New York Yankees Sleepers, Busts & Breakouts - Judging the Aaron Judge Risks

A team-specific fantasy breakdown of the sleepers, busts and breakouts from the New York Yankees. Including a write-up on the risks involved with uber slugger Aaron Judge.
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Sleeper: 3B Miguel Andujar

When the gate opened for the 2019 New York Yankees season, there was something wrong with Andujar based on his poor at-bats over two weeks (.128 with no HR, one RBI, and 11 Ks over 47 at-bats). He suffered a tear in his labrum in his right shoulder in the third game of the season that ended up needing surgery on May 20th. New York expects him to be ready for spring training.

Heading into last season, other than his low walk rate (4.1), Andujar did a lot right in 2018. He proved to be an edge run producer (17.5 percent RBI rate) with growth in his average hit rate (1.735). Andujar did an excellent job minimizing the damage in Ks (16.0 percent).

Over the last two months of the year, he hit .304 with 34 runs, 14 HRs, and 46 RBI over 217 at-bats highlighted by a great August (.320 with ten HRs and 29 RBI over 122 at-bats). Andujar played at a high level vs. RH pitching (.309 with 20 HRs and 70 RBI over 414 at-bats) while needing some growth against lefties (.264 with seven HRs and 22 RBI). His HR/FB rate (15.7) was the best of his career at any level.

Before last year, he had the best season of his career between AA and AAA in 2017 (.315 with 16 HRs, 82 RBI, and five SBs over 480 at-bats) leading to late-season call up to the majors (4-for-7 with four RBI).

Andujar hit .274 over his six seasons in the minors with 51 HRs, 336 RBI, and 30 SBs over 2,271 at-bats.

Shoulder injuries can lead to a slow recovery in power. The Yankees don’t like his glove at third base, which points to a move to first. An interesting player, but I have to see if he’s driving the ball well in spring training before paying for his 2018 stats. The have-nots in the high-stakes market have him listed as a DH out of the gate with an ADP of 232, which is at least 150 picks lower than his 2019 draft value.

The options at 1B, 3B, and DH for the Yankees in 2020 bring a lot of cloudiness to Andujar’s opportunity. His bat offers upside, and it will be discounted in any June drafts once the start of this year’s baseball season is announced.

Risk: OF Aaron Judge

There may not be a player in baseball that can match Judge’s power or ability to hit the ball hard (hard-hit rate – 57.1 in 2019) when he makes contact (contact batting average - .461, .441, and .435 over the past three years). His average hit rate (1.981) remains elite.

His risk comes with a tremendous strikeout rate (31.5), along with questions with his RBI rate (11.2 in 2019 and 13.9 in his career). Judge takes plenty of walks (14.3 percent) to help his value in runs. He crushed LH pitching (.343 with eight HRs and 19 RBI over 99 at-bats). His HR/FB rate (35.1) screams league-leading power, which would be helped by more loft in his swing (fly-ball rate – 32.4 in 2019 and 43.2 in his 50-HR season in 2017.

Last year he lost two months of the year with an oblique injury. Judge didn’t hit his stride in 2019 until the August 15th (.301 with 15 HRs and 23 RBI over his final 133 at-bats). With two years with missed games, he does have some injury risk while being fully priced on draft day (ADP – 28). We have already missed good chunks of Judge's prime.

Stress fractures take time to recover, making him a tease on any baseball drafts in June. Fantasy owners will expect him to be ready for the start of the year, but his recovery may linger longer than expected. Worth a flier if he's discounted, but I would avoid if his draft value comes in at a full price.

Deep Sleeper: SP Clarke Schmidt

If New York needs to add a sixth starter when the season starts, Schmidt is the minor league arm with the most upside. Over his first two years in the minors, he went 6-8 with a 3.39 ERA and 132 strikeouts over 114 innings. He only has three career starts at AAA (2-0 with a 2.37 ERA and 19 Ks over 19 innings), which means he still needs time to develop.

His fastball can reach the upper 90s while offering a high upside changeup. He missed the 2017 season with TJ surgery.

New York will start the year down two starting pitchers (Domingo German and Luis Severino), which puts Schmidt closer to the majors than appears based on his development time.

Regression: OF Brett Gardner

On paper, Gardner didn’t look much in 2019, but he did finish as the 76th ranked hitter in SIscore. He set career highs in HRs (27) and RBI (74) while offering an edge runs (86) and some value in steals (10). His batting average continues to be a liability thanks to a weak contact batting average (.321). Gardner had a massive spike in his average hit rate (2.008 – 1.560 in 2018), which ranked up with top hitters in the game.

His bat came up empty vs. lefties (.212 with five HRs and 17 RBI). He played the best in September (.259 with ten HRs and 20 RBI over 85 at-bats). Gardner will take walks (9.5 percent) while having some fade in his strikeout rate (19.6 – 17.6 in 2018). His HR/FB rate (19.3) was well above his career resume (9.4) and his 2018 season (8.5).

A veteran player who now has more competition for playing time with Aaron Hicks getting closer to starting the year healthy. Gardner signed a one-year deal with the Yankees. I can’t see him repeating his power, which turns him into a possible three-category liability.

READ MORE: Draft or Pass: NYY OF/DH Giancarlo Stanton

Rising Star: 2B Gleyber Torres

Torres made the jump from upside prospect to elite power bat in 2019. His average hit rate (1.934) made massive strides since 2015 (AVH – 1.307). He played well over the first three months of the year (.295 with 19 HRs and 47 RBI over 281 at-bats), but Torres lost his value in home runs in July (one HR over 88 at-bats). His correction in power came in August (.277 with 13 HRs and 21 RBI over 101 at-bats).

His approach came in at the league average (K rate – 21.4 and walk rate – 8.0). Torres repeated his fly-ball rate (41.9) with further growth in his HR/FB rate (21.5).

There’s a lot to like here while owning more underlying speed in the minors (61 Ks over 1,407 at-bats). His next step points to 200 combined runs and RBI depending where Torres hits in the batting order with 35-plus HRs. His batting average should move closer to .300. 

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