Midseason report card: position players

The Yankees completed a frustrating first half with a nice series win over a first place Cleveland Indians team to get them to the .500 mark once again at 44-44. The team currently stands at fourth place in the AL East, 7.5 games behind the Baltimore Orioles. They are also 5.5 games behind the Toronto Blue Jays for the second wild card spot. So although the first half of the season has been grueling for the Yankees and their fans, the team is still within striking distance, but they would need to burst out of the gates and string together long winning streaks. Winning streaks have been few and far between for the 2016 Yankees and with many players having down years, let’s dive into our midseason report cards for position players. Players are graded on a standard A, B, C, D, F scale, with A for exceeding expectations, C for meeting expectations, F for failing, and I for incomplete.
Photo Credit: John Munson | NJ Advance Media
Catchers
Brian McCann:
Chad’s grade: C+ ; Steven’s Grade: C+

Chad: Due to Brian McCann’s large contract, I find myself expecting him to be a perennial All-Star (which I do not think is unfair to McCann). With Atlanta, McCann was that All-Star catcher year-in and year-out. But with the Yankees, I’ve accepted McCann for who he truly is - a power hitting catcher who struggles to hit for average but is good defensively. With that, I’ve given McCann a C+ because he is performing how I would expect him to, but his batting average of .248 is higher than it has been in previous seasons.

Steven: I’ve also held McCann to high standards due to his prolonged success with the Atlanta Braves. Unfortunately, he has simply been average since signing a big money contract with the Yankees. Although his defense has been tremendous, he can be frustrating offensively at times. While his power numbers have certainly been consistent, his inability to hit the opposite way with runners in scoring position has definitely hurt this team. He’s been better as of late so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. McCann hasn’t been awful this year, but a C+ grade is a sufficient evaluation due to the standards he should be held to.

Austin Romine:
Chad’s grade: B+ ; Steven’s Grade: A-

Chad: I can’t lie, I was slightly disappointed when I heard the news that Austin Romine had won the backup catcher job over highly touted prospect Gary Sanchez. However, Romine simply outplayed Sanchez in spring training, and he has continued his momentum through the first half. The majority of team’s backup catchers are guys who hit .230 or lower and are only on the team to give the starter an occasional day off. When Romine is in the lineup, I actually have confidence in him, and we saw the success he had being Nathan Eovaldi’s personal catcher in May.

Steven: After the Yankees traded John Ryan Murphy this offseason I was quite disappointed. He had been exciting to watch last year, and the pitchers seemed to enjoy pitching to him. Romine has really excelled in the backup role this season. He’s been solid behind the plate, and overcome many of the offensive woes that have plagued him throughout his past brief stints with the Yankees. To put it simply, Romine has provided the Yankees with all the production they could have hoped for from the backup catcher position.

Gary Sanchez:
Chad’s grade: I ; Steven’s Grade: I

Chad: Gary Sanchez has played one game with the New York Yankees this season. It was a pretty unfair situation for the young catcher as he DH’d against Chris Sale in an attempt to stack right-handed hitters against him, and Sanchez with 0-4 with one strikeout. His grade is obviously incomplete, and we may not see him again until September.

Steven: I concur with Chad in the sense that we cannot fairly render a grade on Sanchez due to his brief appearance in the majors. Hopefully, he can showcase his talents in September.

Designated Hitter
Alex Rodriguez:
Chad’s grade: D ; Steven’s Grade: D-

Chad: Last season, I gave Alex Rodriguez an A+ to this point in the year. However, 2016 has been a different animal for A-Rod. The concerns that he could not catch up to fastballs did not come to fruition in 2015, but it is showing itself out in 2016. Rodriguez has dealt with his fair share of struggles as he is hitting .220 with eight homers and 28 RBI. His disappointing play has also regulated him to a somewhat platoon role with Carlos Beltran getting more starts at DH.

