Coming into the 2015 season, the Yankees were a team that was expected by many prognosticators to have days when they look like a bonafide playoff team, and then other days when they show their age and look like a team headed towards a third straight October with no games. Three weeks into the season, that's pretty much been the case.
With Sunday's win against the Mets, the Yankees stand at 11-8 through 19 games. While certainly not the '98 Bombers, this year's version has shown they have what it takes to stay competitive in an absurdly wide-open AL East. An eighth of the season is in the books. That's enough time to rank the entire team based on their individual performances, right?
25. Carlos Beltran
Ugh. Beltran's been really bad. Even the usually optimistic Joe Girardi sounds like he seriously has his doubts. At least he's only signed through next year.
24. Justin Wilson
There's not a more difficult set of players to judge early in seasons than relievers, but Wilson hasn't been overly impressive to the eye in a bullpen that has, for the most part. A situational lefty, Wilson has a hard time throwing strikes, which is not a thrilling combination.
23. Garrett Jones
Tough to judge Jones so far. He only has 23 at-bats, and hasn't done much in those appearances. The way Teixeira is hitting right now, it's difficult for Jones to crack the lineup.
22. Didi Gregorius
It makes too much sense that Derek Jeter's "successor" would struggle this much out of the gate, a la Tino Martinez replacing Mattingly. Will Sir Didi become a fan favorite and team legend? We'll see. Weeks two and three have been better than week one for the shortstop.
21. Esmil Rogers
Rogers has been good whenever he's thrown this year--highlighted by his superb effort in that 19-inning affair versus the Red Sox--but he's only appeared in five games and is the swing guy in the bullpen. Give Rogers credit for throwing well early this year despite losing out on a spot in the starting rotation.
20. Chasen Shreve
In the games Shreve has appeared in this season, you can see why he made the team out of spring training. The left-hander from Las Vegas throws strikes, gets both lefties and righties out, and has the best name on the team. What more could you ask for?
19. John Ryan Murphy
Murphy has been solid with the bat and has been phenomenal as the team's backup catcher. Known not for a great arm but a quick release, Murphy has already caught three potential base stealers in 2015. Good call by the organization to keep him as the backup.
18. Gregorio Petit
Petit has perfectly fit his role on this team so far. He's picked it pretty well at second and hasn't embarrassed himself at the plate. He gets bonus points for being part of the Gregorius-Gregorio double play combo, which is an all-time equal to Tinker and Evers.
17. Adam Warren
Warren has posted numbers thus far very reminiscent of a fifth starter, but he's not higher on this list because he can pitch better. A ghastly 1.60 WHIP to date is a tough figure to work with while being successful. Warren's inability to throw strikes (a team-high eight walks in just 15 innings) needs to improve.
16. CC Sabathia
Not a great sign that there are two of the five starting pitchers back-to-back this low in the rankings. Sabathia--yes, say it with me, Yankees fans--has not been quite as bad as his numbers would suggest. But it hasn't been pretty. Can't throw hard, has to pitch with masterful control, has no shot at ever covering first successfully. That's what 230 innings annually over a seven-year stretch does.
15. Stephen Drew
I predicted before the year that Drew wouldn't be the team's worst every-day player, and so far I'm right, but who knows for how much longer. Drew has gotten hot with the long ball early on, but not much else (four home runs constitute nearly half of his nine hits). Rob Refsnyder has gotten off to a slow-ish start in Triple-A, which helps Drew.
14. David Carpenter
Carpenter's work this year has made New York's trade with Atlanta this past offseason look like a win for Brian Cashman. The right-hander has looked impressive in all but one appearance this year--a loss he took against Baltimore at the beginning of this past road trip.
13. Nathan Eovaldi
After a spring in which Eovaldi's potential was talked up so highly, it's been an uninspiring start for the 25-year-old. When watching Eovaldi pitch, it's easy to imagine it's 2006 and you're actually watching Kyle Farnsworth. 98 mile-an-hour fastball with no movement and no put away pitch. Very frustrating to watch two-strike foul ball after two-strike foul ball.
