The World Series begins tonight, however in Yankee land, we’re nonetheless in post-mortem mode. The Yankees’ season ended too early, once more, and for the fourth-consecutive yr we’re left choosing up the items, sifting via what went proper and what went incorrect.
It’s in all probability spicier to fixate on the incorrect, however let’s concentrate on the positives at this time, and attempt to decide what essentially the most constructive growth from this season was. There are a couple of methods to outline one thing as obscure as a “constructive growth”, however I have a look at this manner: Which participant, if I went again in time earlier than the season was performed and advised you their eventual 2020 line, would you be most thrilled to listen to about?
There won’t be fairly as many candidates for this class as final yr, when seemingly half the roster had stunning, expectation-defying seasons. Nonetheless, we’ve got various sturdy choices this yr, maybe none extra apparent than Luke Voit.
Voit’s bona fides are clear. He led the league in residence runs, with 22 in simply 56 video games. His .277/.338/.610 slash line translated to a 156 OPS+, and he did all of it whereas nursing what gave the impression to be a nagging foot harm.
Simply as vital, Voit’s season ranks as a big growth as a result of it has a notable affect on the crew’s future. On account of MLB’s free agent construction that suppresses the salaries of productive however inexperienced gamers, Voit is 29-years-old and nonetheless 4 seasons from hitting the free market. This long-term affect places Voit’s season forward of, say, DJ LeMahieu’s season for our functions right here. LeMahieu was higher, however he won’t even be a Yankee in two months. The truth that the Yankees can simply preserve Voit round via 2024 makes his 2020 season some of the vital recorded by a Yankee.
But, for a couple of causes, I feel Voit’s season doesn’t rank as fairly as constructive as our subsequent candidate, Gio Urshela. As large as Voit was in 2020, he had an extended observe report getting into this yr than somebody like Urshela, having raked at occasions in each 2018 and 2019, to associate with wonderful statistics within the excessive minors within the previous years.
Conversely, Urshela had actually one season of non-awful play below his belt heading into this marketing campaign. In 167 video games within the bigs previous to becoming a member of the Yankees, Urshela was under substitute degree and compiled an atrocious 57 OPS+. His minor league numbers have been almost as ugly; a .266/.321/.374 line with Triple-A Columbus in 2017, and a .274/.294/.380 line on the identical degree in 2016.
Nearly as good as Urshela regarded in 2019, it was arduous to really feel utterly assured that he may repeat, just because he had a protracted historical past of abject failure on the highest ranges, juxtaposed with 4 months of beautiful play. Most projections profiled Urshela as a median participant forward of 2020, and when you polled Yankee followers seven months in the past, I determine most would have given a modest prediction: Urshela will play effectively, however not almost in addition to 2019.
As a substitute, Urshela performed virtually precisely as effectively in 2020 because the yr prior. He nudged his OPS+ as much as 136 from 132, and continued to deal with the new nook with aplomb. Urshela now has 175 video games value of play with New York, and in these video games he’s recorded almost 6 rWAR. Is that Gio Urshela, or Matt Chapman?
That Urshela’s 2020 was a close to carbon copy of his 2019 has to rank as the most effective developments of the yr, in the way it helps erode the notion that Urshela was a fluke, and continues to cement him as a respectable, reliable stud at third base. Just like Voit, Urshela has blossomed late, and solely simply turned 29 regardless of standing three years from free company. His season ought to make the Yankees rather more assured that they’ve discovered a blue-chip starter on the left facet for the approaching years.
With all that mentioned, if I have been pressured to decide on essentially the most constructive Yankee growth of 2020, I would choose none apart from the marketing campaign put forth by Clint Frazier. Frazier’s season has the identical long-term impacts as Voit’s and Urshela’s, with Frazier unable to hit free company till after 2024 on the earliest. However Frazier stands out for the way little proof of idea we had for this sort of efficiency from him.
In 2020, Clint Frazier was a whole baseball participant. He walked in about one-sixth of his plate appearances, a 92nd-percentile charge. He hit the ball with authority, rating above common in all of Statcast’s contact measures, slugging over .500, and operating a .244 ISO. Most significantly, he massively improved within the area. Statcast’s Outs Above Common metric put him within the 69th percentile amongst outfielders, whereas DRS put him two runs above common, a season after Frazier had value the Yankees eight runs within the area in response to the identical metric.
For Frazier to place all of it collectively, one season faraway from one other bout with accidents and a sequence of comical defensive errors, was each shocking and important. Coming into 2020, it was unclear what the Yankees’ plans have been for Frazier. He was one thing like sixth on the outfield depth chart, together with his commerce worth at its nadir after three inconsistent years flitting between the majors and Triple-A.
Now, Frazier seems each bit the a part of plus beginning outfielder. We had by no means seen that sort of all-around efficiency from Frazier earlier than, at any degree. That he lastly broke via, simply because it appeared just like the Yankees could be etching him out of their long-term plans, ranks as an unlimited growth.
Possibly you suppose Voit’s energy show was extra important to the crew’s fortunes going ahead. You’ll be able to fairly facet with Urshela, whose efficiency might have silenced the nay-sayers who would name fluke. Maybe you’d argue for somebody not talked about right here, similar to Gerrit Cole together with his sturdy debut in pinstripes, Aroldis Chapman together with his continued dominance, or Deivi García and his flashes of potential.
For me, the steadiness of things makes Frazier’s 2020 essentially the most constructive growth of the Yankees’ season. The place as soon as there was a ball of uncertainty and defensive incompetence, there may be now a prime-age, affect bat with an all-around sport. Had you advised me that was to come back for Frazier a couple of months in the past, I’d have jumped for pleasure.