Who Are the Yankees' Most Underrated Players?
Each team has its under-appreciated players.
Whether it's the ones the fan base is always lobbying to trade, or those that don't get nearly enough praise as their play warrants, there's always more than one in each clubhouse.
For the Yankees – with one of the most talented rosters in Major League Baseball and a very critical fan base – there's several.
Here's five members of the Bronx Bombers that are underrated in their own way.
In a piece highlighting the most underrated player on all 30 big-league teams, Matt Martell of SI MLB selected the Bombers' backstop Gary Sánchez.
With Sánchez's new catching stance – a modified crouch he began experimenting with this spring – perhaps this was the season Yankees fans would finally embrace and welcome the 27-year-old's defense behind the dish. After all, he's struggled in the past with his blocking and framing.
On offense, however, Sánchez is truly one of the best hitters at his position in the game. From a power perspective, there aren't many catchers in baseball that consistently hit for power like Sánchez does while making the vast majority of his appearances at catcher.
Here's an excerpt from Martell's article addressing Sánchez and his value:
Catchers with consistent power are as valuable and rare as home run-hitting middle infielders were 30 years ago. Yet Sánchez is viewed by many as an underachiever because he’s yet to match the production he provided as a rookie. He’s also missed time each year with injuries and struggled with passed balls
In 62 games last season through the end of June, Sánchez hit .261/.330/.588 with 23 homers. He played hurt through most of July and his performance slipped before finally landing on the injured list on the 24th. He came back for good on Aug. 10 and raked the rest of the way: .242/.364/.576 with 10 homers in 29 games.
When we evaluate Aaron Judge’s 2017 rookie season, we consider the month or so stretching from mid-July to mid-August an outlier and not representative of his overall season; his performance dipped drastically but he was playing through a shoulder injury. He returned to form once he was healthy.
Let’s look at Sánchez’s 2019 season the same way. Taking out what he did in July, Sanchez hit .255/.340/.585 with 33 homers in 91 games, or one home run every three games. There is never a good reason to trade a catcher who can hit like that.
If he can sort out his defense, stay healthy and continue to hit bombs, there's nothing saying Sánchez won't solidify his reputation as one of the best backstops in baseball in the next few years. The question is, will fans in the Bronx agree?
If any member of the Yankees has been subject to the most trade rumors in the last few years, it may very well be Clint Frazier.
It's important to preface the following with the fact that often times, the trade talks make sense. Since Frazier was acquired by New York from Cleveland in the Andrew Miller deal in 2016, he's been blocked by other outfielders ahead of him at the big-league level. Factor in some defensive lapses along the way, and it's understandable why many have hoped New York would try to at least get something back for his services.
That being said, this is the Yankees' former No. 1 overall prospect we're talking about. The year he debuted in the Bombers' farm system, he was ranked first – higher than Gleyber Torres, Aaron Judge and Miguel Andújar.
Frazier has only played in 123 games thus far in his modest three-year career. It's hard not to wonder, however, what kind of numbers this outfielder with serious pop would be putting up if he had a full-time starting role.
In 2019, across 69 appearances, Frazier had 12 home runs, 38 RBI and a .267 batting average. That's on pace for 28 homers and 89 RBI in a full 162-game season.
With a chance to settle into a starting job in the Yankees outfield, Frazier has the upside of an All-Star caliber contributor that could work his way into the middle of the order. The problem is, who do you take out of the Bombers lineup to find him that spot?
Whether or not Frazier will get that chance remains to be seen. He certainly showcased what he's capable of in Spring Training – with his bat and his glove – before MLB shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It's hard to look past Giancarlo Stanton's injury history since he put on pinstripes for the first time. Not to mention the fact that New York took on his mammoth contract when they traded for the slugger from the Miami Marlins.
Stanton may get the most criticism of all the Yankees, however, when it comes to his production.
Let's not forget, Stanton is just three years removed from his National League Most Valuable Player Award in 2017 when he mashed 59 home runs and drove in 132. His potential on offense – if he can play a full season – is through the roof, especially considering he now plays half his games at Yankee Stadium.
That's the problem. As soon as he was acquired by New York, the expectations placed on the slugger were in many cases on the unrealistic side. Seemed like anything less than his MVP season would be a disappointment.
The judgement on Stanton's performance is justified in that he's proven what he's capable of in the past – especially after an injury-plagued campaign last year – but if you think about it, he's under-appreciated for that very reason.
In the last two seasons, since Aaron Judge's breakout rookie campaign, can you think of the best individual performance by a Yankee in the games played and home run departments? That's right, it's Stanton. His 158 contests and 38 long balls during his first season in the Bronx are still unmatched. In fact, his 100 RBI from 2018 are just two behind DJ LeMahieu's total in 2019. Other than his MVP season, those numbers make 2018 one of the best years of Stanton's 10-year career.
Stanton may very well end up as a bust in a Yankees uniform. He's signed through 2027, with a club option for the following year, and if he can't stay healthy through that time, there's no doubt his contract will haunt this team throughout this decade.
Yes, he'll deserve the overrated chants from time to time, but as he strives to return to greatness in 2020 and beyond – after just 18 games played this past season – remember that when healthy he's still one of the best sluggers in the game.
New York has had one of the best bullpens in baseball the last several seasons. Relatively new acquisitions – like Zack Britton and Adam Ottavino – alongside flamethrowing closer Aroldis Chapman form a dangerous group that opponents hope to avoid facing at all costs.
What about Chad Green?
Considering this right-hander's effectiveness and consistency since his debut in 2016 – as well as his versatility as an opener last year – Green is an underrated component of what makes the Yankees' 'pen so dominant.
From 2017 to 2018, Green posted a 2.18 ERA and record of 13-3 in 103 total appearances. He was practically unhittable in 2017 as he finished with a spotless record, 1.83 ERA and a career-high of 103 strikeouts.
Nonetheless, when you think of the best performances out of the Yankees' bullpen in the last several years, odds are the likes of Chapman, Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, David Robertson and more will come to mind first.
Now, with an even more bolstered bullpen, Green has been used in a variety of situations. In 2019, he pitched at least once in all nine innings. Nonetheless, without a set role that lasted through the entire season, the right-hander's production didn't dip by much.
Last year, Green was even better as an opener than he was out of the bullpen. In 15 starts – over 19 1/3 total frames – Green had a 3.72 ERA and held hitters to a .243 batting average.
With a surplus of starters, assuming James Paxton returns to game shape prior to baseball's resumption without any setbacks, Green likely won't be needed as much in as an opener. Then again, he's proven he'll be ready to go whenever he's needed. That alone is invaluable to any bullpen.
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