12. Chris Martin
File Martin's emergence as a dependable arm for Joe Girardi out of the bullpen under the category of "pleasant surprises." Picked up from Colorado in the offseason, the tall righty has 10 strikeouts in just seven and a third innings pitched, while walking just one.
11. Brian McCann
McCann's numbers aren't terrible, but they're not good either. He's not getting on base and he's not driving the ball. He's hitting .232, which is higher than a number of players on the team, and McCann has historically been more of a power threat in warmer months, so he gets the benefit of the doubt...for now.
10. Chase Headley
Headley has had a very hit-or-miss (literally) campaign thus far. He's been a solid run producer (nine runs driven in) but has the most strikeouts on the team as well. The third baseman has made three errors already but has made up for it with some very nice plays as well.
9. Jacoby Ellsbury
For the Yankees to reach the playoffs, Ellsbury will need to finish the year higher on this list. He leads the team in hits with 20, but it feels like very, very few of those have had any impact on wins and losses. He's been active on the base paths with four steals, but he's also been caught thrice. Ellsbury has been an extra-base weapon in his past, and you'd like to occasionally see a glimpse of that in year two of a seven-year deal.
8. Brett Gardner
Again, it's good for the Yankees that Gardner barely cracks the top ten and the team has played as well as they have. Gardner missed some time with a wrist issue, but he's looked his usual self when in the lineup. He'll play solid defense (albeit with an increasingly Damon-esque arm), drives the ball here and there, and will be very active in the running game (team-best five steals).
7. Chris Young
Putting Young ahead of Gardner and Ellsbury feels weird, and in a week it probably won't still be the case, but the veteran outfielder's start has been remarkable. It's really hard to believe that this was the same guy released by the Mets last summer. Will this last? Who knows, probably not. At the very least, Young is a serious candidate for every day status at this point.
6. Dellin Betances
Betances has yet to allow an earned run this year and put together and is getting stronger by the appearance. He was very wild at season's start and his control could probably still use a little work (even though he had plus command in his outing last night). Betances constitutes half of what is the league's best late-inning duo. Those spring training concerns seem silly now.
5. Michael Pineda
Pineda's start on Friday against the Mets reminded everyone of what is possible for him this year. It was one of the most impressive appearances of his career to date, and many of the righty's trademarks (strike-throwing, great command in the zone) have been on full display. Pineda could work on his ability to put hitters away (.255 opponents' average with two strikes), which makes his 27 punch outs in 25.2 IP that much more impressive.
4. Masahiro Tanaka
If going solely based on Tanaka's last two starts, he would be number one on this list. They've been sensational. The first two weren't, however, so he'll have to settle for fourth. Tanaka is striking out hitters at a higher rate this year than last year, but the control hasn't been quite as impeccable as it was his rookie season. However, it's amazing how far a couple of good outings can go to calm down a fan base, as it has with Masahiro.
3. Mark Teixeira
Gluten-free diets for everyone! Where was this version of Teixeira his first six Aprils as a Yankee? Eight home runs puts him very near the top of the league in power production, he's walking, and his pitch selection has been very strong. Every year, the Yankees and their fans name Tex as one of the team's most crucial players, and so far, he's shown exactly why.
2. Andrew Miller
Wow. That's all you can really say about Miller's production. Considered to be on the outside looking in when it came to the closer debate in spring, Miller's performance has suggested the contract he signed during the offseason is one of the better bargain deals New York has concocted in recent memory. He looks completely and utterly un-hittable, as one who was once traded for Miguel Cabrera probably should.
1. Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez
Anyone who disagrees with A-Rod being atop this list doesn't get the point of arbitrary rankings. There were many who didn't think A-Rod would hit five home runs the entire year, let alone have that total 19 games into the season. A-Rod has outperformed everyone's expectations, and was the team's lone source of production during their sluggish start. Oh, and he's hit the longest homer in the majors this year. It's not quite the Derek Jeter Retirement Tour, but the Alex Rodriguez Redemption Tour is off to a thrilling start.