Check out Ben Poon’s 2022 Season Preview Article for the New York Yankees here.
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2022 Record: 99-63 (.611 win%, 1st in Division)
2022 Payroll: $264,934,200 (3rd)
1. 2B Gleyber Torres, .257 AVG/.310 OBP/.451 SLG, 2.7 fWAR
2. CF Aaron Judge, .311 AVG/.425 OBP/.686 SLG, 11.5 fWAR
3. 1B Anthony Rizzo, .224 AVG/.338 OBP/.480 SLG, 2.4 fWAR
4. DH Giancarlo Stanton, .211 AVG/.297 OBP/.462 SLG, 1.2 fWAR
5. 3B Josh Donaldson, .222 AVG/.308 OBP/.374 SLG, 1.6 fWAR
6. LF Aaron Hicks, .216 AVG/.330 OBP/.313 SLG, 1.4 fWAR
7. SS Isiah Kiner-Falefa, .261 AVG/.314 OBP/.327 SLG, 1.3 fWAR
8. C Jose Trevino, .248 AVG/.283 OBP/.388 SLG, 3.7 fWAR
9. RF Joey Gallo, .159 AVG/.282 OBP/.339 SLG, 0.3 fWAR
10. UTL DJ LeMahieu, .261 AVG/.357 OBP/.377 SLG, 3.0 fWAR
1. Gerrit Cole, 200.2 IP/3.50 ERA/1.017 WHIP, 3.3 fWAR
2. Jameson Taillon, 177.1 IP/3.91 ERA/1.128 WHIP, 2.3 fWAR
3. Nestor Cortes Jr., 158.1 IP/2.44 ERA/0.922 WHIP, 3.6 fWAR
4. Jordan Montgomery, 114.2 IP/3.69 ERA/1.099 WHIP, 1.3 fWAR
5. Luis Severino, 102.0 IP/3.18 ERA/1.000 WHIP, 1.4 fWAR
2022 Top 4 Relievers:
1. Clay Holmes, 63.2 IP/2.54 ERA/1.021 WHIP, 1.1 fWAR
2. Wandy Peralta, 56.1 IP/2.72 ERA/1.395 WHIP, 1.0 fWAR
3. Lucas Luetge, 57.1 IP/2.67 ERA/1.047 WHIP, 0.9 fWAR
4. Aroldis Chapman, 36.1 IP/4.46 ERA/1.431 WHIP, -0.2 fWAR
Regular Season Recap:
The number one story of the 2022 New York Yankees, and maybe all of MLB, was Aaron Judge. In the hours right before Opening Day, the Yankees announced that Judge turned down a $213.5 million extension offer. While Judge got some criticism in the New York media for his decision, it might have been the best decision he has ever made. He accumulated 11.5 fWAR, 16th all time and the best since Barry Bonds, broke the American League home run record with 62, and almost won the Triple Crown.
Though many attribute his high home run totals to the short porch in Yankee Stadium, Judge’s stadium neutral expected home runs according to Baseball Savant was also 62. This season was even more impressive considering he moved positions to center field for 78 games, playing above average defense. Judge broke records this season and is going to break the bank in free agency.
The rest of the outfield was not as impressive. Giancarlo Stanton once again had an injury filled season. When in the lineup, he mostly filled the designated hitter spot as an above average hitter with a 115 wRC+. He fell below an .800 OPS for the first time in his career and was well below his career average of .890 OPS. While Stanton still instills fear in pitchers, he will need to bounce back quickly to be worth the remaining $150 million left on his contract.
The Joey Gallo experiment was a complete failure. His 77 OPS+ with the Yankees was well below his Texas average of 116. After a truly depressing interview where Gallo opened up about his struggles in New York, the Yankees shipped him to the Dodgers for mid-tier pitching prospect Clayton Beeter, cutting their losses.
Aaron Hicks managed to play 130 games for the first time since 2018, but he has not lived up to his seven-year $70 million contract he signed after that 2018 season. While providing decent defense, Hicks looked lost on both sides of the plate all season, leading to a late season benching in favor of rookie Oswaldo Cabrera.
Cabrera instantly brought a spark to the team with his pearl necklace and flashy defensive plays. The switch hitting utility man mostly played infield in the minors, but the Yankees threw him out in the outfield for 32 of his 41 starts, providing solid defense for someone new to the position. While hitting for more power as a lefty, he still had an OPS of around 0.740 from both sides of the plate.
Lastly, the Yankees finally cut ties with Miguel Andújar, accepting his defense will always be awful and his offense will never approach his 2018 rookie season.
