Overshadowed by stars, Yankees' rookies are raking
Glancing at the Yankees’ lineup, the eyes are immediately drawn to the heart of the order.
Giancarlo Stanton is a reigning MVP. Didi Gregorius looks like one right now. So does Aaron Judge after finishing in second last year. Gary Sánchez, well, he’s capable of doing some damage, too. Each have performed to varying degrees more than a month into the season, but there’s no denying New York boasts the deadliest quartet of hitters in the majors.
The names above are all household at this point, the core to an offensive powerhouse. As the stars get all the attention, however, the Yankees also have a trio of rookies using bats to carve out their own reputations.
Miguel Andújar, Gleyber Torres and Tyler Austin – yep, he’s still a rookie – are all swinging hot bats in the early going. What’s especially impressive is that they are doing so after being thrown into their current roles unexpectedly.
Start with Torres, the most recent of the callups.
The 21-year-old has yet to really wow in any given moment, but his approach at the plate – and off the field – makes him look wise beyond his years.
Torres only has 10 major league games under his belt thus far, but he’s already flashed glimpses as to why he was one of the top prospects in baseball. With 10 hits in 34 at-bats (.294), Torres has provided the Yankees with production at second base that was sorely missed when Tyler Wade and Neil Walker were manning the position.
With Torres up, the position will no longer feature a platoon. Aaron Boone made it clear when the Yankees called the kid up he would not be a short-term replacement, but a permanent fixture.
It’s yet to be determined if that will be the case for the other rookies, though Andújar and Austin are doing everything in their power to put that question to rest.
Both, after initially not making the Opening Day roster despite scorching springs, have carried their bats into the season. Austin has been up from the start after Greg Bird suffered a last-minute ankle injury, while Andújar was quickly promoted after Brandon Drury revealed he had been battling blurred vision and migraines for years.
Andújar has been an extra-base hit machine, tallying 12 doubles, one triple and three homers to go along with 12 RBI in 22 games. He’s hitting .287 over 87 at-bats. While his defense is still a work in progress, Andújar has proven to the world what the Yankees have known since last season: he can mash big league pitching.
Austin has done much of the same, picking up six doubles, five homers and 16 RBI in 17 games. He’s hitting .273 with a .933 OPS - he went 0-4 on Tuesday in his return from suspension.
While Torres has his spot locked down, it will be interesting to see what happens when Andújar’s and Austin’s respective predecessors return. Bird is still weeks away, but Drury should be back any day now. The Yankees are big on all four players, which means Boone will have to pull off a balancing act.
Bronx Bomber Bullets
As mentioned above, the Yankees are about to have a logjam in their infield. With Andújar and Austin raking, Drury on his way back and Ronald Torreyes producing off the bench, that leaves Neil Walker (.165) as the logical odd man out. However, Walker provides versatility as a defender and as a switch-hitter. Will the Yankees part with him and his $4 million salary in favor of youngsters who still have minor league options?
Didi Gregorius has displayed some serious power this season, but he still balks at the idea of being labeled a home run hitter. He insists his only goal is to hit line drives – if the ball goes into the seats, so be it.
Luis Severino looks intent on confirming last season’s Cy Young bid was no fluke. The Yankees ace is off to a fine start, and one reason is an upgraded arsenal. The 24-year-old has found a way to vary his slider, alternating between faster pitches with tighter breaks and slower pitches with more swooping action. Such methods seem rather rude when Severino’s original slider was nasty enough and his fastball sits at 98.
Sonny Gray has really struggled this season, but his most recent performance was reason for hope. Facing the Astros on Monday, Gray allowed two earned runs over six innings. It’s worth noting Austin Romine, not Gary Sánchez, was behind the plate for that game. Regardless of who catches him, New York has to hope Gray builds on that start as he continues to work on harnessing his electric stuff.
Speaking of hope, the Yankees are surely praying Jordan Montgomery’s left elbow tightness is nothing major. He left his Tuesday start in Houston after one inning and flew to New York to see a specialist. Aaron Boone said it’s likely Domingo Germán will take Montgomery’s next turn in the rotation after four shutout innings of relief, but there’s still optimism the southpaw’s injury is not serious.
Earlier, it was noted Gary Sánchez can so some damage. Apparently, that includes causing Ken Giles to do his best Fight Club impression.