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Yankees Mailbag: Luis Severino, double plays, and repeat injuries

Let’s open up the mailbag and answer some more of your questions.

Luis Severino, the Yankees right-hander warms up his arm at spring training in 2020 Photo by J. Conrad Williams Jr./Newsday via Getty Images

Good afternoon everyone, it’s time to hop into the mailbag for more of your Yankees questions. Remember to send in your questions for our weekly call by e-mail to pinstripealleyblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

Chris T. asks: When Luis Severino comes back, who is the odd man out? Right now it feels like Montgomery and Taillon are on the bubble if they go that route. Or does Boone go with a six-man rotation?

I’d like to note before we get into this discussion that although Severino is ramping up his rehab, I’m still not confident in placing any sort of trust in what he can provide to the team for this season. The last time he tried to come back midseason from injury wound up being very complicated, and he returned late in September. I’m not saying history will repeat itself, but it’s not as automatic to assume that Severino will be slotting right back into the rotation within a month or so.

That being said, it’s definitely part of the Yankees’ plan to have Severino on hand for a sizeable amount of the season. Right now if I had to bet on a name that could drop out, I would go with Taillon. He’s got plenty of peripherals that indicate he should be pitching well, but the simple fact is that the results have not been there. Montgomery has been a bit of a mixed bag, getting some solid starts interrupted by some clunkers, but Taillon has yet to have an outing that has wowed anyone. I can’t see Taillon getting demoted in this scenario, so if it came down to placing one of Taillon or Montgomery in the ‘pen maybe that changes the result, but he’s the lowest on the totem pole currently.

Steve B. asks: The Yankees seem to be hitting into a lot of double plays this season. How do their number of double plays compare to other MLB teams this season and to the Yankees teams of the past?

The double plays have been a frustrating factor of the Yankee offense this season, and it has been particularly bad compared to the rest of the league. The Yankees are currently hitting into a league-worst 1.07 double plays per game, up from the 0.82 they hit into last season. Interestingly, they hit into far more double plays on the road so far, a rate of 1.42 per game as opposed to the 0.65 they find themselves in at home.

Obviously the amount of double plays is excessive, and has ruined a fair amount of scoring opportunities, but should the Yankees be concerned that they’re in the upper-echelon to begin with? Perhaps not, as the offenses with the fewest double plays hit into so far include Pittsburgh, Seattle, Colorado, Miami, and Baltimore — teams with the weakest offenses overall. This is one of the most fixable components of the Yankee offense — getting the ball elevated more instead of grounding into the infield would lead to significant damage for the Bombers.

Kash K. asks: Do you have insight into the impact on the team from consistent injuries, as we have now seen over the last couple of years Hicks, Stanton, Judge, and Voit have been in and out of the lineup. When is it time to bite the bullet and find replacements who can provide more stability in terms of availability? (Though it looks like Stanton will be here for a while.)

It’s true that the injury backgrounds for many Yankees have clearly become cyclical, rather than one unlucky season featuring them. It’s difficult to build a roster with a foundation that is shakier than most, and the Yankees are seeing the level of stress that their depth is being put under thanks to this currently, but there is still some strong bones in the house that Brian Cashman has constructed. As you noted, Giancarlo Stanton isn’t going anywhere, and neither is Aaron Judge. Their talent simply plays, and the organization will do their best to rest them regularly and try to avoid lengthy IL stints. Even failing that, they rely on the pair to form the heart of the offense.

Luke Voit doesn’t have the track record of injuries that the rest do, though he has had his problems with foot stuff of late. He’s also been indispensable in the lineup when healthy, so he too gets a pass. The Yankees lived with the brief time that he was out to begin the year, and managed to make things work despite a void occupying the space he left in the meantime.

Aaron Hicks, however, is a different conversation. I wasn’t so keen to consider Hicks’ future with the team being in jeopardy earlier in the year, and noted so in a previous mailbag where I outlined a path for him to age gracefully out of center field in time for Jasson Dominguez to take over. It didn’t seem like Estevan Florial would get a shot, or even be needed, in that picture. Naturally, that scenario has aged poorly, and it’s thanks to the latest injury Hicks sustained.

I’ll be perfectly honest in saying that I have no idea how the rest of the year plays out for Hicks. A torn tendon sheath in his wrist will be tricky to rehab from, and it’s unclear when he’ll return, if he will at all this year. At the same time, Florial hit the ground running at Double-A and earned a promotion to Triple-A at the same time that the Yankees were contemplating how to deal with Hicks’ absense. That’s hardly a coincidence — they want Florial to be MLB ready as fast as possible without rushing him too far ahead. Florial’s hit a bit of a wall in Scranton, but of any of the starters listed, Hicks has to be the one on the hot seat now.