The Yankees start to the season has had it’s drastic ups and downs, but we are here to recap what went down in the first month of the season.
March and April were, to say the least, eventful months for the 2019 Yankees. A slew of injuries led to plenty of players we had never seen much of before coming up from Triple-A or being snagged on the waiver wire to contribute to the team’s 17-12 record. Countless role players like Gio Urshela, Thairo Estrada, Luis Cessa and Tyler Wade did their job to contribute to the classic “next man up” mantra that the team was forced to operate with given how many starting players they had on the IL.
With that in mind, here’s a look at the team’s top infielder, outfielder, starting pitcher and relief pitcher from March and April.
Infielder: Luke Voit
Though free agent signing DJ LeMahieu puts up a solid fight as he was an everyday player and a key cog in the team’s lineup while also playing spectacular defense at second base and third base, Voit simply owned the month of April. After being acquired at last season’s trade deadline in a seemingly minor trade, Voit was arguably the team’s best hitter from mid-August till the end of the season.
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Despite plenty of naysayers insisting that his 2018 late-season stretch was a fluke and unsustainable, his stats this season have shown that he’s here to stay. He has put up an impressive .915 OPS while slugging eight home runs and recording a team-high 25 RBI, tied for the second-most in the AL. Sliding perfectly into the number two spot in the lineup when Aaron Judge went down with an oblique injury, Voit was an especially dangerous hitter during the first two series of the west coast trip at the end of April.
In the seven games the team played against the Angels and Giants, Voit hit .433 with a ridiculous .528 OBP and .867 SLG. He also hit four home runs and recorded 13 hits and 10 runs across his 30 at-bats in those two series, winning AL Player of the Week honors to top it off. Simply put, pitchers wanted absolutely no part of him. His defense at first base, which had been a knock on him, has also looked better than it had in the past.
Outfielder: Clint Frazier
This was a tough call to make, as Aaron Judge did nothing to lose his title as the team’s best hitter, though his playing time in April was limited by an oblique injury that is expected to keep him sidelined for an extended period of time.
Although Judge put up more than respectable numbers to start the season, Frazier definitely made the most of his opportunity after being called up due to an injury to Giancarlo Stanton. After dealing with numerous nagging injuries in his first few years in the organization, Frazier has finally made his mark and contributed in a major way to the big league team. In his 18 games played, his 17 RBI are the third-most on the team and the most among the team’s outfielders. He has hit to a .324 batting average while recording 22 hits and six home runs across his 68 at-bats, also scoring 10 runs.
Despite going on the IL with a small tear in his ankle sustained during the Angels series, Frazier is expected to return to the lineup within the next week or two. Although his offense has been great so far, he has continued to have issues defensively in left field as he did in the past, leading to him DH’ing in five of his games. He’s also seen an increase in his playing time in right field now that Judge will be out for a while, and he could very well play a lot of games there once he returns from the IL.
The team certainly hopes that 2019 is the season he puts it all together and proves that he can be a significant piece of the young core that they are building around.
Starting Pitcher: Domingo German
This was another tough call to make, as James Paxton’s back to back 12 strikeout games on April 16 and April 21 put him in the running, but the top starting pitcher this month was none other than Domingo German. After going 2-6 with a 5.57 ERA in a disappointing 2018 rookie campaign, German has looked much better in 2019 after winning a rotation spot out of Spring Training.
In his six appearances (five starts and one relief appearance), German’s five wins are tied for the lead in all of MLB. Thus far, he has gone 5-1 with a 2.56 ERA and 32 strikeouts in his 31.2 innings of work. He has also improved significantly by keeping the ball in the park. He struggled with the long ball last season, giving up 15 homers across his 14 starts and seven relief appearances, but he has only given up two homers across his first six appearances in 2019.
German is still relatively unproven, as he wasn’t even guaranteed a roster spot coming into the season, so it remains to be seen whether his success thus far is sustainable. If he keeps this up, he can definitely be a starting pitcher that the Yankees would feel comfortable giving the ball to in a playoff game when October rolls around.
Relief Pitcher: Adam Ottavino
There are a number of relievers that make a strong case as the team’s top reliever of April, as Aroldis Chapman, Tommy Kahnle and Luis Cessa all pitched very well this month, and Zack Britton was on his way to a great April as well before struggling in a handful of appearances towards the end of the month.
Although Ottavino also faltered in a couple of games recently, his stats on the month as a whole have been solid enough to warrant him being the team’s top reliever. In his 12 appearances in March and April, he allowed just four total earned runs (three of which came in one appearance), altogether pitching to a 2.51 ERA. His slider has continued to befuddle hitters just as it did in years past, and he has utilized that slider as well as his two-seam fastball to strike out 19 batters for an 11.9 K/9 ratio. Ottavino has also shown that he is capable of pitching more than one inning, as he has recorded at least four outs in six of his 12 appearances.
Walks have been a bit of a concern for him, as he has walked 11 total batters and has walked at least one batter in 9 of his 12 appearances. It’s a possibility that he was overworked too much at the start of the year, as he pitched in 6 of the team’s first 10 games.
Hopefully, as the team gets some of their other pitchers back, Ottavino (and the bullpen as a whole) won’t have as much of a workload and he can get his issues with walking batters under control because we’ve seen how effective he can be when performing at his highest abilities.