Recapping the first-half for the five Yankees All-Stars

After an extremely successful 57-31 start to the regular season, the Yankees had five players named to the American League All-Star team. The five All-Star selections are the most the Yanks have had in a single-season since being awarded eight nominations back in 2011. What makes that fact even more impressive is that New York didn’t send perennial All-Star candidates like Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Dellin Betances or Luis Severino this year, because each of those players have missed most, or all, of the season with injury. In their stead, the five players that will be listed below have helped the team not only stay afloat, but excel.

Photo Credit: Noah K. Murray/USA Today Sports

Let’s start off with the Yankees’ first half MVP: DJ LeMahieu. In his first season in pinstripes, LeMahieu is leading the American League in batting at .336. The offseason acquisition from Colorado has also hit 12 home runs, driven in 63 runs and played plus defense at three different positions (at least 12 games at first base, second base and third base). However, none of this is as impressive as what LeMahieu has done at the plate with runners in scoring position. The 6’4 infielder is batting .462 in those spots, with 51 runs batted in and a 1.168 OPS. His contact-driven approach has added balance to New York’s power-heavy lineup. LeMahieu got the start at second base in his third mid-Summer classic and went 0-2 before giving way to the next player on our list…

Gleyber Torres was the man that took over at the keystone for his New York teammate in Cleveland. Torres, unlike LeMahieu, went 1-2 in his first taste of All-Star game action. The Yankees’ 22-year-old infielder has built on his great rookie season of 2018 with a true breakout campaign thus far in 2019. In 301 at-bats, Torres is batting .292 with 19 home runs and 50 RBI. Never considered a plus power hitter coming up through the Minors (his season-high down on the farm was 11 long balls in 2016), Torres has now hit 43 big flies in his first 204 Big League games. On the defensive side of the ball, the young Venezuelan did a great job filling in at shortstop for Didi Gregorius to start the season, and has since moved back to his regular position at second base.

Read more about how great Torres has been here in an article from Ryan Thoms:

The third, and final, position player that the Yanks sent to Cleveland is Gary Sanchez. What a bounce-back year it has been for the Bombers’ catcher after batting .186, and facing constant criticism for his defense, last season. In 2019, Sanchez is batting .245 with 24 home runs, 57 RBI and an .870 OPS. The 24 round-trippers for Sanchez are good for third in the American League, behind Mike Trout and teammate Edwin Encarnacion. Moreover, Sanchez has not faced nearly as much disapproval for his work behind the plate. In his second All-Star game, Sanchez got the start at catcher and went 1-2 with a run scored in the American League’s 4-3 victory.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/John Minchillo

Moving onto the pitchers, New York sent two to the ASG this season. The first to see the mound on Tuesday night was Masahiro Tanaka. The sixth-year Big Leaguer was named an All-Star for the second time in his career after posting a 3.86 ERA in 105 innings so far this season. While the ERA seems a tad high, Tanaka has been great for stretches of the 2019 season. He had a 2.80 ERA in six starts (35.1 innings) during the month of May. In addition, Tanaka has been in top form against the division rival Rays, allowing just five runs in 28.1 innings (1.59 ERA). The 30-year-old has easily been the Yankees’ most reliable starter this season. He pitched a scoreless second inning in the mid-Summer classic after Justin Verlander started the game.

The last of the five Yankee all-stars was the last pitcher to take the mound in Cleveland on Tuesday. Aroldis Chapman, pitching in his sixth All-Star game, fired a scoreless ninth inning to wrap up a 4-3 American League win. Additionally, Chapman struck out the side in a dominant, 12-pitch inning. So far this season, the Cuban missile has a 1.82 ERA with 24 saves in 27 opportunities. Chapman has also recorded 50 strikeouts in his 34.2 innings pitched, and his walks per nine are down from 5.26 in 2018 to 3.12 three-plus months into this campaign. The 31-year-old has been rock solid in the third season of his five-year deal with the Yankees.

The five players detailed above are a major reason why the Yankees sit 26 games above .500 at this point in the season and lead the Tampa Bay Rays by eight games in the loss column in the American League East. If it were up to me, Luke Voit would’ve joined this group after batting .280 with 17 home runs and 50 RBI in the first-half of the season, but the injury he suffered in London may have factored into that. Now that players like Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorius and Aaron Hicks are healthy, some of the pressure will be taken off these first-half stars, but their continued success will go a long way in the Yankees’ quest to win their first division title since 2012.

Article by: Jake Graziano


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