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New York Yankees Series Preview: Start spreading the news, the Royals are coming to town

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The Royals have left it all behind and are in a New York state of mind.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees
Apr 16, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher James Paxton (65) pitches against the Boston Red Sox during the first inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

There’s the classic N and Y interlocked with each other on the jerseys and hats, but this sure doesn’t seem like the New York Yankees the Royals were expecting to see in their trip to the Bronx this season. That’s because the Yankees have 12 players on the injured list currently, including Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, Miguel Andujar, Aaron Hicks, Luis Severino and Dellin Betances. In the not shocking category are Greg Bird and Troy Tulowitzki, but this is a team that is just trying to hang around while they get healthy, which may be a little while. They’re still insanely talented and still have plenty to get past the Royals with a very solid starting staff, an excellent bullpen still and a lot of talent in the lineup, but it’s just not what we all expected to see for this series.

Meet the Yankees

Royals vs. Yankees Tale of the Tape

Category Royals Yankees
Category Royals Yankees
Winning % .333 .471
Team wRC+ 98 118
Team xFIP 4.68 3.92
Highest fWAR Alex Gordon, 1.1 Aaron Judge, 0.8

Yankees Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Brett Gardner CF 73 .203 .301 .438 11.0% 9.6% 99 0.0
Aaron Judge RF 77 .274 .403 .484 16.9% 31.2% 142 0.8
Luke Voit DH 72 .213 .333 .443 12.5% 25.0% 113 0.2
Gleyber Torres SS 71 .273 .324 .515 7.0% 23.9% 124 0.6
DJ LeMahieu 2B 64 .351 .406 .439 7.8% 15.6% 134 0.4
Clint Frazier LF 49 .333 .347 .622 4.1% 22.4% 153 0.5
Mike Ford (AAA) 1B 45 .410 .467 .897 8.9% 15.6% 235 ---
Gio Urshela 3B 27 .261 .370 .391 11.1% 18.5% 114 0.1
Austin Romine C 25 .217 .250 .348 4.0% 24.0% 58 0.0

Yankees Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Kyle Higashioka C 6 .200 .167 .200 0.0% 0.0% -20 0.0
Tyler Wade INF/OF 19 .176 .222 .176 5.3% 42.1% 7 -0.1
Mike Tauchman OF 25 .182 .280 .455 12.0% 36.0% 94 0.0

Yankees Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Aroldis Chapman 8 6.0 0 0 28.6% 0.0% 2.57 2.06 0.3
Zack Britton 7 6.2 0 0 16.1% 12.9% 4.05 4.00 0.1
Adam Ottavino 8 9.0 1 1 35.9% 18.0% 1.00 4.02 0.3
Chad Green 7 6.1 0 2 16.7% 6.7% 9.95 5.34 -0.3

Projected Pitching Matchups

Thursday April 18th - 5:35pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Homer Bailey 3 17.0 1 1 30.4% 8.7% 5.29 3.49 0.3
Domingo German 3 13.0 3 0 28.0% 14.0% 1.38 4.18 0.5

The Yankees have a huge stable of young arms that can really bring it and Domingo German is one of them. He got his first extended taste of big league action last year and left something to be desired, but was generally actually pretty good with lots of strikeouts, a limited enough number of walks and limited hits well enough. The home run ball was his bugaboo, which hasn’t yet been an issue for him in his 13 innings in 2019. He relies on a four-seamer that he throws in the mid-90s and a curve that has resulted in seven of his 14 strikeouts in 2019. He hasn’t yet allowed a hit on his four-seam fastball either, and it’s easy to see why with excellent spin rate and just enough lack of control to keep a hitter honest on it. The Royals have hit just .194 with a .226 slugging percentage and .214 wOBA on fastballs 93+ with a spin rate of 2400+, so this might be a tough matchup for them.

Homer Bailey has been surprisingly fine and threw maybe his best outing since the end of the 2017 season when he went seven shutout innings against the Indians, allowing just two hits. I wouldn’t expect a repeat because even with all the injuries, the Yankees are still a much better offense than Cleveland offers and this one is in Yankee Stadium rather than spacious Kauffman Stadium. But he’s shown way more swing and miss stuff than I expected to see and has just generally been better than I’d have guessed. Even with all that, the results aren’t great obviously. He still has an ERA north of 5.00 and he’s given up three homers in his 17 innings of work. But the xFIP is solid and any time you see a strikeout percentage above 30 percent, you have to like that, so let’s see how he fares in his biggest test yet.

Friday April 19th - 6:05pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Jakob Junis 4 22.0 1 1 24.5% 6.1% 6.14 3.64 0.4
CC Sabathia 1 5.0 0 0 18.8% 0.0% 0.00 4.18 0.2

CC Sabathia’s farewell season started off on a very high note with five innings of one-hit ball against the White Sox last week. He was efficient, throwing just 62 pitches and generally having zero problem with their lineup. This is probably who he is at this point. He’s not going to give you more than five or six innings on most nights, and that’s okay with their bullpen. He went more than six innings three times last year in 29 starts and just six times in 27 starts in 2017. The big lefty has been great at limiting hard contact over the last three seasons, keeping hard hit rate below 30 percent and average exit velocities below 85 MPH. He isn’t going to blow hitters away anymore but his upper-80s cutter and his slider are doing the trick to get the job done.

