New York Yankees: Biggest Surprises so Far This Season
The New York Yankees, as a team, could be considered a big surprise in the early part of the season.
Predicted by many to finish at the bottom of the division for the first time in over two decades, the Yankees find themselves in second place, trailing only the rival Boston Red Sox.
At 10-7 on the season, the Yankees are doing a fantastic job of fighting through the early part of their schedule without many star hitters.
The strength of the pitching staff has come as no surprise as they have pitched to expectation and have been a key to the early season success.
However, the Yankees have found a few other surprises along the way that have both pleased and disappointed early on.
Positive: Francisco Cervelli
Francisco Cervelli has all but taken over the starting catcher role for the New York Yankees. He has doubled up Chris Stewart in games played this season and with good reason.
Cervelli is batting .310 while providing some clutch hitting along the way. Most impressive is the fact that Cervelli is leading the team in OBP at .420.
Cervelli owns a career OBP of only .346.
If Cervelli continues to swing a solid bat, he will continue to see everyday action and keep prospects like Austin Romine at bay.
Negative: Brett Gardner
The surprise with Brett Gardner is simple: He got his first stolen base of the season in the 17th game of the year.
Gardner has been able to get on base as he is batting .270. Yet he has only attempted three steals on the season and was caught on his first two.
Speed is a crucial element to Gardner’s game and if he isn’t providing that there isn’t much more he can provide.
I can’t tell if he is just being watched heavily or is just not quite comfortable yet. Either way, now that he has the first one under his belt, the hope is the rest will surely follow.
Positive: Vernon Wells
When the Yankees made the move to trade for Vernon Wells on March 26, it was received by most as an act of desperation.
Now, three weeks into the season, it seems as though GM Brian Cashman knew Wells' crazy salary was worth the risk.
Wells is batting .317 on the young season. That is a number you would assume will decrease as the year goes along, considering Wells hasn't finished with a BA over .300 since 2008.
Regardless, Wells is delivering on the one tool the Yankees were hoping for. Wells has already slugged five home runs this season.
Those five home runs are nearly half the total he had in all of last season with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
There is no reason Wells can't finish the year with a total anywhere between 25 and 30. If he can do that and still keep the average above .280, he would be a great steal for the Yankees.
Negative: Ichiro Suzuki
The Yankees' biggest cause for concern is with the aging Ichiro Suzuki.
Ichiro is only batting .200 on the early season and is yet to even attempt to steal a base.
What's even more concerning are his trends, according to FanGraphs.
Ichiro’s GB/FB ratio is the lowest it has been in his entire career. That wouldn’t be so bad if Ichiro’s line drive percentage wasn’t also the lowest of his career.
It’s early in the season, so hopefully Ichiro can turn it around and begin driving the ball through the holes again.
Positive: Travis Hafner
Travis Hafner by far has been the biggest surprise in the early part of the season.
He has provided everything the Yankees could hope for while guys like Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson are out with injuries.
Hafner is batting .319 and has already crushed five home runs this season.
Hafner leads the Yankees in slugging percentage at .702. The numbers Hafner is providing would all be career bests for the soon-to-be 36-year-old.
It's safe to say these numbers aren't sustainable at this clip, but Teixeira and Granderson are expected back in May to lighten the load.
So if this is Hafner's best month of the season, the Yankees couldn't be happier with the timing.