The New York Yankees, despite two losses to close the weekend, have recently played themselves into a postseason spot if the season were to end today. They are getting healthier and peaking at the right time after being left for dead by many in June.
And while they haven’t locked up a postseason spot yet (there is still a month left to play and lots to decide between now and early October) we now know which players are the most indispensable on the roster. The ones that, if they got injured, we would all wonder if the Yankees even have a chance to win it all this year.
These are the three most crucial players currently on the Yankees’ roster:
3. Jonathan Loáisiga
Simply put, Loáisiga is the Yankees’ most important reliever, and it’s not particularly close. He doesn’t have the strikeout rate of a Josh Hader or a Craig Kimbrel, but he can miss bats with multiple pitches and has insane movement on all of his offerings.
His 8.91 strikeouts per nine innings suggest someone who can generate strikeouts when needed, and his incredible 61.5 percent groundball rate tells the story of a pitcher who can get out of jams with inning-ending double plays.
This season, Loáisiga has taken a step forward with his command and trusts his stuff more. Since that stuff is nasty, that’s a good thing.
Per FanGraphs’ version of Wins Above Replacement (or WAR), Loáisiga leads all MLB relievers, with 2.4. Sure, it has been somewhat aided by his 65.2 frames, but all of his run-prevention metrics are elite (2.19 ERA, 2.21 xERA, 2.40 FIP, 3.06 xFIP) and he is the most reliable and dependable arm in the Yankees’ bullpen, the one who manager Aaron Boone relies upon when he needs to put out a fire.
He is the bullpen ace, and any prolonged absence would severely damage the Yankees’ chances to make a deep postseason run.
2. Aaron Judge
Judge is, with some difference, the best position player on the Yankees’ roster. Without him, the offense just wouldn’t be the same: he comfortably leads the team with a 151 wRC+, a .391 wOBA, 29 home runs, .246 isolated power, .383 on-base percentage, and .538 slugging percentage.
Judge also has the highest WAR on the team according to Fangraphs. He has 4.4 fWAR, and the second-ranked position player, DJ LeMahieu, has 2.2, or exactly half of Judge’s output.
He is 13th in all MLB in fWAR, and ninth in the American League. He also has fewer games than the eight American Leaguers ahead of him in the standings.
Judge is the Yankees’ best and most powerful offensive weapon, capable of beating opposing teams with his patience, power, arm, and defense. He is the most indispensable batter in a team filled with stars.
1. Gerrit Cole
Gerrit Cole is perhaps the single most important individual in the Yankees’ roster, the one on which the postseason (and World Series) hopes of an entire fan base rest. The difference between Cole and each and every other member of the team’s starting rotation is considerable.
Cole is perhaps the only Yankee one would expect to see on the mound in a win-or-go-home game capable of delivering seven or eight truly elite innings (or 110-120 pitches, if you prefer). He is the ace, the workhorse of the staff.
This season, he seems well-positioned to make a strong run at his first Cy Young award. Nearly all of the major run-prevention stats say he is a sub-3.00 ERA pitcher: FIP (2.71), xFIP (2.84), xERA (2.89), and SIERA (2.83). His actual ERA is a sparkling 2.80.
Cole is the American League WAR leader, with 4.7, and the third-ranked pitcher in MLB behind Zack Wheeler and Corbin Burnes. In the junior circuit, only Carlos Rodon, Lance Lynn, and Robbie Ray have come close to his performance.
If something were to happen to Gerrit Cole, the Yankees would be in big, big trouble. So far, he has been everything the team hoped he would be when he signed that mammoth nine-year deal in late 2019.