybe even months), and in some cases, it’s for good reason. Too often has the team been inept against inferior pitching, which has been a major catalyst in their ever-shrinking lead for the top Wild Card spot. Still, despite their struggles with runners in scoring position, the Bombers have lived up to their nickname. They rank second in baseball in runs scored and OPS, and have a healthy lead atop the league in total home runs.
Those numbers have obviously been helped along by big sluggers like Giancarlo Stanton and four months of Aaron Judge, but a major part of those numbers comes from the Yankee infield, where they have seen a big boost in offensive production since last season. It’s amazing to think back to the offseason and spring training, when infield production was a major concern.
Greg Bird was hurt again, nobody knew what to expect from Brandon Drury (who then went down with migraines and blurred vision), and Neil Walker had no time to shake the rust off before Opening Day. Those question marks have been more than adequately filled by a pair of rookies in Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres, who have made the Yankees infield loaded with dangerous bats.
First, let’s start with the anchor of the infield. Didi Gregorius has proven once again that he is among the best shortstops in baseball. After posting the best season of his career in 2017, he has been even better at the plate this season. An insane April and a recent hot streak has pulled his season OPS to .837, or 40 points better than what he finished with last season. He did miss a month last season, but he has already eclipsed his 2017 home run total, while missing some time as well this season. Gregorius has become one of the most valuable Yankees on the roster, especially when you factor in his defensive skillset.
To the left of Gregorius is the Yankees’ most pleasant surprise this season. Andujar’s bat was well-regarded when he came up from Triple-A, but nobody expected a season like this, as Andujar continues to stake his claim for the Rookie of the Year Award. His .522 slugging percentage and 125 OPS+ have turned the likes of Todd Frazier and Chase Headley into a distant memory. Not only has Andujar already posted more doubles than Headley and Frazier did combined with the Yankees last season, but his stats across the board have eclipsed the production from the Yankees’ 2017 third basemen, and it’s not very close.
Oh, and there’ another Rookie of the Year candidate in the infield in Torres, who has made everyone forget about Starlin Castro. Torres’ current OPS is over 50 points higher than Castro’s last season with the Yankees, and his 23 home runs have easily cleared Castro’s final mark of 16 in 2017. That also came with Torres missing time due to a hip injury. Torres works far more productive at-bats than the free-swinging Castro, as the Yanks replaced one All-Star with a far better one.
Then there’s the complicated situation at first base, where Bird was absent for a healthy chunk of the season once again. He finished 2017 with a great September and postseason, but so far, that hasn’t been the case. No matter, Luke Voit is here. Considering that the Yankees’ initial solution at first base last year was Chris Carter, there’s really not much more that needs to be said.
This season absolutely has a different feel than 2017. Expectations, injuries and numerous scoring chances that weren’t cashed in have given it a very frustrating feel of late. On the bright side, not only has the infield been way better at the plate than last year, but it also presents a core group that can stick together for years to come.