We’re still in mid-May, but over a quarter of the season has come and gone. There have been a few surprise contenders in this early part of the year. Specifically the Pirates in the NL Central, and to a lesser degree, the Rangers leading the AL West. What those two teams, and other contenders such as the Minnesota Twins have in common, is the exciting work by former Yankees who seem to be flourishing all over the place.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at a handful or so of players who once upon a time had their home in the Bronx, and are now in other organizations, off to terrific starts in 2023.
OF - Andrew McCutchen (PIT): .840 OPS, 7 HR, 4 SB, 0.8 bWAR
The former NL MVP had a very brief stint with the Yankees, back in 2018. However, his work was impressive enough to leave a mark with this fan base. Coming over in the last day of August in a trade with the Giants, McCutchen raked in the month of September with a .892 OPS in 114 PA.
Now back in Pittsburgh, the place in which he spent the bulk of his career, Cutch is experiencing a resurgence at the plate. His 130 OPS+ would be the best in a single season for McCutchen since 2015 (144). The five-time All-Star is one of the driving forces for the team’s strong start, which has the Bucs with a 21-18 record.
SP - Nathan Eovaldi (TEX): 2.70 ERA, 0.99 WHIP. 2.2 fWAR
The Rangers signed three starters with tenures through the New York market. Andrew Heaney is struggling to find consistency in this early season, and Jacob deGrom is already on the shelf, with forearm tightness. Still, the Rangers find themselves in the top of the NL West, in large part due to the efforts of Nathan Eovaldi. The right-hander is showing Boston what they missed out on, with an all-worldly sequence of 25.2 straight scoreless across his last three starts.
Eovaldi has been solid even beyond this recent stretch of dominance. His only poor start was a stinker back in April against the Royals of all teams where he allowed six runs and 10 hits across five innings. If he holds his performance up throughout the year he’d set new career-highs in strikeout percentage and strikeout-walk percentage, and has only gotten burned by the long ball once so far.
Twins: SP - Sonny Gray, 1.39 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 1.9 fWAR & OF - Joey Gallo, 7 HR, .861 OPS, 0.7 bWAR
In one of the lousiest divisions in the sport, the Twins are the least lousy ball club, currently in first place despite boasting a lower winning percentage than the fourth-place Yankees.
A big reason for the Twins' success is the fine work of two former Yankees. Sonny Gray didn't fare particularly well in the Big Apple, in fact far from it. However, across eight starts, Gray is pitching at an absurd level, with a league-leading 1.39 ERA. Joey Gallo is below the Mendoza Line, but is actually doing so with a successful triple-slash behind a .524 slugging percentage and 15.5 percent walk rate.
Neither of these players left the Bronx with a lot of fond memories, but both have found new life in Minnesota.
2B - Thairo Estrada (SF): .317/.369/.490, 6 HR, 11 SB, 1.5 bWAR
Estrada never could quite break through with the Yankees before being DFA’d in early 2021. But boy would his profile fit in like a glove for this ball club right now (particularly in the leadoff spot). The Giants' second baseman is coming off two solid years in San Francisco, but in 2023 he has taken his game to another level. He’s swiped 11 bags and posted a slugging percentage near .500 as well.
RP - David Robertson (NYM): 0.53 ERA, 7 Saves, 0.88 WHIP
It’s 2023 and the 38-year-old veteran is still finding his way as one of the more trusted relievers in the sport. Robertson received a tough task, needing to replace the strikeout machine that is Edwin Díaz, who was lost for the year with an ACL tear during the WBC. So far, the former Yankee is up to the task, having allowed but a single earned run in 17 innings of work. Among the issues behind this lackluster start to the Mets season, the loss of Díaz is not one of them.
Just for good measure, erstwhile Yankee reliever Adam Ottavino has also been quite good, with a WHIP below 1.00 in Queens.