After those outfield struggles, the Yankees traded for Andrew Benintendi and Harrison Bader at the trade deadline. In 2022, Benintendi finished the season with a batting average above 0.300 for the first time in his career. While most of his success came as a Royal in the first half, he added some much needed depth and contact to the Yankees before injuring his hand in early September.
If Benny does not re-sign this off-season, he will likely go down as a forgotten Yankee, only playing 33 games in pinstripes. Bader also did not play much in the regular season, spending most of his Yankees time rehabbing from Plantar Fasciitis.
The infield was acceptable, but nothing special. For the fourth time, Anthony Rizzo tied his career high of 32 home runs. While his OBP was down, he still provided Gold Glove defense at first base, saving the Yankees from many errors.
Moving back to second base, Gleyber Torres finally felt comfortable, slugging over 0.450 with some adequate defense. Torres was extremely streaky with an ice cold August and a scorching hot September with a .464 and .959 OPS, respectively.
DJ LeMahieu continues to regress back to more of a solid utility infielder, rather than his once MVP form in 2019 and 2020. Although appeared to be the odd man out in the infield, his contact approach and great defense at both second and third base kept him in the lineup. While out with a toe injury in September, the Yankees lineup depth weakened, as they were forced to move Judge into DJ’s typical leadoff position.
In March, the Yankees acquired Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who will be discussed later, and Josh Donaldson from the Twins. The 36-year-old Donaldson easily had his worst year as a big leaguer, falling below 100 OPS+ for the first time his rookie season 11 years ago. While the Yankees were not expecting his old MVP-winning form, Brian Cashman believed Donaldson was an upgrade to Gio Urshela. Despite paying Donaldson $21 million when Urshela would have cost $6.5 million, Urshela was better in almost every offensive statistic, only trailing Donaldson in home runs 13 to 15. Although Donaldson was a great defensive player and Urshela was average, the Yankees definitely did not improve at the third base position.
With expanded rosters in September, the Yankees called up their third ranked prospect Oswald Peraza to play shortstop. In his 18 games in the majors, Peraza had a .300 BA and .400 SLG. While the sample size was tiny, it is exciting to see a young player immediately succeed.
Moving on from Gary Sanchez was clearly warranted, but there was some initial uncertainty with who would start between Jose Trevino and Kyle Higashioka (who will be mentioned in more depth in the “Player We Watched Section”). Ultimately, Trevino won the job with his unbelievable defense. Although he was a slightly negative offensive player, he accumulated 3.7 fWAR in large part by being the best framer in baseball, gaining approximately 17 runs according to Baseball Savant. Until the automatic strike zone is implemented, Trevino will remain valuable on the defensive end.
For the second year in a row, the Yankees starting rotation proved to be a strong point of this team, ranking 4th in MLB with a 3.51 ERA. The ace of the staff, Gerrit Cole, broke Ron Guidry’s Yankee record for most strikeouts in a season with 257. Cole, though, let up 36 home runs, which was the second most by a pitcher this season. While home runs have always been a problem, Cole will not rejoin the elite class of pitchers until he limits his extremely high barrel percentage of 9.5% as a Yankees pitcher.
Nestor Cortes topped his impressive 2021 with a sub 2.50 ERA. Despite only throwing 92 mph, Cortes’ 4-seam fastball was the 6th most effective pitch in terms of run value. Do not let his funky delivery and arm slot let you look over a great pitcher.
Jameson Taillon was a great back-end of the rotation starter with a 3.91 ERA in 177.1 innings. Luis Severino and Domingo German were effective in their 34 games they collectively played this season. Severino has not had a full season since 2018 and German was limited in 2021 and 2022, so injuries are the main concern with them.
After joining the team at the trade deadline, Frankie Montas was awful. In 8 games, he allowed four or more runs five times and allowed one run or fewer just once. With one more year before free agency, Montas will spend the off-season figuring out what went wrong when in New York.
The common theme for the Yankees bullpen was injuries. Of the Yankees main 16 relievers this season, only Clarke Schmidt and Lucas Luetge remained healthy all year. Despite the revolving door of bullpen pieces, the Yankees bullpen had some highlight players.
Before the All-Star break, Clay Holmes was one of the best relievers in MLB allowing 6 earned runs in 41.1 innings with 44 strikeouts and only 9 walks. After the All-Star break, his earned runs swelled to 12 in only half the innings. Throughout the season, his hard sinker and slider combination caused hitters to hit the ball on the ground at an impressive 77% rate.
Before fracturing his right elbow in late July, Michael King was dominant with 66 strikeouts and a 1.00 WHIP in 51.0 innings. He missed the rest of the season, but luckily does not need Tommy John surgery, indicating he should be ready for the 2023 season.
