With a new year and decade upon us, the Yankees have put themselves in a good position to bring a championship back to New York. Each season has its expectation and its surprises, so recently I have looked into potential breakout pitchers and outfielders, saving infielders for last.
These three infielders do vary in age and future value, but they all showed signs of performing at the game’s highest level.
The Dodgers had one of the best catchers in all of baseball when Yasmani Grandal was on their roster from 2015-2018. One season later after Grandal’s departure, the Dodgers have inserted the 24-year-old Smith, who put forth an offensive display in the major leagues consistent with his production in the minors.
Over 196 plate appearances, the rookie hit for a wRC+ of 132, with an incredible .318 ISO. Considering players with 190 plate appearances or more throughout the majors, Smith ranked tenth, between homer run champions Pete Alonso and Jorge Soler.
Not only did he perform with the bat, Smith was able to impress behind the plate as well. Catching a total of 403.0 innings for the Dodgers during the regular season, he posted a 50.3% strike rate on Statcast. His only downside looks to be how prone he is to strikesouts, generating a rate of 26.5%. Either way, the Dodgers have quickly found their catcher of the future in the span of one season.
Arraez is a solid choice if you’re looking for a player who can win multiple batting championships over the decade. The main factor to consider is his ability to make contact will the ball; no one with more than 300 plate appearances generated a better contact rate than Arraez last season. You have to go back to 2013 when Marco Scutaro posted a 95.7 contact percentage, to understand how well Arraez puts the bat on the ball. The difference is Arraez also finds success when putting the ball in play, as shown by his .355 BABIP, which ranked 18th overall in 2019.
Not only did Arraez generate the lowest strikeout percentage of any player last season, he also produced an above average 9.8% walk rate. Combine that with a high BABIP, consistent with his production in the minor league, and you can see how Arraez purely knows how to hit. He may lack the power to become a superstar, but he is still just 22 years old and has plenty of time to work on that skill.
If Smith can break out with a power display, and Arraez by posting a .400 OBP while threatening for a batting title, Ford lies somewhere in the middle. He posted a slightly lower ISO mark than Smith at .301, and a higher strikeout percentage than Arraez coming in at 17.2%. Even though Smith does a good job a drawing walks, the Dodgers are hoping his strikeout rate will drop, while the Twins are looking to add some thump into Arraez’s bat. Ford has a mixture of both attributes, striking a good balance between a patient contact hitter and power hitter.
Entering next season, he could very well be the best left-handed bat on the Yankees’ roster considering his competition is down to Brett Gardner and Mike Tauchman. At 27 years old, Ford finally made his Yankees debut proving to many that everything he was doing in Scranton could be transferred to the Bronx. He was blocked by Greg Bird then Luke Voit, but injuries opened the door and he took advantage throughout the span of 50 games.