Steven: As one of A-Rod’s biggest fans, it seriously pains me to give him a grade of D- for the first half. The fountain of youth, or whatever else, he discovered last season has clearly worn off. For much of the season he’s looked lost at the plate. In fairness, he hasn’t been given the chance to pull it together as of late due to Carlos Beltran’s recurring hamstring issues. As long as Beltran is stuck in the DH slot, and a platoon of Rob Refsnyder, who should be getting the majority of the playing time, and Aaron Hicks, patrol right field, A-Rod’s diminished role will continue. I would love to see him turn it around in the second half, however I’m not sure if his body will allow it.

Infielders
Mark Teixeira:
Chad’s grade: F ; Steven’s Grade: F

Chad: Mark Teixeira has a knack for having incredible seasons in contract years, unless that contract year is 2016. Teixeira has been absolutely dreadful this year hitting .193 with seven homers and 20 RBI in 61 games. Once again, Teixeira got injured, with a knee injury that threatened to end his season. I’ll give credit where credit is due: Teixeira is still one of the best fielding first basemen in the league. But with his abysmal hitting numbers, it will be very surprising if the Yankees elect to resign the 36-year-old this offseason.

Steven: Mark Teixeira has been flat out horrendous this season. He’s helped cement his reputation as one of the softest players in the league. Unfortunately, due to Greg Bird’s season ending injury, the Yankees were left without a viable insurance policy in the event of Teixeira’s inevitable injury. While he’s been solid in the field, as we’ve come to expect, he’s looked lost at the plate. Granted, he’s been better since coming off the disabled list, but he has a lot of work to do in the second half if he expects to get a rich contract this offseason.

Dustin Ackley:
Chad’s grade: F ; Steven’s Grade: F

Chad: This grade pains me to give. When the Yankees acquired Dustin Ackley, I was one of the few people excited about the deal, and I tirelessly advocated that he was a better player than fans who haven’t watched him thought. Luckily he proved me right, but 2016 was a different year. Ackley struggled mightily, getting off to a slow start due to inconsistent playing time. Unfortunately, he could not ever recover from that slow start before a season ending injury as he finished his season hitting .148 with zero extra base hits in 28 games (61 at-bats). It’s not what you want.

Steven: Prior to Ackley’s season ending injury, he was horrendous at the plate. I will admit, however, that watching him rob Matt Wieters of a home run in Baltimore earlier this season, and temporarily delay what turned out to be a Yankee loss, was quite the sight. I do believe that his offensive struggles can largely be attributed to inconsistent playing time. On the other hand, the Yankees brought him in as a utility player so he should have done a better job preparing for that type of role.

Chris Parmelee:
Chad’s grade: I ; Steven’s Grade: I

Chad: In two starts with the Yankees, Parmelee’s 4-8 with two homers and eight RBIs were very impressive for Yankee fans across the board. It was unfortunate to see him go down with an injury as he was really putting together good at-bats in Yankee Stadium. We may not see him back for a while, and when he comes back, his playing time may be limited with Mark Teixeira and now Rob Refsnyder ahead of him on the depth chart.

Steven: Parmelee made some noise during his brief stint with the Yankees before ending up with on the disabled list. In six games with the Yankees, Parmelee went 4-8 with two home runs and eight RBIs. With the slumping Teixeira on the disabled list, I was actually excited to see what Parmelee could offer based on this small sample size. We shouldn’t expect to see him back unless Teixeira gets injured again, but with such an extensive injury history, that’s certainly within the realm of possibility.

Ike Davis:
Chad’s grade: I ; Steven’s Grade: I

Chad: I actually did not see a single Ike Davis at-bat this season. I was out of the country on vacation and missed the few games where he made plate appearances, and was only able to see him in action as a defensive replacement. However, with his underwhelming performance, he was designated for assignment, so his legendary Yankee career may be over.

Steven: As someone who had the honor of watching some of Ike Davis’ at bats, I can assure Chad that he did not miss anything of substance. While Davis made a few impressive plays in the field, he was a no show at the plate. The latter, in conjunction with Teixeira’s return, explain why he is no longer on the major league roster.

