The Yankees finished up their first month of the season with an extra-innings loss to the Rays on Wednesday afternoon, but they did end April with four consecutive series wins and a 13-9 record. The offense was mostly frustrating and brought back bad memories of the Yankees’ earlier 3-6 record for people hopeful that they would go out on a high note. Although the individual at-bats can be disappointing, following a team so closely can sometimes dim the rest of the league’s performance in fans’ eyes. Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury are typically well-liked, Chase Headley still has the 2014 second-half sheen on him, and both Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez are off to hot starts. Are fans justified to be annoyed by the other positions though?
Brian McCann: 71 PA, .266/.319/.453, 2 HR, 110 wRC+
Those who were not enthused with McCann’s Yankee debut in 2014 quickly became irked by a slow first couple weeks, but through the magic of small sample size, McCann has picked up the pace since then and it shows in his stat line. His defense has been solid as usual and his wRC+ ranks in the top half of 24 catchers with at least 50 PA. For $17 million, there will always be a legion of fans demanding more, but at the same time, Buster Posey and Russell Martin are roughly similar with a .273/.345/.403 and .186/.347/.390, respectively, all for around the same average annual value.
Justified Annoyance Scale: 2*
*Scale is 1-5 with 1 being not at all and 5 being extremely justified.
Stephen Drew: 74 PA, .177/.274/.419, 4 HR, 88 wRC+
Drew’s number one problem is in that first column. Deserved or not, there are many who will just never be satisfied with someone hitting under .200. What’s weird about Drew so far is that he’s demonstrated among the best plate discipline in his career so far with a 12.2 percent walk rate while also maintaining a career-low line-drive rate (12.8 percent). There’s potential for more, even though he almost certainly won’t become the 20-homer threat his current dinger pace suggests.
As it stands, his wRC+ ranks around the middle of the pack in baseball while the Yankees’ last two active second basemen, Martin Prado and Robinson Cano, aren’t doing much better. Cano’s sluggish start won’t last, but if Drew’s offense can balance out at around a low-90s wRC+ for most of the season, that would stay right about average for MLB second basemen. Add in shortstop-quality defense that couldn’t be offered by Jose Pirela (ultimately a bench bat) or Rob Refsnyder (still figuring out second), and Drew’s been fine so far, though a few more knocks definitely couldn’t hurt.
Justified Annoyance Scale: 3
Didi Gregorius: 69 PA, .206/.261/.238, 0 HR, 40 wRC+
The new shortstop has exactly two extra-base hits all year and just seems to be swinging after every pitch he sees. There might be fewer grumbles with Shane Greene going through a rocky stretch in Detroit, but Gregorius can’t bat like this forever. He shouldn’t either, as last year he at least had a .244 True Average whereas in 2015, he’s pulling up a sub-.200 TAv. Nonetheless, it’s easy to be bummed by Didi’s play to date, as even on defense he’s gone through ups and downs. If anyone really needs a hot month to win over some fans, it’s Didi. With no internal solutions due to the difficulty of growing a shortstop, the Yankees had to deal from a strength to give a young, talented defender a shot. Only a couple regular shortstops have been worse than Gregorius. That must change.
Justified Annoyance Scale: 4
Carlos Beltran: 69 PA, .159/.217/.270, 0 HR, 27 wRC+
It’s difficult to watch once-extremely talented players rapidly age before your eyes, but that’s pretty much the story of the Carlos Beltran Era in Yankees history. Just a couple years ago, the switch-hitting outfielder slugged .491 with a .289 TAv for a pennant-winning Cardinals team. That all seems like a distant memory. Hell, even his middling .258 TAv from last year while battling a bone spur in his elbow all season looks Ruthian compared to his .174 TAv to date. If you’re looking for the right fielder with the lowest wRC+ in baseball with at least 50 PA, look no further. It’s Beltran. Meanwhile, he’s owed at least $27 million from now through the end of next season. That’s an uncomfortable financial commitment, but the leash cannot be too long if the Yankees fancy themselves contenders. They can only cross their fingers and hope for a recovery for so long.
Justified Annoyance Scale: 5
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