Yankees' 2019 Midseason Awards

The New York Yankees have reached the unofficial halfway point of the 2019 season and currently hold a 6.5 game lead over the Rays and a nine-game lead over the Red Sox. Not only are the Yanks leading the AL East, but they have the best record in the American League and trail only the Dodgers for the best record in baseball. At 57-31, The Yankees have played great baseball throughout most of the first half of this injury-riddled season, earning certain players midseason awards for their efforts…

Photo Credit: Elite Sports NY

Rookie of the Year: Nestor Cortes Jr.
32 IP, 3-0, 4.78 ERA, 4.30 FIP, 32 SO
Others considered: Thairo Estrada, Chance Adams, Stephen Tarpley
With young players such as Clint Frazier, Domingo Germán, and Gio Urshela having used up their rookie eligibility Cortes takes home the award in a relatively weak rookie class. That is not to suggest Cortes has not been solid in his time in the Bronx. Despite a somewhat inflated ERA, The Yankees are a perfect 5-0 this season when using Cortes out of the bullpen following Chad Green as an opener, a strategy that has helped them survive injuries to Germán, Sabathia, Paxton, Severino, and Montgomery so far in 2019. As New York’s rotation gets healthy in the second half, Cortes could find a permanent home in the bullpen as a long-reliever.

Best Starting Pitcher: Domingo Germán
76.0 IP, 10-2, 3.67 ERA, 122 ERA+, 83 SO
Others considered: Masahiro Tanaka
In a rotation that has struggled with inconsistency and injuries, Germán has been a bright spot. Despite spending a month on the Injured List, Germán leads the Yankees in wins with 10 and ranks third in the AL. Germán was pitching to a 2.60 ERA up until May 26th, when he surrendered seven runs over five innings. After two more subpar performances, Germán was placed on the IL and admitted the first time he noticed the pain was in his May 26th start against the Royals. Germán later said, “I didn’t tell the team at the time, because I felt it was the kind of injury, I felt I was going to get through. In between starts it would kind of go away.” Hopefully this is a sign he will return to how dominant he was before the injury. He gave the Yankees and their fans a glimpse of what could come in his first start back and final start before the All-Star break, pitching six innings of one run ball in Citi Field against the Mets. After allowing a home run on the first pitch of the game, Germán settled in and pitched very well, leading to another Yankees’ win.

Best Relief Pitcher: Aroldis Chapman
34.2 IP, 2-1, 24 Saves, 1.82 ERA, 1.096 WHIP, 50 SO
Others considered: Adam Ottavino, Zack Britton, Tommy Kahnle
Chapman has been exactly what the Yankees hoped he would be this season, a lock-down closer who leads the American League in saves. He is the biggest reason why New York is 47-0 this season when entering the ninth inning with a lead. For the most part this season, the Yankees bullpen has been excellent. Ottavino, Britton, and Kahnle in particular have done admirable jobs in their roles, but Chapman has been the best. He leads the foursome in ERA, FIP, and strikeouts. Additionally, Chapman has blown just three saves this season, one which came on an unearned run. Chapman has already been recognized for his efforts in 2019, having been awarded American League Reliever of the Month in May, a month in which he was a perfect 11 for 11 in save opportunities while sporting a 1.52 ERA. He has also been selected to the 2019 All-Star game.

Breakout Player: Gio Urshela
.304 AVG, 7 HR, 39 RBI, .824 OPS
Others considered: Domingo Germán, Luke Voit, Clint Frazier
Nobody has outperformed expectations more than Gio Urshela in the first half of 2019. When the Yankees called him up to replace Miguel Andújar, there was no reason to expect anything from him offensively. A career .225 hitter, Urshela struggled to hit in both Cleveland and Toronto. This season he turned into an All-Star finalist, placing third among AL third basemen. He’s done that by lowering his K% about 6% from last year and increasing his BABIP significantly, raising it to .339. His wRC+ in 2019 is 117, 17% better than Major League average. Not only has his bat been better than advertised, he’s been consistently flashing the leather at third base. According to Fangraphs, he’s made 50% of plays considered unlikely to be made in the field.

Photo Credit: Foul Territory Baseball
Most Improved Player: Gary Sanchez
.245 AVG, 24 HR, 57 RBI, .870 OPS
Others considered: Gio Urshela, DJ LeMahieu, Tommy Kahnle  
It’s no secret that Sanchez had a horrible season 2018. He was equally lost at the plate offensively and behind it defensively but has bounced back nicely in 2019. He has only allowed five passed balls in 482.1 innings compared to 18 in 653 innings last year and has improved in basically every single offensive statistic. In 62 less at bats, he already has produced more hits and home runs than last season. His slash line has improved drastically from a pathetic .186/.291/.406 in 2018 to .245/.315/.556 in 2019. His 2.2 WAR is third highest among New York hitters and his 122 wRC+ ranks 22% better than average.

Most Valuable Player: DJ LeMahieu
.336 AVG, 12 HR, 63 RBI, .900 OPS
Others considered: Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres, Luke Voit
There really is no question that LeMahieu has been the Yankees’ Most Valuable Player in 2019. LeMahieu leads the American league in batting average (.336) while leading the team in the following: RBIs (63), hits (113), runs (65), and WAR (3.8). He is over a full win above the next highest Yankee, Gleyber Torres, who has a 2.5 WAR. The Machine” has been almost automatic with runners in scoring position this year, hitting .462. Aaron Judge put it best saying, “How many is he driving in? Not is he going to drive somebody in, or when, it’s ‘How many is he going to drive in?’
He’s a diamond in the rough right there, something special.”

He’s produced this much offensively while playing very strong defense at three different positions throughout the first half. LeMahieu has not only been New York’s best free agent signing of the offseason, but the best free agent signing in all of baseball. His WAR of 3.8 is higher than every position player free agent. LeMahieu is the starting second basemen for the American League All-Stars and was named the AL player of the month for June.

Article by: Mark Ciano


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