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New York Yankees Series Preview: Yep, they’re still good

There was a lot of unhappiness with how the Yankees handled their offseason, but as it turns out, they’re still quite good.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

There was a lot of talk during the segmented and weird offseason that the Yankees weren’t doing enough. They have all this financial muscle and they simply weren’t flexing it when they could have. But I think what was forgotten is that they had a pretty good team already and they’ve come out of the gates strong to start 2022. The offense was struggling for the first couple weeks, but has really turned it on lately, though they did score just 43 runs in their first 14 games before nearly matching that with 42 in their last five. On the pitching side, they’ve got it. Their starters have been between solid and outstanding to start the year and their bullpen features some of the best stuff any team will see, including one of the greatest closers of all-time in Aroldis Chapman. The one knock on that bullpen is they will walk guys, which typically doesn’t help the Royals but they showed some very serious patience in Chicago.

Royals vs. Yankees Matchup Stats

Category Royals Yankees
Category Royals Yankees
Winning % .412 .685
2021 H2H Wins 2 4
Team wRC+ 77 119
Team xFIP 3.99 3.38
Run Differential -19 26
Highest fWAR Andrew Benintendi, 0.7 Anthony Rizzo and Aaron Judge, 1.1

Yankees Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
DJ LeMahieu DH 72 .313 .389 .469 8.3% 13.9% 159 0.8
Aaron Judge CF 80 .296 .367 .577 10.0% 25.0% 180 1.1
Anthony Rizzo 1B 82 .290 .402 .696 11.0% 13.4% 220 1.1
Giancarlo Stanton RF 74 .243 .257 .386 2.7% 33.8% 87 0.2
Josh Donaldson 3B 77 .197 .312 .348 13.0% 29.9% 103 0.1
Gleyber Torres 2B 58 .212 .263 .365 5.2% 19.0% 85 0.1
Joey Gallo LF 67 .153 .254 .271 11.9% 43.3% 62 -0.3
Isiah Kiner-Falefa SS 61 .298 .328 .368 4.9% 18.0% 107 0.5
Jose Trevino C 22 .238 .273 .286 4.5% 4.5% 67 0.3

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 44 .128 .186 .154 4.5% 25.0% 3 -0.2
Miguel Andujar (2021) INF/OF 162 .253 .284 .383 4.3% 17.3% 81 -0.1
Marwin Gonzalez INF/OF 10 .250 .300 .375 10.0% 30.0% 92 0.1
Tim Locastro OF 9 .286 .444 .714 22.2% 33.3% 236 0.2

Yankees Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Aroldis Chapman 9 7.1 0 0 35.5% 19.4% 0.00 3.59 0.2
Clay Holmes 10 9.2 1 0 29.7% 5.4% 0.93 1.69 0.4
Jonathan Loaisiga 9 8.0 0 1 25.0% 13.9% 6.75 3.84 -0.2

Royals vs. Yankees Pitching Matchups

April 29 - Nestor Cortes vs. Kris Bubic, 7:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Nestor Cortes 3 15.2 0 0 44.6% 5.4% 1.15 1.45 0.7
Kris Bubic 3 7.0 0 1 12.5% 22.5% 14.14 6.99 -0.2

Nestor Cortes is quite the story. He was a 36th round pick for the Yankees in 2013. They lost him to the Orioles in the Rule 5 draft prior to 2018. He didn’t stick and the Yankees got him back. He pitched for them in 2019 and wasn’t especially good, so they traded him to the Mariners for future considerations. Then he was granted free agency, signed back with the Yankees, was very solid for them last year and has been about as good as it gets for them in the early-going this year. If you like the term “crafty lefty” I imagine you’ll hear it a lot during his start. He throws a cutter at 85-87, a four-seamer at 89-91 and then a slider, sinker and occasional change. Only the slider has been hit this season. The rest have been truly nasty. He hasn’t faced many lefties this year, but in his career they’ve actually hit him better than righties. There is almost assuredly regression coming simply because runs like this for guys like him always end with regression, but a lot of what he’s doing is very real and very scary for opponents.

Career vs. KC: 3 G, 1 GS, 12.1 IP, 0-1, 2.92 ERA

I wasn’t convinced Kris Bubic was going to make it to this start. It’s been just a terrible start to his season. First he couldn’t get out of the first and then he only gave up one run in his second start but walked six. Then he fixed the walks, but gave up five runs on seven hits over two innings in Seattle. With rosters dropping to 26 after Sunday’s games, this is probably his last shot to prove he belongs in the big leagues right now. What I don’t understand is all this talk about his slider and he hasn’t thrown a single one in a game during the regular season. Part of that might be that the only pitch that’s worked for him consistently so far is his curve, but the slider could be a great complement to that pitch and maybe help the fastball to play up better. His changeup has been fine, but not good and really, he needs that to be the best he can be. He did handle the Yankees last year in New York relying very heavily on his curve, so maybe we see a heavy dose of that in this one.

