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7 Unforeseen Seasons That Helped the Yankees Win the AL East

New York entered the season with plenty of known star power, but the Yanks couldn’t have won their division without a few surprising campaigns.

The Yankees began the 2022 season with more than a few known stars, none brighter than Aaron Judge.

The hulking slugger has dominated the news cycle lately with his historic home run chase and attempt at a Triple Crown. Such production, especially in a contract year, was unforeseen, even if Judge was already an MVP-caliber player when the year began.

But a few Yankees had no such reputation – or much of a reputation at all – before becoming key contributors in 2022. Even with Judge’s monstrous season and plenty of other household names, the Yankees likely wouldn’t have clinched the American League East last week without the help of these surprising success stories.

New York Yankees SP Nestor Cortes pitching at Yankee Stadium
New York Yankees DH Matt Carpenter rounds bases
New York Yankees C Jose Trevino scores run

Clay Holmes

Holmes, another unexpected All-Star, has had some rough stretches since a 31.1-inning scoreless streak that vaulted him into the closer’s role. But the righty still has a sub-3.00 ERA, and his early-season success stabilized New York’s bullpen when Aroldis Chapman struggled and landed on the injured list. The Yankees still have some relief questions to answer – Holmes has been shut down for the rest of the regular season with a rotator cuff injury – but he certainly exceeded expectations, if nothing else.

Oswaldo Cabrera

Cabrera joined the Yankees when they were flailing over the summer and injected some life into the team. The rookie’s ability to skillfully play just about any position masked his early woes at the plate, but his bat has caught up more recently. Cabrera is hitting .328/.414/.656 with five doubles, five home runs and 14 RBI since Sept. 10; he’s positioned himself to make a serious impact on New York’s postseason roster.

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Ron Marinaccio

Another rookie, Marinaccio has earned some trust in New York’s bullpen. The right-handed Toms River native has a 2.09 ERA over his first 39 games in the majors. Now the local product could find himself pitching in high-leverage situations during the postseason.

Michael King

King has not pitched since July 22 after suffering a stress fracture in his throwing elbow. But the righty was such a pivotal part of New York’s first-half success that members of the bullpen and other teammates FaceTimed King during the Yankees’ division-clinching celebration. Even though King underwent season-ending surgery months ago, he is still among MLB’s top-10 relievers in fWAR after recording a 2.29 ERA over 51 innings. Fortunately for him, he does not need Tommy John surgery and thinks he can avoid missing time in 2023.

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