Yankees' Early-Season Takeaways After 1st Month of Season

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistMay 12, 2022

Yankees' Early-Season Takeaways After 1st Month of Season

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    Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

    The 2022 New York Yankees are off to an excellent start, perched atop the AL East standings with an 11-game winning streak already on their resume during the first month of the new season.

    While the offense is making plenty of noise once again, led by Aaron Judge, it's the surprise contributions of left-hander Nestor Cortes and baseball's most dominant bullpen that have been the pillars of their early success.

    There is still a lot of season to be played, but with one month in the books, now is the perfect time to dig into some of the team's biggest early takeaways.

    Off we go!

Nestor Cortes Is the Real Deal

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    Nestor Cortes was a 36th-round pick in the 2013 draft, and he is now in his third go-around with the New York Yankees after brief stints with the Baltimore Orioles and Minnesota Twins.

    The 27-year-old was a pleasant surprise last season, posting a 2.90 ERA and 1.08 WHIP with 103 strikeouts in 93 innings while splitting his time between the bullpen and the starting rotation, but few expected the soft-tossing southpaw to use that as the jumping-off point for a true breakout performance.

    Through six starts this year, he's pitched to a 1.41 ERA and 0.97 WHIP with a 42-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 32 innings, and last time out he took a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the Texas Rangers.

    With a 2.32 FIP and rock solid batted-ball metrics, his early success looks like the real deal, and that has given the Yankees a budding ace alongside Gerrit Cole, Jordan Montgomery and Jameson Taillon.

Failing to Extend Aaron Judge Already Looks Like a Mistake

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    With free agency looming this winter, extension talks with slugger Aaron Judge were a major storyline during spring training, but the two sides were ultimately unable to nail down a new deal after Judge rejected a seven-year, $213.5 million offer.

    "Very few people get this opportunity to even talk about an extension," Judge told reporters. "Me getting this opportunity is something special, and I appreciate the Yankees wanting to do that. I don't mind going to free agency. It is what it is. … At the end of the year, I'm a free agent. I'll talk to 30 teams and the Yankees will be one of those 30 teams."

    Given his injury history prior to the 2021 season, it's understandable why the Yankees would be hesitant to tack any more years or any more guaranteed money onto their offer.

    However, Judge is once again looking like an MVP candidate with a .290/.356/.626 line that includes 10 home runs, 22 RBI and 1.6 WAR in 28 games, and it's going to be a tough pill to swallow if he's putting up those numbers elsewhere in 2023.

Baseball's Best Bullpen

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    Michael King
    Michael KingErick W. Rasco/Getty Images

    The Yankees had one of baseball's best bullpens last season, finishing fourth in the majors with a 3.56 ERA, but the relief corps has taken things to another level this year.

    Through 29 games, relievers have accounted for 14 wins, 11 saves and an MLB-best 2.38 ERA while racking up an impressive 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings.

    Closer Aroldis Chapman has not yet allowed an earned run, tossing 10.1 scoreless innings while converting all seven of his save chances, but it's been a total team effort.

    Long reliever Michael King (9 G, 1.42 ERA, 28 K, 19.0 IP) has been filthy, while Miguel Castro (13 G, 4 HLD, 1.59 ERA, 11.1 IP) and Clay Holmes (15 G, 6 HLD, 0.61 ERA, 14.2 IP) have locked things down in the setup roles to bridge the gap to Chapman. That's to make no mention of Chad Green and Jonathan Loaisiga who have already established themselves as excellent relievers.

    This bullpen is going to be a major weapon all season.


    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and accurate through Tuesday's games.