New York Yankees Player Grades for April
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In the Yankee Universe, there's no denying that the multibillion dollar question right now is: Can they keep this up?
Yes, it's been quite a good month of April in the Bronx, by any measure.
Of course, no one knows the answer to this question. I'll preface what I'm about to say with the obvious disclaimer and reminder that it's still very early so it's probably not the greatest exercise to jump to conclusions just yet.
But here's the beauty of sports and real results. All of the sabremetricians could have told you a mere four weeks ago that Eduardo Nunez would not be very good. Same for Jayson Nix. And they're right so far.
But they also would have told you the same thing for Chris Stewart, Lyle Overbay, Vernon Wells and to a somewhat lesser extent, Travis Hafner. The problem is that Chris Stewart is hitting .294, Lyle Overbay has been far from great but very respectable given the circumstances, Wells has been great and Hafner has been outstanding.
I know, I get it. Just one month, right? Surely these players will invariably revert to the mean. But maybe by the time they do, Curtis Granderson is back. Then Mark Teixeira comes back. Then Derek Jeter eventually comes back.
And sure, given the way things seem to go these days in the Bronx, there will be even more injuries in the meantime. If we're making predictions, I hate to say it, but presumably Hafner and maybe even Brett Gardner could be up next on the disabled list.
But then Kevin Youkilis comes back and maybe he continues hitting as well as he was at the start of the year.
We can sit here and say, how long can they keep this up? But keep in mind how much adversity this Yankees team has been dealing with ever since spring training, forget just the start of the season. Injury, after injury.
Yet, they stand tall through a first month where all of the "experts" would have been laughing in your face had you prognosticated anything better than a .500 month of April. Well, it's 16-10 to be exact.
It's hard not to be a believer in the Yankees right now. There's too much track record and too many hungry players on this team that have already shown they have a lot of good baseball left in them. Yes, 84 percent of the season remains but the Yankees are hardly the only team getting production from players many thought were done.
Yankees fans can hold fast to the optimistic feeling that the current lot will hold the fort long enough for the reinforcements to come in and help carry the load the rest of the way. This team has a remarkable resolve and already has persevered through a ton of adversity.
Now, here are the player grades through the first month of the major league season.
Hiroki Kuroda: A+
Mariano Rivera: A
Robinson Cano: A
Vernon Wells: A
Travis Hafner: A
Robinson Cano is on track to hit 44 home runs this season and earn quite a long-term contract this offseason. The best player on the Yankees and one of the game's best players has been an everyday presence in the lineup and a highly productive bat.
He's also one of the game's best second basemen. Cano can do it all and the Yankees will continue to rely on his bat and glove all summer long.
Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner are former All-Stars whose production has been off the charts. The two veteran sluggers have added stability to the Bombers' lineup and lots of power. Where would the Yankees be without Hafner and Wells? Possibly at the .500 mark.
That guy that wears No. 42 for the Yankees is a pretty good player. Yes, Mariano Rivera is still the best in the game. I find myself struggling, constantly, to find words to capture just how truly great this man is. I cannot.
So take the most awe-inspiring, positive adjective in the English language and multiply it by infinity. That's Rivera.
It's time to start putting Hiroki Kuroda's name in the conversation of baseball's best pitchers. He's not flashy and he's not a young up-and-coming flamethrower. He's just plain awesome. Kuroda was the ace of the Yankees staff last season and is so far again this year.
Talk about adapting well to the New York bright lights.
Kuroda gets the highest mark of any Yankee player due to his remarkable efficiency and dominance.
Andy Pettitte is as good as ever.
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CC Sabathia: B+
Andy Pettitte: B+
Chris Stewart: B+
Francisco Cervelli: B+
Phil Hughes: B-
Brett Gardner: B-
The Yankees' big hoss, CC Sabathia, is off to a nice, albeit not great start, while the veteran Andy Pettitte continues to shine at age 40. There's really only one blemish on Pettitte's season so far, and that was the disastrous outing he had at the Stadium on Monday night.
Prior to Monday's start, Pettitte had a minuscule 2.22 ERA in four starts.
The two-headed efficiency monster that was Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli is now down to just one after Cervelli suffered a broken hand on Friday night. Both players have had extremely good starts to the season, something that has perhaps been the most pleasant surprise of all the Yankees' good news so far.
Phil Hughes' season has gotten better with each start. After two disastrous outings to kick off his 2013 campaign, Hughes has tossed three straight quality starts, looking more and more like the ace the Yankees once envisioned several years ago.
Hughes has racked up 21 strikeouts in his last 20 innings, and when he has his curve and slider working, he's a top-end starter. When he doesn't, well, he's awful.
Gardner is one of only two Yankees (Cano, being the other) to play in all 26 games and his defense in centerfield has been outstanding. The disappointing aspect of Gardner's season to date has been his lack of stolen bases. He only has two.
Gardner's not having a bad year, but he's a better player than what he's shown so far. Expect him to heat up as the weather gets warmer.
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Lyle Overbay: C+
Boone Logan: C
David Robertson: C
Adam Warren: C
Kevin Youkilis: C
Brennan Boesch: C
David Phelps: C-
Ichiro Suzuki: C-
Robertson hasn't been as bad as the number suggest but he hasn't been great either. Expect him to shake off some of the rocky outings he's had so far and rebound nicely. Similarly, Joba Chamberlain's numbers don't paint the whole picture.
Joba had two poor outings to start the year and ever since he's been very sharp. He even nailed down his first save of the year on Saturday.
Boone Logan and David Phelps have been up and down, with Phelps' best work coming as a long man out of the bullpen. He's been lousy in the short stints he's served. He'll get his chance at the starting rotation tonight, just one month into the year, thanks to Ivan Nova's triceps injury.
Lyle Overbay has been good and has contributed some clutch hits. What has to be taken into consideration with his grade is the fact that very little was expected of him. He only made his way into Yankees camp a few days before the season started.
Kevin Youkilis got off to a nice start but has been plagued by a nagging back injury. After an abysmal start to the year, Ichiro has been much better over his last seven games.
It's Eduardo Nunez' time to shine and the light has been dim thus far.
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Jayson Nix: D
Ivan Nova: D
Shawn Kelley: D
Eduardo Nunez: D-
Nix has had four multi-hit games and it's not fair to completely destroy the guy. Sure, a look at his OPS may cause some to pass out, but he's been mostly solid in the field and pressed into everyday duty with Youkilis' injury.
Similarly, a cursory glance at Eduardo Nunez' numbers are not for the faint of heart, but Nunez has never been equipped to be an everyday major league shortstop. The bottom line is that he really doesn't belong in the big leagues as anything more than a pinch runner.
We've seen, what appears to be, his worst so far through 23 games. It's fair to point out that he has accumulated enough at bats at the big league level to amount to just under one full season of baseball. And in those at bats, he has a .680 OPS.
No two ways around it, Nix and Nunez have been horrendous at the plate. But perhaps there's hope for Nunez, yet. Last night's three-hit performance was a glimmer of that hope.
Ivan Nova has not been downright terrible. He's just been really bad. Unfortunately for Nova, now he's injured. Maybe for the Yankees, that's not bad news in the sense that Nova won't be pitching for them in the starting rotation for a little while. And depending on David Phelps' performance, it might be another while down the road.
Assuming everyone stays healthy.
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Ben Francisco: F
I swear, somewhere in the above victory celebration is Ben Francisco. Francisco is clearly the 25th man on the Yankees roster at this point. No one ever wants to see someone lose a job. By all accounts Francisco is a good guy.
I guess what I'm trying to say is, Ben Francisco will soon lose his job with the Yankees.