The New York Yankees can sincerely use anything to break out of this depressing slump, but turning to prospects will not support that cause.
By Christian Kouroupakis
Distasteful is probably the best way to portray the New York Yankees’ current stretch.
Their 8-16 record finds them sitting in last place in the American League East while struggling in all aspects of the game.
Despite apparent turnarounds (or at least promise) from Alex Rodriguez and Jacoby Ellsbury, the offense had an MLB-worst .223 batting average and a third-worst average with runners in scoring position (.203) at the end of April.
The rotation hasn’t done any better as their combined ERA (5.13) is 27th in all of baseball.
The “Bombers” scored 75 runs in the opening month of the season which found them ranked dead last in all of Major League Baseball in runs scored. Yes, even below the pitiful Atlanta Braves in a league in which pitchers bat.
To add insult to injury, their .633 OPS was fourth-worst in baseball behind the Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, and Los Angeles Angels.
Back in 2005, this organization encountered a very similar predicament.
It wasn’t the offense, though, as the unit highlighted by Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi, and Alex Rodriguez scored the fourth-most runs (123) and had a remarkable .297 batting average in the month of April.
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Pitching, unfortunately, was the subject of concern behind their 8-14 start.
Despite the promising potential of the group that featured Randy Johnson, Mike Mussina, Carl Pavano, and Jaret Wright, opposing batters hit .297 off of them and scored 129 runs off the starting rotation in the month of April.
The losing record by this Yankees’ team was nothing but a huge disappointment and had fans calling for some sort of trade while the organization struggled to find something to get their team back on the winning track.
Then, two call-ups were made that helped ignite the 2005 New York Yankees to 95 wins and an AL East crown. Two highly regarded prospects, Robinson Cano and Chien-Ming Wang got the call from Triple-A Columbus for their first taste of the show.
Cano came up to replace Tony Womack and hit .297 with an on-base percentage of .320 while Wang owned an 8-5 record with a 4.02 ERA. Their stats aren’t a representation of how much impact their youth provided to that Yankee team.
Now, many point to the Yankees current stockpile of talent in the minor leagues as a way to spark the 2016 team. The truth is, the talent is undeniable, but it won’t help this team whatsoever.
Make no mistake, guys like Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Rob Refsnyder will have an impact on the franchise in the very near future, but this year, there, unfortunately, isn’t a fit for them.
Judge is off to a great start as he owns a .277/.320/.447 slash line with three home runs and 13 RBI, but his strikeout rate is at an alarming 30%. The Yankees would much rather have him continue to get at-bats in a Railriders uniform in order to have him become fully developed as he becomes a starter in 2017.
Their top catching prospect has no reason to move up. Austin Romine has done nothing to lose his backup catcher’s role and don’t you think the Yankees think of Sanchez as more than a backup catcher?
Anyway, Sanchez is hitting a mere .227 with an OPS of .733 which are both way below his career average (.272 and .795). If the 23-year old even wants to be thought about as a call-up option, he’ll need to earn it with the lumber.
Wasn’t Refsnyder called upon to do the same thing last year when Stephen Drew was seemingly inept at grasping a baseball bat? That didn’t work out as he was sent back down roughly a week after his promotion.
Also, where is he going to play? Starlin Castro has the second base position down pat and Refnsyder’s coaches didn’t believe in his glove to be at the hot corner, so that hasn’t changed in one month of minor league ball.
Anything is a more reliable option than Chase Headley at the moment, but it’s going to take more than a .235/.290/.282 slash line in Triple-A before being considered for promotion.
There is not one prospect in the farm system that seems equipped for a call. Make the argument that Nick Swisher should be called up, and I may agree with you, but there is realistically no place to put the energetic 35-year old and he’s not even on the 40-man roster.
You also have to realize, Cano was batting .333 and hit four home runs in 24 games for Columbus in Triple-A in 2005 so he was breathing down the team’s neck and a promotion to the Bronx was inevitable.
Pitching wise, James Kaprielian could have been an option but he is resting a sore elbow after dominating in his first three 2016 starts. Throw out any chance the Bombers risk his health for a call-up when he returns from injury.
The only way a call-up is made anytime soon is if Rodriguez’s hamstring injury earns him a trip to the disabled list. Other than that, don’t bank on any prospects to get the call anytime soon.
“I would say that the current roster needs to heal itself currently more so than looking at Scranton to heal it,” Cashman told Anthony Reiber of Newsday. “We’re certainly better than this. But that’s where we’re at right now.”
People love to compare the 2005 Yankees to this year’s team and say all they need is a spark. That team had established talent, being that they were in the World Series two years prior and had a championship series appearance the year before.
Over the last three years, New York has gone to the playoffs just once and lost that one playoff game. The only good thing about this rut is that the Yankees are only 24 games into a 162-game season but there’s no trade they can make (right now) and no one in the farm system is capable of making a significant impact on this team.
For the 2005 team, the Yankees had a spark-plug problem. This squad? Is more of a complete engine failure.
If it’s a spark you want, A-Rod’s huge series in Boston should have done just that but what the Yankees bestowed upon the baseball world is that they are incapable of being ignited by a single spark.
Michael Pineda (6.33 ERA) has been dreadful and “future ace” Luis Severino (0-4, 6.31 ERA) is arguably one or two bad starts away from a demotion. Nathan Eovaldi has shown he has the potential to be great, but he still ranks 71st among qualifiers with a 1.38 WHIP.
Headley was 197th in the majors out of 198 in qualifiers entering Tuesday for batting average (.156) and OPS (.423) and although it’s easy to point at this team and say “it’s too early,” it’s hard seeing manager Joe Girardi make a playoff team out of the bunch he has right now.
Moves are hard to make. They’re landlocked with huge contracts to the point where they can’t bench, trade, or demote the one’s who are struggling, and won’t do so.
It’s feasible that this is who these New York Yankees are. Although it’s tough for most fans to swallow, this may be a team that flirts with .500 all year and potentially becomes a seller at the deadline.
For now, this team has to figure it out. They can’t turn to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre because there’s no one knocking on the door. They can’t shake up the roster (yet), and won’t make a managerial or coaching move because this drought is nowhere close to their wrongdoing.
As frustrating as it may be, the Yankees will continue to believe in the players they have and that they will reach their potential. Until that becomes a lost cause, there’s not much else to do until the team falls out of contention.
It’s early and still time to ride out the current roster, but as Yogi Berra once said: “it’s getting late early.”