Career vs. NYY: 1 G, 2.1 IP, 0-0, 0.00 ERA

April 30 - Gerrit Cole vs. Carlos Hernandez, 6:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Gerrit Cole 4 18.0 1 0 28.4% 10.8% 4.00 3.47 0.1
Carlos Hernandez 3 14.0 0 0 7.7% 7.7% 6.43 5.38 0.0

The Royals got the first crack at Gerrit Cole after MLB started cracking down on using sticky stuff and he was one of the guys dealing with the main focus. He pitched well enough that day, but he has a 4.10 ERA since the league started checking pitchers with a walk rate of 8 percent. From the time he joined the Astros up until then, he had a 2.64 ERA with a walk rate of 6.3 percent. I think it’s clear it’s impacted him. He still has ridiculous stuff. His fastball is high-90s with good spin. His slider is still great. He’s added a cutter this year and his changeup is excellent. But he’s not quite the same. That said, he may have unlocked something in his last start going 6.2 shutout innings against the Guardians with nine strikeouts and just one walk.

Career vs. KC: 5 GS, 33.2 IP, 3-1, 2.41 ERA

Carlos Hernandez had been terrible to start the year, not to the level of Bubic, but pretty bad. He had one strikeout in his first two starts and just wasn’t getting any swing and miss. He gave up a first inning home run, but after that settled in and looked like the guy we were excited about last year. He struck our four in a row at one point, which is great, but also those were his only four strikeouts. Still, it was encouraging. He ended up giving up another run, but giving up a run here and there wouldn’t be an issue if the offense was producing enough to cover it. His curve has gotten great results while his slider has gotten a lot of whiffs but a lot of hard contact when opponents don’t miss. This is a test for him. He’s been bit hard by the home run ball and the Yankees have a lot of guys who can hit the home run. If he can contain that, it could be a good start for him.

Career vs. NYY: 2 G, 1 GS, 8.2 IP, 0-0, 3.12 ERA

May 1 - Luis Severino vs. Daniel Lynch, 1:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Luis Severino 4 19.0 2 0 24.1% 7.6% 3.32 3.48 0.3
Daniel Lynch 3 16.0 2 1 23.5% 5.9% 3.38 3.99 0.0

It was a long road back for Luis Severino. He missed the 2020 season and then most of the 2021 season after having Tommy John. He made four relief appearance last year, but is back starting and pitching well. Amazingly, his control appears to be right there, which can sometimes take a little longer to return. He is coming off his worst of his four starts, allowing four runs over six innings to Baltimore. He isn’t throwing quite as hard as before the surgery, but he’s still averaging 96.6 MPH on his fastball and getting plenty of outs with it. His changeup has been great, a cutter he added upon his return has been good and his slider has been a little like Carlos Hernandez’s. There are a lot of whiffs, but when they connect, it goes. His season-high in pitches is 88, but I’d guess the training wheels are off as much as training wheels come off for pitchers these days, so he’s built up to go deep.

Career vs. KC: 3 GS, 18.1 IP, 2-1, 4.42 ERA

Daniel Lynch is showing what made people love him after he got into the Royals organization. He’s had one game showing great stuff and iffy results, one game showing fine stuff and great results and then one where he put it all together. He’s striking guys out, getting whiffs on his fastball and he’s not walking many guys. He’s working on a scoreless innings streak of 12, but if he can continue that in this one, it’ll be impressive. Righties gave him such a hard time last year that he’s gotten to face lefties in two plate appearances this year. The right-handed bats aren’t exactly crushing him with a .752 OPS, so maybe teams will eventually not be so eager to stack it, but this Yankees team has some serious right-handed power. This is a big test for Lynch.

Career vs. NYY: 1 GS, 4.2 IP, 0-0, 5.79 ERA

Royals vs. Yankees Prediction

I don’t feel good about this at all. I think Bubic and Lynch against a lineup with that kind of right-handed power has potential for finding something else to watch quick even though I’m very happy with and excited about Lynch. And the only game where it seems like the Royals might be able to get some outs is both iffy because Hernandez hasn’t been good this year and against Cole. So I’m going to say the Royals win one, but I’m not even terribly confident of that.


How man wins do the Royals pick up this weekend?

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