Here is a review and final grades for the 2015 Yankees season.
Part 1. Hitters.
We’ll separate the pitchers into a Part 2 and either include managing/front office there with the pitchers or make a Part 3 for just the manager and the front office.
Offense: as a whole, B. 2nd in the league in runs scored, and 4th in HR, but there is a problem. The batting average was 8th. .251. No regular hit over .280. No one drove in 100 runs (Teixeira would have, but for his injury). The OPS was 4th in the league, OPS+ 104 (100 is average). They were 2nd in the league in drawing walks.
But there was too much reliance on the home run. Rarely did you see this team bunt, hit and run, or steal bases. They never squeeze home a run. As you saw with some pitchers (Keuchel for instance), this team could not manufacture a run. With some guys who are slow (McCann, Teix), and others who once were fast but no more because of age (Beltran, A-Rod), the only guys with speed were Gardner and Ellsbury. You wanted those two guys to hit .280+ with about 35 or more stolen bases each. Instead, both Gardner and Ellsbury wound up less than .260, with 41 SB COMBINED. Not only did they stop hitting after the All-Star break, but when they did get on, they didn’t run. Why? The team was 13th in the league in SB. Meaning that if the HRs weren’t there, they did not manufacture runs. They need to do that better in 2016. Don’t just wait for the HR but play some littleball, too.
Also, baserunning is not just stealing bases. It’s going first to home, first to third, second to home. This team is slow, outside of Gardy and Ellsbury. So people are being held up whereas other teams can take the extra bases.
In short, you have to make things happen and not rely on the HR all of the time. Too often the Yanks didn’t do that. Whether that is on the manager, or on the players whose skill won’t let the Yanks make things happen, that you can decide on.
Catchers: McCann B-, Murphy B. Maybe my grade for McCann is low, since he did lead the Yanks in RBI with 94, and had 26 HR. But for the second year in a row, he hit just .232. Is that what the Yanks are paying $17MM for, and have for the next three years, a .230 hitter? The shift hurts him, but it would be nice to have him hit .250 or so. Murphy did a decent job as a backup catcher in his first full season in the majors, hitting .277. McCann’s OPS+ was 107, Murphy’s 102, but McCann was invisible the last few weeks of the season, when he, and others appeared gassed.
First base: Teixeira A, Bird B+. The Yanks missed Teix’s righty side of his switch hitting bat when he went down, but Bird filled in admirably for a rookie. Teix won’t hit .270 again (.255) but was on course for about 42 HR and 107 HR when he broke his leg, much better than we expected. He was (according to WAR, Wins Above Replacement) the MVP of the Yanks in 2015. His OPS+ was 146, MVP quality. Bird, in about 1/3 of a season, had 11 HR and 31 RBI….a 33/93 pace. Superb for a rookie. His OPS+ was 137. The problem is, with Teix at 1B and A-Rod at DH in 2016, there is no room for Bird next season. AAA bound? What a shame that he appears blocked for 2016. The Yanks lost some D with Teix’s injury. Teix is 36 next year, and …. let’s just say that with Teix’s age, as well as A-Rod’s (41 next July), that Bird may need to keep his bags packed all of the time for the SWB/NY shuttle.
One problem is that 19 Yankees are under contract for 2016 at some $190-$195 MM. That already puts them over the cap. Add some six more at about $15MM more and you have $210MM. Since they are over the cap, add 50% to any free agent. So signing say, Justin Upton for LF (replacing Gardner) would be $25MM/yr if the contract is for $17.5 MM. Signing Price for 7 years at $30MM/yr would actually be $45MM/yr with the penalty. Hal isn’t going to do that. Don’t expect a big free agent splash. Contracts aren’t coming off the books. Once Teix and Beltran are off after 2016 and CC/A-Rod after 2017, then…
Second base. Drew D. I’d give him an F except for his 17 HR and defense. .201. Ugh. OPS+ 78, 22% below league average. Ackley A. In just 52 AB, hit 4 HR and hit .288. OPS+ 164. Refsnyder B. Just 43 at bats, but 2 HR, .302. OPS+ 134. Will it be an Ackley/Refsnyder platoon in 2016 or will the Yanks “splurge” on a one or two-year deal with, say, Ben Zobrist as a free agent? Pirela F. Only hit .230, OPS+53 and made defensive miscues. Was disappointing after a nice spring training. Petit F. 7 for 42, 16 strikeouts, OPS+ 26. Worthless.