Aroldis Chapman missed two months of the season with an achilles tendinitis and a leg infection. When he was on the field, he was dreadful. His walk percentage was 17.5% and his strikeout percentage was 26.9%, way off of his career percentages of 12.2% and 38.3% respectively.
Zack Britton and Chad Green were nonfactors this season with fewer than 20 innings pitched, both due to injury. Jonathan Loáisiga had an opposite season from Holmes as his post-all star break numbers were fantastic. Lou Trivino, Wandy Peralta, Scott Effross, and Ron Marinaccio were all reliable this season, pitching some late inning situations when others were injured.
Overall as a team, the Yankees were even more streaky than they were in previous years. In the first three months of the season, the Yankees won 56 games and lost only 21. While it’s unrealistic to keep that up, they were on pace to win 118 games after those first 77. During that time, they were consistently leading the division by double-digit games.
New York ended the first half of the season with some bullpen meltdowns against the Red Sox and Reds. It was the first sign of disaster. Taking the foot off the gas, they completed the rest of July and August with 16 wins and 24 losses. After a rough start to September, they found themselves only up 3.5 games in the division.
With a much needed wakeup call, they finished out the regular season with 20 wins and 11 losses. Overall, they had 99 wins and 63 losses after failing to reach 100 on the last two nights in Texas. The Yankees comfortably won the East, but came in 2nd in the American League behind the Astros.
M-SABR Predicted Record 94-68 vs. Actual 99-63:
Ben predicted 94 wins and a second place finish for the Yankees, and he underestimated the Yankees record by 5 games. Ben expected the starting pitching to be the biggest weakness, but surprisingly, New York finished with the third lowest ERA behind only the Dodgers and Astros. Also, the rest of the AL East wasn’t as formidable as expected.
The Blue Jays won 92 games, the Rays won 86 games, the Orioles won 83 games, and the Red Sox won 78 games. Ben was likely expecting the Rays and Blue Jays to win more than they did. The combination of the two lead to the Yankees overperforming their predicted regular season record.
Even before the postseason started, the Yankees had a few injuries that had massive impacts on their postseason roster. In early September, DJ LeMahieu went on the IL with toe inflammation and Andrew Benintendi fractured his hamate. Right before the playoffs, Ron Marinaccio injured his shin, and Scott Effross announced he needs Tommy John surgery. All four of these players would not see any playoff action.
A little depleted but rested from the bye, the Yankees still felt comfortable against the Cleveland Guardians. The series was filled with weird scheduling and rain delays. The Yankees prevailed in five games, winning games one, four, and five. Gerrit Cole pitched games one and four combining for 13.1 innings with 16 strikeouts, allowing only 3 runs.
The Yankees scored 17 of their 20 runs via the home run, including three Harrison Bader home runs. The bullpen blew two games, allowing two runs in the tenth inning of game two and three runs in the ninth inning of game three. Wandy Peralta notably pitched to at least three batters in all five games of the series.
Now on much shorter rest, the Yankees went to Houston to face off against the Astros for the third time in six years. Unlike the previous years where the series went to a pivot game seven, the Yankees got swept in horrid fashion. The offense went ice cold against Houston’s dominant rotation and bullpen.
While many of the games were close, the Astros came up clutch, while the Yankees did not. The Astros proved they were by far the better team. There were more negative standouts than positives. Josh Donaldson and Matt Carpenter combined for two hits in 23 plate appearances with 17 strikeouts.
Another postseason disappointment for the Yankees, what else is new? They’ve failed to reach the World Series for the 13th straight season, despite making the postseason ten times, and the ALCS five times.
Surprise of the Season:
At the beginning of the season, Matt Carpenter was invited to Texas Rangers spring training on a minor league deal. After failing to make the roster, he was sent to AAA as a 36-year-old, a death sentence for most old players. Fortunately, Carpenter had almost a 1.000 OPS in the minors, and the Yankees took a shot on the aging veteran in late May. With little expectation, the Yankees played him because they had injuries. In his 47 games and 128 at bats with the Yankees, he hit .305/.412/.727 with 15 home runs.
Even when players came back from injury, New York found a spot for Carpenter in the outfield, although his defense was atrocious. Sadly, in early August, Carpenter hit a ball off his left foot, fracturing it. While he came back for the postseason, he was ineffective in his small sample size. Carpenter’s success was not good luck, but rather hard work paying off. He spoke about how he completely revolutionized his swing in response to his struggles in previous years. Behind Judge, Carpenter might have been the second most feared hitter on the team during his torrid stretch.