Starlin Castro:
Chad’s grade: B- ; Steven’s Grade: B

Chad: Starlin Castro came out of the gates in 2016 on an absolute tear. During an April month where it seemed like no one on the Yankees could hit the baseball, Castro shined hitting .305 with three homers and 12 RBIs. Since April, Castro is hitting .240 which is disappointing to many including myself. At the same time, Castro has been a guy who I have had confidence in when he steps to the plate.  It’s unfortunate that Castro may not be the same All-Star caliber player that he was for a few seasons with the Cubs, but he’s still one of the Bronx Bombers’ brightest young players.

Steven: I must admit that I’ve been quite disappointed with Castro this season. After the Yankees acquired Castro, I initially expected him to finally become the replacement for Robinson Cano we’ve been eagerly awaiting. By replacement, I mean a fixture in the lineup who could consistently hit .300. After a scorching hot April, Castro has cooled off considerably. It’s puzzling for a career .279 hitter to suddenly dip to the .250s. I don’t want to rush to judgment, but I’ve noticed this occur with many players after they arrive in the Bronx. This occurrence definitely warrants further discussion, but for the sake of this evaluation I digress. That being said, Castro has been a solid addition to the team on both the offensive and defensive side of the game, giving him a solid B grade.

Rob Refsnyder:
Chad’s grade: B+ ; Steven’s Grade: A-

Chad: Although I’ve said it jokingly on the BBB Twitter account, Rob Refsnyder actually has looked like one of the most professional hitters in the Yankee lineup. Finally getting consistent playing time as a super utility guy at 1B, 2B, 3B, and RF, Refsnyder is now hitting .276 in 31 games with eight doubles. He’s been everything the Yankees have hoped for in the field as well, which is his area of his greatest criticism. I’d like to see him hit for more power, but if he continues hitting the ball in the gap and hitting above .300 with runners in scoring position, I’ll be satisfied.

Steven: I’ve been delighted to see Refsnyder finally get the playing time that he’s unfairly been deprived of for the last few seasons. It’s no secret that the biggest weakness of Refsnyder’s game is his defense, however he’s been quite serviceable in the field this season. He’s also in the process of being molded into a super-utility of player of sorts, filling a Ben Zobrist-like role. Thus far, he’s played 3B, 2B, 1B, and RF. At the plate, he’s been one of the Yankees most consistent hitters. While he hasn’t hit for power this season, it’s refreshing to have a line-drive hitter who can consistently make contact instead of swinging for the fences every at bat. With the exception of Carlos Beltran, Didi Gregorius, and maybe Jacoby Ellsbury, Refsnyder has been the Yankees most consistent hitter this season.

Chase Headley:
Chad’s grade: C ; Steven’s Grade: C+

Chad: Quite frankly, Chase Headley got off to one of the worst April’s in Yankees history. He hit just .150 with 2 RBIs and zero extra base hits. Putting up these all-time low numbers, many were calling for an outright release of Headley, which wasn’t feasible due to the money he is owed. But 2016 has been a tale of two seasons for Headley. Since April, Headley is hitting a very respectable .285 with 10 doubles and seven dingers. His recent performance has led to faint trade rumblings, but that is highly unlikely. He’s not a fan favorite, and he may not ever be, but if he continues his recent pace, he may win over some fans that he lost in April.

Steven: Chase Headley got off to an atrocious start this season. While his defense has without a doubt improved when compared to his error-plagued 2015 season, he looked like a lost soul at the plate during April, when he hit a disgraceful .150. In many ways, Headley came to embody everything that was wrong with the Yankees. He was an old and boring player who could not hit. Since then, he’s hit .298, .275, and .281 in May, June, and July, respectively. I’ve never been a fan of Headley’s, however I must give credit where credit is due. I’ve been quite impressed with how he’s turned around his season. If he can continue playing well, his final report card will likely be in the B range.

Ronald Torreyes:
Chad’s grade: C ; Steven’s Grade: B-

Chad: Ronald Torreyes should not have made the roster out of spring training (his spot should’ve gone to Refsnyder), but I’ve been alright with his on-field production. He’s a versatile player who can play 2B, 3B, SS and now LF, apparently, so that gives him some value with this team. He provided a nice spark in April and has since come back down to earth. He’ll never be anything more than a utility guy so he is meeting my expectations.

