After a relatively slow start to the 2018 campaign, the Bronx Bombers are back in full swing. Since we last left off, the New York Yankees became the hottest team in baseball, winning nine games in a row over this stretch while shrinking Boston’s lead over them the AL East from 7.5 games to 2.5 along the way.
Sparked by their youth movement, the Yankees are for real. This week I’m going to highlight the most important up-and-coming players that I feel will be difference makers moving forward.
The Rise of the Baby Bombers
Back on Aug. 13 2016, Tyler Austin took the plate for his first MLB at bat against the Tampa Bay Rays. It was a warm homecoming for Austin as he wrapped a 2-2 fastball around the right field foul pole for his first big league homer and hit, only to be followed by a blast to center field by Aaron Judge in his first league at bat, coining the term “baby bombers.”
With their home runs, Judge and Austin became the first teammates to homer in their first Major League at-bats in the same game.
This moment signaled a turning point for the Yankee organization. It functioned as a wake up call for lack of a better word. It proved to the Yankee’s front office that the young talent they had been grooming was for real. And boy was there more where that came from.
This moment came just about two weeks after the Yankees traded for top prospects Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield and Gleyber Torres, representing a turning of the tide for the franchise heading into the 2017 season.
Coming into 2018, it was a question if Tyler Austin would make the team at all. With young players like Greg Bird on the rise and the offseason acquisition Neil Walker, there wasn’t really a roster spot available for the Georgia native.
However, with the circus that is Greg Bird’s health, it was only a matter of time before the Yankees would be in need of Austin’s services.
Since Austin took over to start the season, he has been a solid, consistent bat for manager Aaron Boone. He currently holds an average of .273 with 16 RBI’s and five homers, many of which have been to tie or go ahead. Even after serving a four-game suspension for his involvement in the Boston brawl on April 11, Austin still holds the American League lead for home runs by a rookie with five.
With Bird’s chronic injuries, and no true backup in sight, it would not surprise me if Austin took this first base job and ran with it. At some point the Yankees will need to give up on Bird, and Austin is the most worthy alternative.
The 2017 season for Luis Severino was a wild ride. After being demoted to the bullpen in 2016, Severino was back in the starting rotation. For the first few months, it looked like he was going to be a bust. He was again inconsistent, and was having trouble throwing strikes.
However, from July 20 on, he was one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. Winning nine of his last 11 starts, Severino was a key piece in the 2017 Yankees postseason push, finishing third in the AL Cy Young voting.
Severino has not slowed down from his hot finish to the 2017 season as he is currently tied with the most wins in the American League with a record of 4-1 and holds an extremely impressive ERA of 2.61. He has also continued to pound the strike zone, notching 42 strikeouts in 38 innings pitched while walking only 11.
What really makes Severino such a gamer is his ability to maintain his 97+ MPH velocity throughout the entirety of the game. At 97.6 MPH, Severino holds the highest average fastball velocity for any AL starting pitcher.
With all the offense on this team, starting pitching is still somewhat of a question mark with the one consistent arm being Severino. The Yankees need Sevy to continue to pitch at a high level and be that one guy that they can turn to in a must-win game. This is something the Yankees have not really had since CC Sabathia in his prime, winning the 2009 ALCS MVP as he helped lead the Yankees to their 27th title.
On June 28, 2017 Miguel Andujar made his MLB debut against the Chicago White Sox. That day he went 3-for-4 with four RBI’s in the 12-3 win. That next day, then manager Joe Girardi sent Andujar down, claiming it would be better for him as he would receive more playing time.
Fast-forward a year and Andujar has taken control of the starting third base job under new manager Aaron Boone. Batting .287 with three home runs and 12 RBI’s, he has also played terrific defense along the way, committing only two errors in nineteen games at the hot corner.
Other than first base, the only other position up for grabs on this Yankee team is third. At the beginning of the year it was Brandon Drury’s position to lose, but due to lingering migraines Drury has been absent, opening the door for Andujar. With a swing like a catapult, Andujar can generate bat speed and power. Combine this with his terrific fielding, and we have the perfect recipe for our future third baseman.
After undergoing Tommy John surgery, and missing his chance to prove himself to the Bronx faithful in 2017, MLB’s number five rated prospect has made his way to the show. Called up, on April 22, 2018, Torres had an uneventful start to his career as he went hitless in a 5-1 victory over Toronto.
Since then, however, Torres is 10-34 with 2 RBI’s, batting .294 on the young season.
The decision to call up Torres came when the Yanks’ sat at 11-9, 5.5 games behind the scorching Red Sox. A call this early in the season, especially for a struggling team can do a lot for a young players development.
This decision not only gave Torres an opportunity to hit MLB pitchers, but did so during a stretch where there was little to no pressure; on a struggling team early in the season with high expectations. While struggling Yankees like Gary Sanchez and Giancarlo Stanton were working out their own kinks, Torres was easing in.
The Yankee’s offseason moves told us one thing; this year’s Yankees are championship or bust. A call up in April for a player with such potential can “season him” in a way that will prepare him to help the team in the situation of a deep October run.
We know this Yankee team is loaded. From Judge to Didi to Sanchez and Stanton, this team has all the pieces. What makes historically great teams, however, is not the stars, but the supporting casts. Just look at the great Yankee teams of the ‘90s, where players like Derek Jeter were in similar situations as Torres and Andujar are currently in; young up-and-coming stars trying to help a team of established stars win a World Series.