Players We Watched:
- Jonathan Loáisiga
Jonathan Loáisiga had an amazing 2021, and Ben like many others believed he was destined to be one of the important bullpen arms in 2022. For the first half of the season, Loáisiga was awful, allowing 16 earned runs in just 18.1 innings. After the all-star break, we saw the 2021 Loáisiga, allowing just 6 earned runs in 29.2 innings. To gain the confidence of Boone or the next Yankee manager, Loáisiga will have to put up a solid full season in 2023.
- Isiah Kiner-Falefa
Starting shortstops for the New York Yankees will always be held to a high standard. The fan base unreasonably expects every shortstop to be Derek Jeter.
In the offseason, New York elected to trade for Kiner-Falefa, the distant cousin of Pirate legend Ralph Kiner, instead of signing one of Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Carlos Corea, Javy Baez or Trevor Story because they wanted a stopgap before young guys Anthony Volpe or Oswald Peraza took the role in 2023 or 2024.
Kiner-Falefa was a Gold Glove third baseman in 2020 in Texas before switching to shortstop the following year. At shortstop in 2021, Kiner-Falefa was six outs below average according to Baseball Savant.
At the plate, he has always had a heavy contact approach with very little power. In 2022, Kiner-Falefa was thrown into the spotlight of New York and got a TON of criticism.
Even though Kiner-Falefa was better defensively (-2 OAA) and hit .261/.314/.327, which was almost exactly his career average, he was blamed for many of the Yankees problems. IKF was just okay this past season, but he was blamed because the New York media has too high expectations. Fans will be happy to hear that this was likely his only year as the starting shortstop for the Yankees with Volpe and Peraza closing in.
- Kyle Higashioka
Knowing the Yankees were planning on moving on from Sanchez, Higashioka appeared to be the next in line for the starting catching position. Even after trading for Trevino, many fans believed Higashioka earned the spot, but the Yankees saw it differently.
Higashioka is a good defender, but Trevino is the best defender. Both historically are okay hitters. Trevino won the starting role for his amazing framing, playing 115 games. Higashioka still played 83 games with some solid defense, but it appears Higashioka yet again is the backup catcher for the foreseeable future.
SIGN AARON JUDGE . Plus, they should make him captain. Undeniably, Aaron Judge is the leader of this team on and off the field. Judge solidified his case for the best hitter in baseball this season. Because he is a 30 years old looking for a long term deal, the price will likely be an overpay, but the Yankees can not afford to lose Judge because it would be nearly impossible to replace him.
Aroldis Chapman, Anthony Rizzo, Zack Britton, Andrew Benintendi, Jameson Taillon, Chad Green, Miguel Castro, and Matt Carpenter are all now free agents. The Yankees should let Chapman and Britton walk if their prices are expensive because their best days are behind them. Anthony Rizzo is the most likely to re-sign, coming off a career resurgent year.
The Yankees would have a hole at first base without him, so they should pursue him hard. The Yankees need a starting left fielder, and Andrew Benintendi was a great addition to the lineup when healthy. Expect them to make a push to re-sign Benintendi. Chad Green, Miguel Castro, and Jameson Taillon can be re-signed for the right price. All three of them could be helpful for depth, but are easily replaceable with other free agents. Matt Carpenter is the most difficult to read because he was amazing in a small sample size. If the price is fairly low, they should see if he has any magic left.
With Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza nearing MLB ready, it is unlikely the Yankees spend on Trea Turner, Carlos Correa, Dansby Swanson, or Xander Bogaerts. If the Yankees don’t sign Rizzo, Jose Abreu, Josh Bell, or Carlos Santana could be on the market.
The Yankees consistently struggled finding a starting left fielder, so they might be in on Brandon Nimmo, Michael Brantley, Mitch Haniger, or Jurickson Profar if they cannot reach a deal with Benintendi.
There are a lot of names in the pitching market that could upgrade their rotation or bullpen. Some of these include Carlos Rodon, Noah Syndergaard, Nathan Eovaldi, Sean Manaea, Trevor May, Taylor Rodgers, and Brad Hand.
The Yankees offseason will focus on signing Aaron Judge. After, they will look to add an outfielder, a starter, and a few bullpen arms. If they spend over $40 million per year on Judge, they are unlikely to spend a ton on other players, filling in the gaps with smaller names and shrewd trades.
Something to Watch:
Will Aaron Boone get fired this offseason? While most fan bases and front offices would be content with an AL East title and an ALCS run, the Yankees media and fan base are furious. With some questionable postseason bullpen decisions, Boone has been placed on the hot seat. Although it is unlikely the Yankees move onto another manager, many fans are calling for his head as a scapegoat.