Mandel’s Musings: Yankees’ New Core Led by Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Luis Severino

Published on: 11th September, 2017

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Gary Sanchez
Sanchez has 50 homers in 161 games.   | read this item

If you are a Yankees fan, and have been one for more than a few years, what you are seeing from this mostly young team in 2017 is no doubt, beyond your expectations. 

This franchise, which, just two years ago had been overrun with bad contracts of formerly great stars who mostly took up roster space at the tail-end of their careers, has seemingly turned around its fortunes in a New York minute.

From what has been a mostly mediocre run of baseball since the 2012 season, with won/loss records hovering six to eight games over .500 every year, the 2017 Yankees have either caught lightning in a bottle with most of General Manager Brian Cashman’s recent acquisitions of young, unproven kids or, an even stranger unexplained phenomenon is taking place.  

Can an entire roster of inexperienced youngsters suddenly all grow-up into major league stars at the same time? It doesn’t happen often, but, like the Yankees’ core of 1995, (you may recall Jeter, Rivera, Williams, Pettite, and Posada) it appears another young core of players are simultaneously turning into iconic-type Yankees. And, it’s  happening right in front of our very eyes. 

Judge, with 41 homers, is on track for ROY and MVP awards

Of course, nobody expected Aaron Judge, the rookie rightfielder, to lead the league in six categories with only 19 games remaining on the schedule. But, as Casey Stengel used to say, “You could look it up.”

Judge leads the American League in home runs, slugging pct., on-base pct., base on balls, strikeouts (of course), and OPS. He is also eighth in runs batted in, and third (6.2) in WAR (wins above replacement). I’d say Judge, after a six-week slump following the All-Star game, is moving back into position to win both the Rookie of the Year award (a shoo-in) and the Most Valuable Player award, depending on how he and the steadily-gaining-in-confidence/swagger Yankees perform down the stretch. There are nineteen games to go and Judge, with his 41 home runs and 90 RBIs and devastating tape-measure assaults on the baseball, is among the most lethal offensive forces in the game.

 

While we’re talking about young stars, the Yankees are thanking their lucky stars they’re witnessing the sudden development of the 24-year old catcher, Gary Sanchez.

In a career consisting of 161 total games and 610 at bats, about the equivalent of a full major league season, Sanchez has already walloped 50 home runs, driven in 125 runs, and sports a .285 batting average. For those of you who may not be well-versed in major league catchers’ typical production with a bat in their hands, they don’t put up offensive numbers even approaching what Sanchez has accomplished. 

Make no mistake, it is still early in his career, of course, but, we are witnessing an historic beginning to a catching career. Moreover, Sanchez is also developing one of those league-wide reputations in which opposing teams just won’t run on his powerful throwing arm. For you old-timers, think Johnny Bench’s accuracy and velocity when you see Sanchez throw the ball down to second base. The kid is far from a finished defensive asset, though. He needs work, and a ton of it, on his receiving skills, as his league-leading passed balls of 14 would indicate. The Yankees think he’s athletic enough to adjust his footwork and glovework behind the plate to keep pitches in front of him instead of skipping through him to the backstop. They just hope he can upgrade his focus on each pitch, which some inside the organization believe is the real issue.

This current Yankee core would not be complete without adding Luis Severino, the right-handed flamethrower who is only 21-years old. This youngster, who is going to be in the conversation (guessing top 5 in the voting) for the Cy Young Award, has exploded onto the scene with a 100 mph fastball (in the late innings!) and command of all three of his pitches. His talent was never a question but he struggled for the past two years to harness it. 

Guess what? It’s harnessed. 

The Yankees are now firmly in the first playoff wild card slot, four games ahead of Minnesota and 6 1/2 games ahead of the Angels. These kids in the Yankee locker room seem to have a quiet confidence that leads them to believe the first place Red Sox, now three games ahead of the Yankees, are very catchable. Beating out Boston for first place would keep the Yankees from having to participate in a one game play-in.  If a starting pitcher happens to have the unfortunate timing of an underwhelming outing in the wild card, there goes the season. Finishing first in the American League East would guarantee a less-pressured seven-game playoff series than a one and done.

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