Many forget, Yankees still aren't at full strength
It’s just ten games into the 2018 season and the Yankees have already been devastated by injury. Before the first pitch of the season, they were without the services of Clint Frazier, OF (concussion), Jacoby Ellsbury, OF (Hip), and Greg Bird, 1B (Ankle Surgery). All things considered, other than Bird, the injuries didn’t seem to make a major impact on the starting line-up. Frazier was headed for AAA and Ellsbury was on his way to becoming the most expensive bench player in baseball.
Skip ahead to opening day
After one game, Aaron Hicks goes down with a right intercostal muscle strain (I didn’t even know we had an intercostal muscle). Then, just two games into his big league career, Billy McKinney sprains his left shoulder, crashing into the outfield wall. In three games the Yankees went from an overwhelming amount of outfield depth to near depletion. Within the first series of the season, including AAA reliever Ben Heller (Tommy John Surgery), the Yankees already had placed 6 men on the DL. Six days later Brandon Drury admitted to suffering from blurry vision and headaches, a condition he claims has haunted him for nearly 6 years (unbeknownst to the Yankees organization). During the same game, C.C Sabathia was removed after the 4th inning with a hip injury, along with Gary Sanchez (cramps) and Tyler Wade (flu). Sanchez and Wade were only day-to-day but with Drury and Sabathia going down the Yankees now had eight players on the 10-day DL in only ten games; four of them being main contributors to the starting line-up.
What does all this mean for the Yankees?
It means that after a feeble 5-5 start to the season they head into an all-important series with the rival Boston Red Sox, shorthanded. They now have to play bench players such as Ronald Torreyes and Jace Peterson on a semi-regular basis at second and outfield, while also relying on rookies Miguel Andujar and Tyler Austin to handle the infield corners and MLB pitching. Although they all produced while filling the void, it isn’t the ideal situation for the Yankees to be in just a little over a week into the season.
Bird (6-8 weeks), Drury (unknown) and Heller (season) will be long term. Heller had been sent to start the season in AAA, but the Yankees were hopeful he could help the big league ballclub at some point this season and Bird, well, he’s been injured more than he’s been healthy. Drury, on the other hand, creates a problem. With Drury gone, the Bombers now have to rely on Andujar or Torreyes at third and with Neil Walker playing first to cover Bird’s absence, we are left with Torreyes or Wade at second. This puts at least one rookie in the line-up at second or third in almost every game, something the team was trying to avoid when they signed Walker and Drury.
In the grand scheme of things, these injuries shouldn’t hurt the Yankees too much, you can’t blame injuries on the five loses that they have this year. I would argue, however, that if Bird and Hicks were in this line-up, the offense would be greatly improved. The team does have enough depth in that they can overcome these injuries but with the top of the line-up struggling, they have failed to produce the big run in some of the biggest situations.
The question is, can the replacements hit against the mighty arms of the Red Sox pitching staff? As of now, Toe has been the only player to prove that he can contribute every day, however, Austin and Peterson played well in their last game. The stars on this team will have to step it up and answer the call, and there are enough of them through this line-up that this team should compete with the Sox in each game.
There is light at the end of the injury tunnel
It looks like a few of our walking wounded will be back soon. Hicks is expected back by the end of the week and Frazier is starting to play simulated games. Sabathia’s stint is more precautionary then long term and Aaron Boone thinks Ellsbury will be out short term as well. It looks like by the end of the month they should have most of their guys back. We will still see a lot of Wade and Andujar but there is nothing wrong with that. The more at-bats they get the more their confidence can grow and help them to, one day, become everyday players.