Jakob Junis in Yankee Stadium is terrifying. He’s been really good in a lot of ways with a ton of strikeouts and he’s continued to limit walks, but the home run ball has hurt him again this year with three allowed in his 22 innings. He has given up fewer fly balls this year and gotten more ground balls, but that hasn’t really been from any sort of change in his approach. That said, his slider might be even better this season than it as last year. He’s gotten 19 of his 24 strikeouts on it. Its spin rate is higher than last year, he’s controlling it well and he’s getting some weak contact on it when people don’t whiff on it. And if you’re wondering if my Yankee Stadium fear is reasonable, he’s made two starts there in his career and given up 13 runs on 16 hits in 10.1 innings with three home runs allowed. So maybe buckle up?

Saturday April 20th - 12:05pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Heath Fillmyer 2 8.0 0 0 10.0% 7.5% 9.00 5.65 0.1
Masahiro Tanaka 4 22.1 1 1 23.1% 5.5% 3.22 3.35 0.6

Tanaka was outstanding in his first three starts of the year before he had a rough one his last time out against the White Sox, giving up five runs on seven hits over four innings. He had previously shut down the high-powered Astros, and we all know what Tanaka is capable of, so I wouldn’t take a bad start against a bad team to mean much. That said, he hasn’t thrown more than 87 pitches in any of his first four starts and last year exceeded 100 pitches just four times. So the Yankees are clearly careful with him. Tanaka blamed his splitter for his rough outing against the White Sox, but says it hasn’t been right for awhile, so we’ll see if he’s made any adjustments since the start. He’s been a beast the first time through the order this year, but he’s allowed a .333/.389/.636 line the second time through and a .353/.421/.588 line the third time through, so just waiting him out might be the play here for the Royals.

Fillmyer was pretty awful in his first start against the Mariners and then was a little better against the White Sox his last time out. He got dinged by a very weird inning where reviews negated two different double plays. His fastball was actually his best pitch in his last outing, and while it was very good against Chicago, if he’s going to be successful, his slider needs to do the work for him. Last year, he had a 35.8 percent whiff rate on it, but this year, it’s been just 12.5 percent in the admittedly miniscule sample. The shape of it isn’t really any different in his first two starts from last year, so it might just be a matter of time, but if he makes mistakes in that ballpark with it, he’s going to find himself in some big time trouble.

Sunday April 21st - 12:05pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Jorge Lopez 4 23.0 0 2 23.7% 8.3% 4.30 4.29 -0.1
James Paxton 4 23.0 2 2 32.6% 7.4% 3.91 3.44 0.7

The Yankees acquired James Paxton from the Mariners in the offseason exactly for games like he had on Tuesday against the Red Sox when he went eight shutout innings with 12 strikeouts and one walk. Prior to that, he hadn’t been especially good, getting hit hard by both Baltimore and Houston in his previous two starts. Maybe he was working on things, but he had only eight swinging strikes against the Astros compared to 20 against the Red Sox. Paxton is a really interesting pitcher because he’s very good, but he actually gets hit pretty hard when he gets hit. He allowed a 42.1 percent hard hit rate last year and it’s at 51.8 percent this year. He gets enough swings and misses to counteract it, but I’m always surprised when I see things like that. He has carved up the Royals in his career, going 3-0 with a 1.98 ERA in six career starts with 41 strikeouts and five walks in 36.1 innings. He struck out 21 in 14 innings against the Royals last year, so this could be a tough one to watch.

Jorge Lopez is probably a reliever. I mentioned it in the last preview when I gave his times through the order splits and they got worse after his last start. He gave up one hit, one walk and struck out five the first time through against the White Sox. The second time, he gave up a run on three hits with a walk. Then the third time, he really imploded, allowing three runs on four hits, including two home runs and just one strikeout. I’m all for him getting 30 starts this year to see what he has and see if he can figure things out, but nothing he’s done in 2019 has convinced me that he’s not a reliever long-term. Still, though, when he’s on, he’s fun because he has some nasty, nasty stuff and can make even the best hitters look ridiculous.

Prediction

Man, I’m tempted to say it’s a Yankees sweep coming and even though the Mariners handled it with no problem against the Royals, a four-game sweep is tough. So I’ll say the Royals lose three of four in this one, figuring out a way to win a game they probably shouldn’t.

Poll

Royals/Yankees: Who Ya Got?

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    Royals Sweep
    (12 votes)
  • 20%
    Yankees Sweep
    (24 votes)
  • 26%
    Split
    (32 votes)
  • 5%
    Royals Win 3/4
    (7 votes)
  • 36%
    Yankees Win 3/4
    (44 votes)
119 votes total Vote Now