The All-Star break is the unofficial midway point of the season. While the Yankees have already passed their halfway point with 85 games played, now’s as good a time as any to look at the team’s midseason award winners.
MVP: DJ LeMahieu
Let’s start off with the easiest choice: there’s no better option for team MVP than LeMahieu. He’s first in the American League in RBI, second in hits, fourth in WAR and runs, and seventh in OPS (he also leads the Yankees in all of these categories). And, he’s doing it all while playing all over the infield – the natural second baseman has also seen extensive time at first and third base.
LeMahieu is beyond clutch with runners in scoring position, and his defense at all positions is Gold Glove-caliber. He’s also added a much-needed element of contact, clutch, and defense that the 2018 Yankees lacked.
There’s a legitimate case to be made that LeMahieu isn’t just the Yankees’ MVP – he may be a candidate for American League MVP.
Cy Young: Masahiro Tanaka
Losing last year’s top pitcher, Luis Severino, would decimate most other teams. While the Yankees would undoubtedly be better off with the services of Severino, they’ve still been OK thanks to the reemergence of the team’s former ace, Masahiro Tanaka.
Tanaka has never been worse than a solid number two starter, but he’s back at number one status this year. His clunker in London skews his stats a little bit, but just ask any Yankees fan and they’ll tell you that Tanaka has more than carried his weight this year. Known for being injury-prone, Tanaka has also stayed remarkably healthy while the rest of the team crumbled around him.
He leads all Yankees pitchers in strikeouts and WAR, and the team knows it can turn to Tanaka for a big game. If that’s not an ace, I don’t know what is.
Breakout Player of the Year: Gio Urshela
We’re calling a little audible here by substituting the Breakout Player of the Year award in place of Rookie of the Year. The truth is, there just haven’t been any impact rookies on the team this year. However, there have been plenty of breakout players.
In the end, Gio Urshela gets my vote. He came out of the gate raking and hitting walk-offs, and also turned heads with stellar defense. Where did this all come from? Urshela never had a reputation as a good hitter, and now he’s second on the team in average, fourth in hits, and fifth in OPS among regulars.
The Yankees acquired Urshela for nothing but cash last August. He couldn’t have come in with any lower expectations, but he has surpassed them wholeheartedly. His 2019 breakout is a big reason for the team’s success.
Most Improved: Domingo German
This award’s a little different than Breakout Player because it outlines a player who made a marked improvement from last season. While Urshela’s numbers improved, we didn’t really see the change, it just sort of happened. With Domingo German though, his improvement has been so profound that it deserves recognition.
German’s 2018 starts were cringe-inducing: he would whiff a lot of hitters, but give up an inordinate amount of home runs. He ended the season with a 5.57 ERA and 1.33 WHIP. This year though, German has been better by leaps and bounds.
Wins and losses are a finicky stat, but anytime somebody’s 10-2, it merits a second look. German has been more than just lucky though. He has the third-most strikeouts on the team (and would lead if he didn’t miss a month with injury), has the fewest walks among starters, and his .219 batting average against is the best among starters. He’s put himself back on the MLB map with this year’s showing.
Platinum Glove: Gio Urshela
The Platinum Glove is awarded to the player with the best overall defense on the team. Brett Gardner’s a good choice and DJ LeMahieu has a solid case, but it’s gotta be Urshela. He makes incredible plays look routine every night – just look at these three from Wednesday night’s Mets game!
There’s nobody on the team I’d rather have the ball hit to in a close situation than Urshela, making him a natural choice for the Platinum Glove.
Silver Slugger: Gary Sanchez
To recognize the best pure hitter on the team, I’ve devised a team-wide Silver Slugger award, rather than the position-based ones that MLB awards each season. In that respect, it’s gotta be Gary Sanchez.
Sanchez had a rough 2018 – so rough in fact, that his future with the team was questioned by some fans. However, Sanchez has bounced back in an admirable way this season. He leads all MLB catchers in home runs and RBI, and is second in OPS and WAR. When Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton were out of the lineup, Sanchez had to carry the load as the most fear-inducing slugger in the lineup, and he aced his test.
2019 could have been a make-or-break year for Sanchez as a Yankee, and he has made it abundantly clear that the best version of the Yankees’ future is one that features Sanchez behind home plate.