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Checking in on the Yankees’ preseason offensive projections

Projections shouldn’t be taken as gospel, but let’s look at how some Yankees are doing compared to expectations.

Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

The New York Yankees, as a collective squad, have been outpacing preseason projections and expectations by a pretty wide margin. The Yanks hold a 13-game division lead in the East, but this dominance over expectation does not apply to everyone on the roster. For instance, Aaron Judge is blowing his already lofty projections out of the water, while Joey Gallo would be thankful to come close to his. Projections are not, and should not be treated as gospel, but they can be useful in getting a general idea of what you might see out of a player. Let’s look at how the lineup regulars are doing so far, as we approach around the midpoint of this expectation-beating season.

Because of the ease of comparing preseason projections, to current numbers, to rest-of-season projections, I’ll be using FanGraphs’ ZiPS figures.

Behind the plate, ZiPS was not too fond of Jose Trevino, and it is still doubtful after his pleasantly surprising first half. He was projected a .241/.267/.358 slash line, good for an uninspiring 68 wRC+. He is outpacing all of those numbers by a healthy margin, posting a solid 112 wRC+ in 152 plate appearances, and has already surpassed his six projected long balls. For the remainder of the year, ZiPS has him putting up a wRC+ of 83, showing that the system might not believe the breakout just yet. His 2.2 fWAR is also well above what he was expected to do over the course of the year, where he was projected just 0.8. Trevino, although cooling off a bit, has been a pleasant surprise for this team, coming up in some big spots and being a solid overall contributor.

Anthony Rizzo, who already had fairly high expectations, is also outdoing what the system projected him for. On the heels of a couple down years by his standards, ZiPS had Rizzo projected for a 126 wRC+ and to be around a three-win player. These would be perfectly good numbers for almost anyone to put up, but Rizzo has bounced back in a big way this year. He has a 139 wRC+ and the system sees him maintaining that mark for the rest of the season as well. The Yankees’ first baseman has already matched his homer output from last season, and is one short of his full season projection, as he powers his way to a big season at the plate.

There was a time when ZiPS saw Gleyber Torres having among the brightest futures in all of baseball. The Yankees’ second baseman struggled over the last two years, but is in the midst of a resurgence this season. He was projected to put up a 108 wRC+, 2.5 fWAR, and slash .260/.332/.426. As his power has resurfaced a bit from the last two campaigns, Torres is outpacing those numbers, slugging .475 thus far and hitting for a 121 wRC+, and is projected to continue at a similar pace. Perhaps his early career expectations were too high, but as he is seemingly returning to form, many of the serious concerns around him should be subsiding.

Josh Donaldson has not fared quite as well as some of his teammates. Going into his age-36 season, ZiPS was still fairly high on him, projecting a very Donaldson-esque 123 wRC+, 27 homers and 3.5 fWAR. He has underperformed in essentially every offensive category, but there is something ZiPS still sees, as he is projected to put up a 126 wRC+ for the rest of the season. Donaldson has enough of a track record to not be overly concerned, and ZiPS agrees with that sentiment.

DJ LeMahieu, who is returning to the form Yankee fans came to expect in comparison to his just-average 2021 season, is outpacing projections like many of his teammates. His current 126 wRC+ is 19 points higher than what he was projected, as he is walking and reaching base at a higher clip than expected, and striking out less. The ever-dependable infielder is back to being himself at the plate, and has been an important contributor for this team.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa, somewhat unfortunately, is fairly in line with his uninspiring projections. His 77 wRC+ is not far off from his preseason projection of 85, and is a bit lower due to his almost complete lack of slugging. The nine home runs he was projected to hit may be tough to reach, as he has yet to tally one. As disappointing as he has been at the plate, what we’re seeing is pretty true to what he was projected.

Giancarlo Stanton is having a season true to his career marks to this point, which is a very good thing. His 139 wRC+ is much closer to his career mark than the 125 he was projected preseason. If Giancarlo Stanton keeps being Giancarlo Stanton, and hitting a bunch of home runs, that’s a good thing for any lineup.

No matter what you look at, Aaron Judge has outperformed his already high expectations this season. His 173 wRC+ is 27 points higher than what was expected, and he is projected to continue the season with a 163 mark. That’ll always play. His updated projections also have him finishing with a nice round 50 home runs, which isn’t quite the crazy numbers that were being thrown around earlier, but it will be fun to find out what the final tally is.

Judge’s fellow outfielders, Aaron Hicks and Joey Gallo, have not been so lucky. Hicks is underperforming his 107 projected wRC+ by a good margin, with a mark of 89. His ability to walk and reach base has still been there for the most part, and it was reflected in the projections. What ZiPS didn’t quite see coming was the .284 slugging and .064 ISO he has put up so far. Gallo has been even more disappointing, as he came into the year projected to be among this lineup’s top contributors. His 77 wRC+ is over 50 points lower than what ZiPS had him projected for, and he is underperforming his on base and slugging projections by 75 and 182 points, respectively. ZiPS has not given up on the slugger yet though, as he is still projected for a 129 wRC+ over the remaining schedule, something that would be a huge boost for this lineup, and surely for Gallo personally.

As mentioned, projections should not be taken as the truth or exactly what a player will do in the future. But they are a valuable tool in forming expectations, particularly ones without the influence of human bias. they can also just be a good exercise in putting things into perspective. This Yankee team has blown their lofty projections out of the water so far as a whole unit, and so have many of its players. Many of the stars have shone thus far in New York, and some of those that haven’t, have at least some track record of success — enough to not be given up on completely by ZiPS projections.