Early Grades for All of New York Yankees' Offseason Acquisitions
The New York Yankees were very active this offseason, and the team's newest players have all had varying levels of success through the season's first 26 games.
To be fair, though, none of the acquisitions have been downright bad. In fact, general manager Brian Cashman actually did a great job of bringing in talent that was capable of producing right from the first game.
Longevity may prove to be an issue with a player or two on this list, but the vast majority appear as if they'll continue to succeed. And the Yankees will need them to. Despite so many new faces, this team still has holes. The risk of injuries in the infield may prove too difficult to overcome without consistency.
Early numbers can be inflated, but it's around this time that the law of averages starts to take its course. The players have had a large enough sample size to earn some sort of a grade. Well, here they are.
Matt Thornton, LHP
2014 Stats: 1.80 ERA, 11 G, 5.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R (1 ER), 2 BB, 5 SO, .200 BAA
Manager Joe Girardi needed a lefty out of the bullpen after Boone Logan left via free agency, so Brian Cashman went out and grabbed Matt Thornton. A hard thrower well into his 30s, Thornton has proven to be a successful signing thus far.
Thornton has been the epitome of a lefty specialist, appearing in 11 games but logging just five total innings. He has been effective, allowing only four hits and two walks while striking out five.
The key for Thornton will be maintaining this pace. Effective lefty specialists should have low ERAs and low WHIPs. Otherwise, well, they wouldn't be effective.
Thornton has paid dividends thus far. Look for Girardi to go to him frequently against the best lefty bats of the American League.
Kelly Johnson, IF
2014 Stats: .219/.275/.453, 22 G, 64 AB, 14 H, 4 R, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 5 BB, 17 SO, 1 SB
Kelly Johnson has done a little of everything this season. He has mostly played first and third base, though he has since shifted back to third with the reactivation of Mark Teixeira.
Johnson won't hit for a high average, nor will he get on base a ton. Even still, his current marks in said categories are a bit disappointing. Perhaps Johnson is pressing too much in an attempt to take advantage of the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium.
He has the perfect swing for the site, as he is a lefty with a looping swing. Johnson has a history of hitting for power, and he has shown that so far with three homers.
The Yankees aren't expecting a .270 average from Johnson by season's end, but the team will need him to raise his average into the .240 range. That average, coupled with a .310 on-base percentage, would give the team a great return on its investment.
Brian Roberts, 2B
2014 Stats: .217/.313/.275, 21 G, 69 AB, 15 H, 11 R, 2 2B, 1 3B, 4 RBI, 10 BB, 14 SO, 3 SB
With Robinson Cano gone, Brian Cashman was given the daunting task of replacing one of the best second basemen in team history. He took likely the cheapest route, signing veteran Brian Roberts.
Roberts has a well-documented history of injuries, but he has stayed relatively healthy so far in 2014. He can produce when healthy, and he really hasn't been that bad. Sure, the hits aren't falling, but he's getting on base consistently and hitting the ball hard.
The base knocks will come.
Plus, he's scoring runs and stealing a few bases at the bottom of the lineup. That's crucial for a lineup with plenty of guys at the top that can drive in runs. Despite injuries, he still has the speed to score from second on a single or first on a double. All he needs to do is get on base.
While his numbers aren't flashy, the fact that he has stayed healthy boosts his grade just a bit.
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
2014 Stats: .312/.369/.441, 25 G, 93 AB, 29 H, 14 R, 8 2B, 2 3B, 11 RBI, 9 BB, 16 SO, 8 SB
The newest Boston Red Sox traitor, Jacoby Ellsbury has played phenomenally in his first year in pinstripes. Some might be concerned at his lack of power so far, but the fact that he has eight doubles and three triples makes me feel just fine.
We don't need power from Ellsbury. We need the ability to create runs and play stellar defense.
With a little power sprinkled in, Ellsbury is on the perfect track to posting the numbers the Yankees expect from him. His batting average and on-base percentage are pretty much right in tune with what he has done in the past, and his ability to swipe bags gives the team a threat at the top of the lineup.
His versatility in the lineup has also been huge. When Mark Teixeira went down, Ellsbury hit third in the order and drove in runs. Now he is mostly back to the top of the order.
Ellsbury can do a lot of things, and the Yankees are now finding that out on a daily basis.
Brian McCann, C
2014 Stats: .235/.279/.370, 22 G, 81 AB, 19 H, 11 R, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 4 BB, 10 SO
Brian McCann has struggled a bit at the plate. Expect a better slash line by the All-Star break from McCann, as he is one of the better hitters at his position.
The lack of power has also been a surprise. He has three total home runs, but two came in one game. He needs to show that power more consistently, especially given the fact that he plays in a stadium that favors his swing.
I think patience is the real issue with McCann. He only has four walks and is swinging at pitches that are out of the zone. Generally this is a sign of pressing, but I'm not worried about McCann. He'll snap out of it and get hot.
McCann has been a savior for the team behind the dish. He has really taken control of the pitching staff and provided stability for each pitcher every five days.
The struggles of CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda should not be attributed to McCann, as balls are simply being hard against them. I attribute the success of Masahiro Tanaka to him, however, as his calming presence has helped the Japanese import become an ace.
Carlos Beltran, RF
2014 Stats: .275/.316/.538, 23 G, 91 AB, 25 H, 11 R, 5 HR, 13 RBI, 6 BB, 18 SO, 1 SB
Carlos Beltran is likely on the last leg of his successful career, but he's not showing it. The postseason hero has started off the season with some power, belting five home runs through 23 games played.
He has some trouble recognizing balls and strikes, though. His 18 strikeouts are a bit high, while his six walks are pretty low. While a .275 average is a reasonable projection for the rest of the year, I do think his OBP will rise near .330.
Right field at Yankee Stadium has become Beltran's new home, but he has also seen time at designated hitter. In those situations, either Alfonso Soriano or Ichiro Suzuki have taken his place in the outfield. Given Ichiro's hot start, Joe Girardi has had the luxury of being able to sit Beltran (or pencil him in at DH) pretty often.
Beltran is a consistent hitter who will pay dividends in the playoffs if the Yankees make it. That's exactly what this team needed following last year's disappointment.
Masahiro Tanaka, RHP
2014 Stats: 3-0, 2.27 ERA, 5 G, 35.2 IP, 27 H, 10 R (9 ER), 6 BB, 46 SO, .205 BAA
There aren't enough words to describe how unbelievable Masahiro Tanaka has been.
Tanaka's splitter and pinpoint accuracy has perplexed hitters, as evidenced by his unreal SO/BB ratio. Batters can't figure out his pitches. His splitter looks like a fastball until five feet in front of the plate, and his deceptively slow motion makes even a 90 mph fastball look faster to an unsuspecting batter.
Tanaka has already mastered the ability to throw get-me-over curveballs to start at-bats. His command of the zone is a sight to behold considering it's the first time he has thrown with a ball this size.
There really isn't anything negative to say about Tanaka at this point. Sure, you can nitpick and say he needs to keep the ball down a little more (he has allowed five home runs), but I think his early-season jitters have gotten the best of him at times.
He is professional and composed enough to rein it back in, though. He has proved it time and time again. Originally penciled in as the No. 4 starter out of spring training, Tanaka has established himself as the ace of this staff in 2014 and beyond.
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