Still in the rebuild, or ready to contend? That was the question many had about the Yankees entering this season. The roster has a much different look – with more youngsters and fewer veterans – and the results have been spectacular.
Almost a month into the season and on the heels of a stunning 14-11 win in a game in which they trailed 9-1, the Yankees are 14-7 and tied for first place in the AL East. And this isn’t a mirage. Here are five reasons the Bronx Bombers are here to stay:
USA TODAY SportsBrad Penner
Aaron Judge is a beast
How would the Yankees replace the production from guys like Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran? The hope was that Judge could help in that regard. Well, he’s done much more than help.
The rookie right fielder has nine homers, 18 RBI and an AL-leading .718 slugging percentage – and is even diving into the stands to make amazing catches. Judge’s big bat also is doing a great job of masking the struggles of first baseman Greg Bird – another young player from whom much is expected.
USA TODAY SportsAndy Marlin
The starting pitching is better than advertised
Masahiro Tanaka has been a true ace, Luis Severino and Michael Pineda have returned to top form, CC Sabathia has been more hit than miss and rookie Jordan Montgomery has been a nice surprise.
Expecting all five of these starters to remain this effective isn’t realistic, but the Yankees really don’t need that to be the case. They can rely on their offense, explore the trade market and lean heavily on the fact that …
USA TODAY SportsWinslow Townson
The bullpen is ridiculous
Forecast to be the team’s biggest strength, the relief corps has managed to exceed expectations. This bullpen ranks second in the majors in ERA (2.02) and WHIP (1.03), and first in opponents’ OPS (.525). If the starters can provide five or six strong innings, Dellin Betances, Aroldis Chapman and Co. can take it from there.
Getting on base? Good luck just making contact. Five Yankees relievers (Chapman, Betances, Tyler Clippard, Jonathan Holder and Adam Warren) are averaging more than 10 K’s per nine innings.
USA TODAY SportsCharles LeClaire
They’re just now getting healthy
Shortstop Didi Gregorius – the team’s most consistent and best all-around offensive player in 2016 – just made his season debut Friday after recovering from a shoulder injury. And catcher Gary Sanchez won’t be far behind after having been sidelined since April 8 with a biceps injury. These are two potential All-Stars who haven’t been in the lineup together once this season.
Meanwhile, shortstop Ronald Torreyes and catcher Austin Romine deserve a lot of credit for filling in admirably during the first month of the season.
USA TODAY SportsAdam Hunger
Jacoby Ellsbury’s revival
His first three seasons in pinstripes were forgettable, but Ellsbury suddenly resembles the offensive force he was during his Red Sox career. He has hit everywhere from leadoff to fifth, is slugging better (.436, with three homers) and is running more proficiently (six steals).
Among the others in the veteran crowd, Brett Gardner still isn’t hitting but Matt Holliday is heating up – as evidenced by his walk-off, three-run shot in Friday’s comeback win.