Picking my Yankee of the Month

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a really good start to the season. As of the time I write this article, the Yankees just kicked the snot out of the Blue Jays, their record sits at 18-6 while riding an 11-game winning streak, and there’s a lot going well in the Bronx, so choosing a Yankee of the Month (actually the Yankee who had the most encouraging month) is both a fun and challenging exercise. Let’s take a look.

The pitching staff has looked pretty darn good from top to bottom. Can we find the Yankee of the Month in this group? No, but Nestor Cortes and Michael King both deserve to be mentioned. I still don’t understand how he does it (I’m pretty sure his mustache is enchanted), but Nestor continues to mow down opponents and is proving that last season was not a fluke while looking like one of the best starting pitchers in baseball. As for King ... wow, he’s got some real stuff and he’s harnessing it in the process of shutting down the middle innings. I may not care for relief pitching, but when you’re going multiple innings — sometimes as many as three — and completely dominating in every outing, you can’t help but notice. Major kudos to Cortes and King. Keep it up, young men!

So if it’s not the pitching, who from the offense am I going to pick? (Spoiler alert: No, I’m not going outside the box and picking someone from the coaching staff or management.) Isiah Kiner-Falefa is sliding into his role after a shaky first week, which is nice to see, but no, not him. DJ LeMahieu seems to be proving that last season’s so-so performance can be attributed to a bad core. To me, it looks like DJ is right back on track the way he was a couple of years ago. I keep seeing line drives off fastballs to right and some smashed balls to left off some off-speed pitches. He doesn’t seem quite as snappy in the field to me, but he’s still making the plays and a major contributor both at the bat, and in the field. I'm so happy to see him back on track, but nope, he’s not the one either.

Anthony Rizzo is also absolutely smashing. For a guy who was being laughed at this past offseason for turning down a Cubs extension of something like 5 years and $70 million, he’s showing how you can regain value. I was hoping that he might make some adjustments and get to around 30 homers and overall have a strong bounce-back season, but now I’m readjusting my expectations and hoping for 40 homers (and then we’ll see what his next contract is when he turns down his player option). So great for Rizzo but no, he’s not my choice either.

The answer is No. 99, the heart and soul of the Yanks. It’s Aaron Judge's team now, even though his offseason wasn’t exactly the smoothest. The extension talks were mostly a joke, and I say this because the Yanks should have started talking to him about an extension in 2018 or '19, not a week before the season starts and his imposed deadline. Then the joke continued when Brian Cashman took everything public, and to add to all of that, Judge doesn’t even have his arbitration settled, so he gets to look forward to the Yanks bashing him while trying to limit his value at some point in the next month or so.

Now as I said, when everything was being revealed, it’s not like the Yanks offered him chump change, but it wasn’t a knockout offer and he’s clearly taking a calculated risk that he can do better. And after a little bit of a slow start with plenty of chit-chat that he blew it and was destined for a terrible year, well he turned that narrative on its head real fast. With 1.4 bWAR and a 201 OPS+, it’s not surprising that he’s leading the team in the areas that count most and is setting himself up for an absolute massive payday. I’m going to enjoy this season because I don’t know if it will be his last one for the Yanks, but it’s certainly going to be a big one.

So that’s why Judge is my guy. All rise!

Thank you for reading and let me know what you think.

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