The Yankees are fun again!
The past two weeks have been a great time to be a Yankees fan. The Bombers enjoyed an eight-game winning streak this week while winning nine out of ten games.
This is all part of what makes baseball so wonderfully unpredictable. Who would have thought that the Yanks would find their way to the top of the AL East while Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius were on the shelf? Well it happened, so let’s look at what have been the biggest surprises so far in this early season.
Headley the Hero
The hottest Yankee currently mans the hot corner. Chase Headley was suffering through a historically terrible start this time last season, and now he is enjoying the best start of his career.
Headley carried a slugging percentage of .159 at this time last year. Right now, it stands tall at .646. He has reached base in HALF of his plate appearances so far this season, which is third best in baseball behind Freddie Freeman and Bryce Harper.
The resurgence of Headley is arguably one of the biggest surprises in the league to start the year, not just in New York. Has Headley rediscovered his 2012 stroke or will he come back down to earth? The answer could be somewhere in between, but there is no doubt he is swinging the team’s hottest bat right now.
Romine doing his best to fill a Sanchez-sized hole
Watching Gary Sanchez grimace while trying to swing at a high fastball was hard to watch. It was even harder to watch him trudge into the clubhouse on his way to the disabled list.
The loss of the new fan-favorite still hurts, but Austin Romine has made his absence a lot more tolerable.
Perhaps the ability to play every day and keep a rhythm has helped Romine produce at the plate. Whatever the reason, I hope it continues. The interim starting catcher is batting .321 with an OPS+ of 149. The Yanks are 7-1 in games which Romine has started, and his performance can help Joe Girardi and the Yankees breathe a little easier about not rushing Sanchez back.
Jacoby Ellsbury earning his pay (well, maybe not that much)
The contract is still an atrocity, but at least for now it doesn’t have to be brought up every night. Ellsbury is batting over .300 and putting together much better at-bats than last season.
Ellsbury’s most important contribution is getting on base and stealing bags. He has swiped four so far this season, and the Yanks would love if he could keep that trend going.
His OPS has fallen back down to normal after a scorching start, but Ellsbury was still able to record a hit in all three games of the last home series against the White Sox. The pace he was on in the first week of the season was beyond unrealistic to be sustained for even half a season, but if Ellsbury can hit around .300 and steal some bases, he will have done his job.
Okay, he’s definitely not big, but Ronald Torreyes has come up huge for the Yanks with Gregorius on the mend. His defense hasn’t been flawless, but his 11 RBI are second most on the team behind Aaron Judge.
That total through 14 games is one less than his what he had through 72 games last year. He also slugged the first home run of the season for the Yanks, which is enough to make this list.
Judge is slugging astronomical home runs, but the bigger surprise is his ability to put together quality at-bats while slashing his bloated strikeout rate from last season, and driving balls to the opposite field. Given his potential and history of finding his groove after a rough start upon every promotion, I don’t see this as a huge surprise, instead it’s just flat out fun. Oh look, his homer from Wednesday night just landed.
Michael Pineda was absolutely unbelievable against the Rays, yet the excitement was reserved due to Pineda’s history of following up splendid starts with awful ones. However, he followed that performance up with another strong outing earlier this week. That makes two straight strong starts for Pineda, which comes as a nice surprise. Will he finally unlock his potential and use his nasty stuff to find some consistency? If this recent trend continues, he will be at the top of the list in terms of biggest surprises of the year.