DH: A-Rod B. Did better than anyone could have expected, but faded after turning 40 in late July. 250-33-86. OPS+ 130. Best year in several years. How much is left in the tank for 2016 and 2017? Needs 13 HR for 700, 27 to catch the Babe at 714.
Shortstop: Didi B. Started slowly, but came on. You hoped for .260 and good D and he wound up at .265. OPS+ 90 but you would not expect much more b/c he is a shortstop. Did ok, is young and you hope for improvement. Ryan C. Good field, can’t hit. Hit .229, about what you’d expect.
3B: Headley C. Nothing about his game excites me. Made a ton of errors, hit just .259-11-62. Faded down the stretch. You’d like to see 15-20 HR, 70+ RBI. Didn’t make that. But nothing in system to replace him and three more years on his deal. Average. Very average. As mentioned, nothing about his game excites me. I’d like a better 3B, but where from, esp. with three years left on his deal? OPS+ 92 (100 is average).
OF: Gardner C. As a table setter, needs to hit at least 20 points higher. .259 isn’t setting the table. Also, for a guy who had seasons of 49 and 47 SB, why just 20? Did have 16 HR, OPS+ 105, but is the same kind of player as Ellsbury. Need more HR and/or more SB from him. Also a higher BA. Could be trade bait because he and Ellsbury are redundant, and Ellsbury makes more $$$$. Ellsbury: D. .257. Just 7 HR and 33 RBI. Only an 84 OPS+, which means among regulars, only Drew was worse. Missed 40 games b/c of injury. Like Gardner, disappeared after the All-Star break, and had just 21 SB when you were expecting a lot more from him. After all, he had 50+ a few times in Boston. The Yanks need a comeback year from him in 2016. They have $22MM per invested in him and are tied up with him for several years. If the contract turns out to be a bust, the Yanks are really hurting. You can’t have a .257 hitting leadoff hitter who steals only 1/2 the bases they should be and who have an OPS+ of 84 and who is making $22MM. Ellsbury was so bad down the stretch that he was benched for the WC game. The Yanks need more from their tablesetters next year. If Gardy is back, both he and Ellsbury both need to hit .285+ with at least 30 SB each. We will see.
Beltran B: Overcome slow start to wind up at .276, highest of any regular, with 19 HR, 67 RBI, and an OPS+ of 121. The problem is his defense. Should be DH-ing, but Yanks have A-Rod there. Judge isn’t ready to take over yet. 39 next year. That is a problem. Getting older. The middle of the 2016 lineup has Teix at 36, A-Rod turning 41 in late July and a 39 year old Beltran. Ugh. Young B. .252-14-42 as a platoon player, there to hit lefties. Free agent after the year. May not be back. OPS+111.
Garrett Jones F. DFA’d, brought back, let go again. Just .215-5-17 in 144 at bats. OPS+ 69. By contrast, Bird was .261-11-31 in just 13 more at bats with an OPS+ of 137.
Mason Williams, Ramon Flores and Slade Heathcott didn’t have enough at bats to effectively grade them (it was hard to grade Refsnyder and Ackley above). I’d give Williams and Flores (who was traded away) an incomplete. Heathcott gets a A for his limited time. 10 for 25, 2 doubles, 2 HR and 8 RBI, but also for a big September game-winning HR.
Other guys didn’t have enough at bats for me to effectively grade them.
Next up? The pitchers.