Steven: Torreyes has been everything we could have expected from a backup infielder. He’s been versatile and solid in the field. He’s also been average at the plate despite not having many at bats. Ever since the Yankees permanently recalled Refsnyder, Torreyes has seen his playing time cut drastically. In fact, the Yankees may be better of optioning him to Triple-A, and giving his roster spot to someone who can have a more consistent impact on the team.

Didi Gregorius:
Chad’s grade: A+ ; Steven’s Grade: A

Chad: I never thought I’d be sitting here in 2016 proclaiming that my favorite Major League Baseball player is Didi Gregorius. But, here we are. Gregorius is the best all-around player on the Yankees as he does a bit of everything for the Yankees. He has been an incredible hitter hitting .298 with a 41 RBIs and a career high 11 home runs. My biggest complaint with Didi was that he could not hit with runners in scoring position, but this season has changed that perception. Gregorius is hitting .288 with RISP. Not only has Gregorius vastly improved offensively, he has improved defensively. Yankee fans already knew he had the potential to be a gold glove shortstop, and Gregorius is proving that scouting report right this year. I could go on-and-on about how great he has been, as he could have easily been an All-Star this year. If he maintains this pace, he will soon be regarded as one of the better shortstops in all of baseball.

Steven: Didi Gregorius has been, without a doubt, the best all around player in the first half for the Yankees (I’m giving this edge to Gregorius, not Beltran, because he provides elite defense, whereas Beltran’s contributions have been solely on the offensive side). Gregorius has evolved into a rising star for the Yankees. He’s been amazing in every regard. He’s made a series of tremendous plays in the field, hit for power, consistently made contact, and gotten key hits with runners in scoring position. The only reason I’m not concurring with Chad’s A+ evaluation is because Gregorius has made a series of boneheaded mistakes in the field, some of which were costly.

Outfielders
Brett Gardner:
Chad’s grade: C ; Steven’s Grade: B-

Chad: Brett Gardner received an A last year for his incredible first half which propelled him to Cincinnati for his first career All-Star game. Unfortunately, he has reverted to his second half ways, only this time he did it in the first half of this year. Although Gardner has hit well over the last month (.285 BA), Gardner is posting a career low slugging percentage of .355 and OPS of .707. He’s driven in just 22 runs which, as the primary two-hole hitter, is unacceptable and he’s hitting just .206 with runners in scoring position. Somehow, Gardner is leading the team in on-base percentage at .353. Unlike my friend Steve, I like Brett Gardner - I really do. In fact, I own his shirsey. I like how hard he plays. But in his age 32 season, I just cannot give him a favorable grade for his disappointing play this year.

Steven: It’s not a secret that I’m no fan of the famously streaky Brett Gardner. I’ve never seen a player who could go from zero to 100 (that’s a Drake reference, for those of you who didn’t pick it up) as quickly as Gardner can. He’s played well as of late, but he’s had trouble replicating his 2015 All-Star first half. One of my greatest frustrations with Gardner is the very fact that he’s struggled to utilize his greatest strength in a way that’s advantageous to the team. That being said, he’s been solid defensively, and slightly above average on the offensive side. Gardner’s production has certainly been sufficient, but I would like to see more on his end during the second half.

Jacoby Ellsbury:
Chad’s grade: B- ; Steven’s Grade: B

Chad: I’m guilty of comparing Jacoby Ellsbury, the player, to Jacoby Ellsbury, the contract. In doing this, I will always be disappointed with Ellsbury, which I am aware is quite unfair. Ellsbury is a very good player playing with a superstar’s contract, which, he is not. If I can allow myself to ignore the albatross contract, I am satisfied with his .279/.347/.398 slash line. All of these, except slugging, are his highest with the Yankees. He has also stolen 16 bases and has remained almost completely healthy, which I compliment him for. If he hit for more power, he would receive a more favorable grade, but a B- is not too bad at all.

