No Aaron Judge? No Giancarlo Stanton? No Gary Sanchez? No problem for the New York Yankees against the Los Angeles Angels.
The New York Yankees, even with their injuries, are playing above .500 with a 12-10 record and are still in contention for the AL East. They do not need superstars like Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez to win games. The group of players on the field – the backups – are proving that the Yankees have more depth than anyone expected.
The wins may not be pretty as Monday marks the second-straight extra innings contest, but they still count as wins. With 13 players on the injured list, the Yankees have won six of their last seven games and are riding a four-game winning streak. Most of the players on the roster do not have the reputation of their established stars, but perhaps that won’t last for long.
After Voit’s home run to deep center field in the first inning, the Angels responded in the second when Jonathan Lucroy hit a two-run home run off Yankees pitcher J.A. Happ, who has already given up seven on the year. After the Yankees tacked on one more run in the third inning, the game stayed tied until the 12th when Urshela hit a deep fly ball to center field, allowing Clint Frazier to score.
Then, Aroldis Chapman – one of the remaining names fans do recognize – allowed a single to Brian Goodwin in the bottom of the inning, plating Peter Bourjos and tying the game. A single to center field by Urshela drove in Gleyber Torres and pitcher Jonathan Holder (another no-name) held on to secure the Yankees the win in the 14th.
“It has been satisfying to see guys get opportunities, and in a lot of cases take advantage of those opportunities,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said to the press after the game. “It’s critical.”
The injuries to the Yankees are unique for two reasons: timing and quality. First, they are one of just two teams since 2002 to put 13 players on the IL in April. The Ringer’s Ben Lindbergh used data from Baseball Injury Consultants to find that other teams who have suffered from 13 injuries at a single time have had a wide spectrum of results. The 2007 Phillies won the NL East, while the 2008 Mets failed to qualify for the postseason.
The second reason is that the players absent for the Yankees are key contributors. Last season, this collection of players combined for a 33 WAR. The value the Yankees are giving up in their absence is drastically higher than any other team.
The injury of Jordan Montgomery, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, was expected. Aaron Hicks and Luis Severino had minor preseason injuries extend into larger problems, leaving them sidelined. But this past weekend, the Yankees unexpectedly saw a third potentially MVP-caliber player in Judge succumb to the injury bug. Stanton is suffering from a biceps strain, Sanchez a strained calf and Judge has a strained oblique.
The backups have stepped up though. Frazier, a guy who missed a lot of last season due to a concussion, has been consistently productive for the Yankees so far. The 24-year-old is hitting .324 with six home runs, 17 RBIs, 10 runs and three doubles. Voit has provided some power with a team-high seven home runs.
DJ LeMahieu has stepped up defensively at second base and posted a .272 batting average, while Urshela has 11 hits in 15 games, including four doubles. There were only three players batting below .250 on the Yankees roster on Monday night – not bad for a team of nobody’s.
It remains to be seen if the New York Yankees can maintain their strong play. But for now, players like Voit and Urshela have quelled the absence of their superstars and kept them competitive.