It’s early May, but it’s never too early to panic if you are a fan. Calls for change come quickly when players struggle on the big stage, and there’s been a whole lot of struggling going on in the Yankees’ lineup. With Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Josh Donaldson all down with injuries (as well as Harrison Bader until today), the offense is filled with too many below-average major league hitters and young players going through growing pains as they establish themselves.
On the pitching side, Clarke Schmidt has put the Yankees in a hole in the majority of his starts, while Jhony Brito has fought to keep his head above water as Carlos Rodón and Luis Severino try to get healthy. The bullpen has tried to weather the losses of Lou Trevino, Tommy Kahnle, and Jonathon Loáisiga, but the lack of innings from the rotation is further stressing the relief corps. When can the cavalry get here?
Early May is not the time to look outside the organization for help, because teams don’t usually go into trading mode until after the draft in July, and since the Yankees chose not to enhance their offense in the offseason, they really have two choices right now. Rely on the players they have to get better, or reach into the minor leagues for reinforcements. Realistically, only one of those options exists at the moment, and it’s not the one you want to hear.
Anthony Volpe started the year on the big league roster, and then Oswald Peraza got called up when Donaldson went on the injured list. That not only took the Yankees’ two top prospects out of the minors, but also the top two candidates to make an impact in the major leagues. The Yankees have tried Franchy Cordero and Willie Calhoun, but neither has produced consistently, and when Jake Bauers earned a chance after tearing up Triple-A for a month, he didn’t make it to his first at-bat before hurting his knee making a spectacular catch. Okay, who’s next?
The social media landscape has been littered with suggestions, and all are well-intended, but none of them carry much weight. Call up Elijah Dunham to play left field? With 23 games of Triple-A baseball under his belt, is it reasonable to expect Dunham to come up and steady the ship? He’s been solid for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and he should be a big league player at some point in the next year or so, but he is not coming up as the plug-and-play run producer the Yankees need. Making the argument that almost anyone would outperform Aaron Hicks or Isiah Kiner-Falefa is perhaps statistically valid, but you could also end up with more of the same, while also having to make a 40-man move to accommodate another non-roster player.
Jasson Domínguez? He got everyone excited about his potential in spring training, and that potential isn’t diminished, but he’s hitting .140 with a .340 slugging percentage in Double-A. He has a bonkers walk rate of 28.2 percent, and that’s very promising, but he’s playing right where he should be right now. It would be at least the same story for him as it is for the other young players going through it at the moment, as it would be for 40-man roster player Everson Pereira. Pereira’s scuffling in Somerset with an unsightly 36.5 percent strikeout rate. That won’t improve in the big leagues.
Randy Vásquez should replace Clarke Schmidt? Schmidt is winless in six starts, carries an ERA of 6.84, and has been pummeled by lefty hitters. He’s not giving the Yankees a chance to win every five days, and that taxes patience in a division where everyone else seems to win every day. But while Vásquez has stuff appealing to the eye, strikes out batters at a high rate, and is on the 40-man, he also has a 6.08 ERA in Triple-A, has given up more than a hit per inning, and has walked 6.1 per nine. That isn’t going to help a major league rotation looking for quality innings.
What about Matt Krook? Injured list. Deivi Garcia? He’s a reliever now, and he’s not dominating in Triple-A. Will Warren or Clayton Beeter from Double-A? Both have great stuff and should help down the road, but you can’t expect them to fare any better than Schmidt right now, and neither one is built up to throw close to 100 pitches at this point. Warren averages fewer than five innings a start, and that won’t help the bullpen.
The Yankees have more major league holes than they can plug right now, and unfortunately they have to rely on the players the have to just play better, or they could end up buried in the division before the All-Star break. While there are some real prospects who will potentially be major league contributors down the road, they aren’t ready to ride in and fix the problems the Yankees have right now.