2015 Statistics: 133 G, .276/.337/.471, 19 HR, 67 RBI, 0 SB, 531 PA
2015 Contract Status: Year two of three-year, $45 million contract signed 12/19/2013
The 2014 campaign might have been the most disappointing year of Carlos Beltran's borderline Hall of Fame career. It was the first season of a three-year contract he signed with the Yankees after a terrific stint in St. Louis, and he had always wanted to be a Yankee. (When he was a free agent in 2005 and 2011, he offered to come to the Yankees for an equal or lesser contract, and both times, the Yankees said no.) Unfortunately, 2014 turned out to be a nightmare for him, both professionally and personally. After a hot start in April, he hurt his shoulder flipping over the short fence in foul territory at Tropicana Field, he had a concussion and mild facial fractures when he was drilled by a batting practice line drive, he dealt with bone spur problems in his elbow that plagued his production all year and eventually needed surgery, and worst of all, his wife Jessica tragically suffered a miscarriage of his first son in September. Nothing went right for Beltran, he was booed frequently, and he earned a D from us in last year's Roster Report Card series.
From the outset, it appeared that 2015 would be more of the same from the switch-hitting former All-Star. The first month was miserable, as Beltran hit a mere .162/.216/.265 in 18 games. Writers openly questioned whether he might be done as an everyday player given his difficulties in the outfield anyway and the fact that manager Joe Girardi had already begun platooning him with the lefty-mashing Chris Young. The contract that the Yankees gave him in December 2013 appeared even uglier with slugging right field prospect Aaron Judge tearing up Double-A pitching in the Eastern League.
Then seemingly out of nowhere, the Hall of Fame caliber Beltran returned at the plate in May. He slugged .500 that month as he brought his numbers back toward respectability and forced Girardi to make him an everyday player again, a move that became necessary anyway when Jacoby Ellsbury sprained his right knee. From May onward, the Beltran was old was back, as he hit .295/.357/.505 with 29 doubles, 19 homers, and an .862 OPS in 115 games, finishing with a 119 wRC+ on the season. Even while the rest of the Yankees' offense sagged in the second half, Beltran's bat remained a constant threat to opposing pitchers, regardless of whether they were righties or lefties. The Yankees returned to the postseason, and to top it all off, he finally did have his first son without any problems on the day of the Wild Card playoff game.
The clock is still ticking on Beltran's career though. On almost any other team, he would probably just be a DH at this point, but the Yankees will keep trotting him out to right field while the even older Alex Rodriguez remains healthy and productive. Judge's struggles with breaking pitches upon his promotion to Triple-A also softened the demands for his big league debut, so it's definitely good for the Yankees that Beltran's recovery gave them the flexibility to take their time with Judge.
It's difficult to say what exactly Yankees fans can expect from Beltran in 2016, but his awesome 2015 went a long way toward justifying his contract. It is now a bit easier to look back on his 2014 and partially blame his struggles on his health. In the Yankees' best-case scenario, Beltran has another season like 2015 next year while Judge improves in Triple-A, leading the way for his MLB debut later at some point in 2016 and taking over the position from Beltran in 2017 after the veteran's contract expires. A solid 2016 from Beltran would have seemed inconceivable just six months ago, and it's a testament to his tremendous natural talent and baseball abilities that he bounced back.
Baseball is a much better game with a happy, healthy, and hard-hitting Carlos Beltran. Hopefully, 2016 will be the season he at last receives the first World Series ring of his stellar 18-year career.