The Yankees have some of the most talented players in MLB, no matter where you look on the field or in the clubhouse. It’s not easy to drill down to their individual skills and attributes and determine which are best and most valuable. So, here’s a summation of the flat-out best skills and characteristics on the team, in no particular order:
Aaron Hicks’ well-roundedness
The Yankees stole Aaron Hicks from the Twins when they got him in a trade for backup catcher John Ryan Murphy. Not only has Hicks morphed into a power-hitting switch-hitter, but he has probably become the most balanced player on the team. Hicks’ plus athleticism has contributed to him being one of the best defensive outfielders in today’s game, he has some of the most refined plate discipline skills in the league, and he can hit from both sides of the plate. His excellent arm, valuable defense, power and patience on offense make him a rare five-tool player.
Gio Urshela’s fielding
On a team that has been shaky defensively over the past few seasons, Urshela has been a nice addition to this roster. He’s the rare player the Yankees can brag about being a clear plus on defense. While his fielding skills had long been masked due to his below average hitting capability, his defense can stack up with any third baseman outside the elite tier that includes the likes of Manny Machado, Nolan Arenado and Matt Chapman.
Gary Sanchez’s arm and Aaron Judge’s Arm
According to Statcast, Sanchez has the strongest arm of any catcher in MLB. It’s pretty unbelievable to see him unleash his cannon down to second base with the potential to eliminate almost any runner who dares steal. The amount of potential scorers Sanchez has either gunned down or intimidated into standing put provides extra value to the team.
Likewise, Judge has one of the best arms in baseball, and he can directly prevent runners from scoring at home plate, as well as advancing across the bases. Like Sanchez, sometimes just Judge’s presence in right field prevents runners from even attempting to score or take an extra base
DJ LeMahieu’s raw hit tool
The Yankees haven’t had a hitter like this in a long time. LeMahieu is batting .333 on the season, has the highest contact rate on the team, and continues to come through in almost every big scenario, posting the best average (.478) with RISP in baseball. As a fan, it has gotten to the point where I’m shocked if he doesn’t at least put the ball in play every at-bat.
The Movement on Adam Ottavino’s pitches
When the Yankees added reliever Adam Ottavino this past offseason, I couldn’t do anything but watch highlights of his ridiculous pitching arsenal. Whether it be his slider or his fastball, those two pitches have unfair movement.
Imagine trying to hit this pitch— YES Network (@YESNetwork) April 27, 2019
Adam Ottavino's slider is terrifying. pic.twitter.com/2XFfL4f1Sn
It’s basically like he’s throwing frisbees to the batter. If Ottavino gets enough bite on the pitch, there’s almost nothing an opponent can do to hit it.
Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton’s power
The Yankees probably have the two best players in terms of raw power in MLB. They hit balls harder more consistently than just about anyone. In a league where the three true outcomes (home runs, walks, and strikeouts) are more present than ever, having this type of power gives the Yankees an advantage every night. In 2018, Stanton and Judge were in the top five for average exit velocity and had two of the top three hardest hit balls of the year.
Aroldis Chapman’s arm strength
Even as triple-digit velocity becomes less and less uncommon in modern baseball, there is still almost nobody that consistently throws as hard as Aroldis Chapman. The only time he fails is when he makes the mistakes, and if he’s on, batters have little-to-no chance. The combination of 101 mph on the fastball and 88 mph on the slider, when you don’t know which one is coming, tough hard to beat.
CC Sabathia’s leadership
The physical skills on this team are varied, and some are super-human, but the experience Sabathia brings to the clubhouse is unmatched. CC is 38 years old, has won a World Series, a Cy Young Award, and is most likely one of a handful active Hall of Famers. On top of all of those achievements, he has done it all with uncommon poise. He has been helpful in the development of the Baby Bombers, giving them a calming presence to turn to during their quick rise to stardom in New York. Sabathia has come out and said this will be his last season in the MLB, but easily could have retired a few years ago. He didn’t stay on to rack up a few personal achievements and make a little more money; he stayed because he wanted to lead these young players and bring a championship back to the city of New York before he retired. That’s as valuable as anything.