The Yankees have had key players on the Injured List the entire season – which ones could have the biggest impact if/when they return?
6. Edwin Encarnacion (expected return: September)
5. Luke Voit (expected return: late August/early September)
By ranking these two here, I am by no means saying their returns won’t have any impact. I just think the potential impact is less. But if I had to pick one of these guys, I would give the slight edge to Voit. The reason is that I am looking at this holistically. Voit brings the energy. Sure, Encarnacion has his beloved parrot, but Voit is something else. The guy got hit in the jaw and stayed in to run the bases. He benches 135 with one hand. He’s Luke Voit.
And take a look at some head-to-head numbers between the two:
Yes, I did pick numbers that give Voit the leg up. Both are patient hitters and will work the count. Voit sees a whopping 3.91 pitches per plate appearance. Encarnacion sees 4.41 per plate appearance. But I want Voit’s energy in the game.
One reason why these two are ranked behind Stanton is that the infield is already crowded as is. Sure, the outfield is too, but who knows if Aaron Hicks gets healthy and/or Cameron Maybin and Mike Tauchman regress? I would be perfectly fine with an infield of Gio Urshela, Didi Gregorius, Gleyber Torres, and DJ LeMahieu.
4. Giancarlo Stanton (expected return: September)
3. Aaron Hicks (expected return: September)
The reason I rank Hicks above Stanton is because of his versatility. Hicks has better speed and plays better defense. Plus he’s a switch-hitter. Stanton does have decent speed and athleticism for his stature, but he has only appeared in nine games this entire season.
When both are at full-strength and at their peak, I would call Stanton the bigger offensive threat. However, it’s not like the team needs more offense. What do they say wins games in October? Pitching. What’s next? Defense. And having Aaron Hicks roaming center fielder is a bigger advantage than having Stanton grazing about in left. Or he’d be the DH.
Another important aspect in the postseason? Timely hitting. Hicks has a 1.66 clutch rating this year (-0.55 in his career), the first time in his career that he’s been in the green since 2014 with Minnesota. That mark is considered great. Stanton is at 0.05 (-9.24 in his career). Additionally, Hicks has a better eye: his career chase rate is 20.8 percent; Stanton is at 27.9 percent.
2. Dellin Betances (expected return: early September)
Back to the pitching wins championships point – a big part of that is the bullpen. Baseball is becoming more and more bullpen-oriented, with many teams now even successfully employing openers. The Yankees already have a deep bullpen: Tommy Kahnle, Adam Ottavino, Zack Britton, and Aroldis Chapman form a fearsome quartet. If they are on, there’s no question that the Yankees have the deepest, most lethal pen in the game. But adding Betances – a healthy Betances – brings it to the next level. If Betances returns in the next few weeks and returns to form, that’s at least five innings of a game that are covered with the pen. And most of those guys can get four, or maybe even five, outs. It’s more doable in the postseason with the extra days off, so adding Betances back into the fold could be huge.
1. Luis Severino (expected return: September)
Having a healthy, effective Severino would be absolutely huge for this team. Even if he’s only able to go 3 or 4 innings, he could be the X-factor. In his career, Severino has a 3.31 ERA, if you exclude August, and a 3.19 ERA, if you also exclude July. Last year, he pitched to a sparkling 2.31 ERA in the first half before scuttling with a 5.57 ERA in the second half. These numbers show that Severino has been especially dynamic early in the season when he is fresh. He has thrown a grand total of zero innings this season, which hopefully means that he will be fresh for the playoff run. Perhaps it wouldn’t be the best idea to let him completely air himself out, given that he is coming off of rotator cuff and lat injuries, but maybe he could if he is used in shorter outings. There’s no question that the biggest question mark for this team heading into the fall is starting pitching; Severino can ease a lot of the concern in that area if he returns, and especially if he returns to form.