Steven: Jacoby Ellsbury has been one of the few Yankees to play consistently well this season. He’s hit for average and gotten on base, for the most part. Similar to Gardner, he also often struggles to utilize his speed. Despite taking a number of questionable routes to fly balls, Ellsbury’s speed has helped him in the field. The primary reason his grade isn’t higher is because of the standards his contract inherently forces me to hold him to. The seven-year 153 million dollar contract that the Yankees gave Ellsbury after the 2013 season warrants elite production. We just haven’t seen the numbers we should be seeing on his end. As long as he stays healthy, and continues his first half production, Ellsbury will have done a sufficient job, as far as I’m concerned.

Carlos Beltran:
Chad’s grade: A+ ; Steven’s Grade: A+

Chad: Although Gregorius is my favorite player, that is a decision I have made looking at the long term, because I could easily say I am as big of a fan of Carlos Beltran - at the plate at least. At this point in his career, it’s hard for me to fault Beltran for not running down balls in right field, but I do wish he would show a little more hustle. At the dish, I could not ask for anything more. The switch hitting 39-year-old leads the Yankees in nearly every statistical category with a .299 average, 19 home runs, 56 RBIs, a .550 slugging percentage, an .888 OPS, and 18 doubles. His incredible hitting has given him a spot on the American League All-Star team in San Diego. In the interest of the long term success of the Yankees, I hope he is traded, so the Yankees can get some kind of a return on him in a contract year.

Steven: Carlos Beltran is the Yankees savior, plain and simple. Though I’ve also discussed Gregorius’ contribution, Beltran came out of gates with guns blazing. Throughout April, and much of May, where almost every other player forgot how to hit a baseball, Beltran was present to save the day. Without Beltran, the Yankees would likely be many games under .500. Should the Yankees choose to sell, as they should, Beltran will likely be gone. He’s hit for power and average this season, earning a spot on the All-Star team. That’s not too bad for a 39-year-old who had openly pondered retirement heading into the season.

Aaron Hicks:
Chad’s grade: F ; Steven’s Grade: D-

Chad: There is no way around it: Aaron Hicks has been a disgrace at the plate this season. I had high expectations for Aaron Hicks for a fourth outfielder. I expected Hicks to provide exactly what Young did offensively (perhaps minus the power), and then some with his gold glove capabilities defensively. Instead, I have seen a switch hitter who cannot hit period, and cannot hit left-handed pitchers, as he was advertised to doing so well. I have also seen a guy who has a tendency to get bad breaks on balls as he relies on his world-class arm to bail him out. Hopefully, this is just a down year for Hicks as I do expect him to be with the Yankees organization for the foreseeable future. But in order to do that, he is going to need to hit better than his current .197/.261/.398 slash line.

Steven: Aaron Hicks has been quite the disappointment, to say the least. Acquired this winter for John Ryan Murphy, Hicks was supposed to fill the role Chris Young assumed in 2015. He was even seen as an improvement over Young, however these aspirations have not come to fruition. Though he’s been okay in the field (the only reason I’m not giving him an F), he’s been horrendous at the plate. This may partially be attributed to inconsistent playing time, but his struggles have been profound. For some reason, Joe Girardi continues to play him in hopes that he’ll eventually pull it together. I’m not too optimistic in this regard, but let’s hope his second half is profusely better than what we’ve seen so far.

Ben Gamel:
Chad’s grade: I ; Steven’s Grade: I

Chad: Gamel provides good versatility in the outfield with his ability to play all three positions, hit for average, and his above average speed, so I hope to see him again soon. Until then, his grade is incomplete.

Steven: Due to Gamel’s eight plate appearances this season, I cannot fairly render a grade on his performance.

Conclusion
That wraps up part one of what is a two-part series as we have also graded the pitchers for the New York Yankees. We will also grade these players again at the season’s conclusion. Granted, the roster may end up looking slightly different by the end of the season if the Yankees do end up becoming sellers at the trade deadline. Click HERE for part two of our midseason report cards to see our grades for the Yankees’ pitching staff.

Article by: Chad Raines and Steven Eareckson
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