Despite yesterday’s frustrating loss, the Yankees are one of the league’s hottest teams right now. They’re just one game behind Boston (in the loss column) for second-place in the AL East and six behind Tampa Bay for first place. That is to say that every game from here on out is really going to matter – and that’s without even mentioning the fact that the other super hot team in baseball right now is Toronto, who is in a virtual tie with New York.
The Yankees are in Kansas City to start the week, where they’ll take on the Royals for the second and final time this season. Back in June, the Yanks took two out of three from the Royals. It would be nice to keep that as a floor this time and maybe even get a sweep.
Their Story Thus FarEmbed from Getty Images
As Rohan noted in June, the Royals got off to a scorching start to the season. Ever since then, though, it’s been all downhill for the 2015 World Series champs. The Royals started 15-9 in April and were 33-40 when the Yankees were done with them after the June series. They are now just 48-62, meaning they’ve gone 15-22 (.405) since then. That’s a meager 66-win pace over a full season. It’s not great. That’s pretty clearly reflected in FanGraphs’ postseason odds charts, which are all the rage around baseball these days:
Anyway, the Royals are virtually a non-entity right now. They can’t hit, logging just a .241/.301/.388 (87 wRC+) slash, which ranks 26th in baseball overall. Kansas City doesn’t really strike out, with a top 10 K rate, but they don’t walk at all: their 7.2% walk rate is worst in baseball. Only Salvador Perez is above-average overall at the dish for the Royals, though Carlos Santana is also knocking on the door.
Unfortunately, they can’t pitch, either, owning a 4.91 ERA (4.52 FIP) that ranks 25th overall. They are middle of the pack when it comes to strikeouts (16th), but their arms walk the 3rd most batters in baseball. It’s a bad combination overall – and it’s why they’ve allowed 93 more runs than they’ve scored. Danny Duffy has been excellent for them in limited action, though.
All that said, they do steal a lot of bases. They’ve stolen 73 this season, which is more than every team save the Marlins and Padres. Still, this is a team that the Yankees can and should look to be sweeping this week. I know a sweep is a lot to ask for, and 2 out of 3 is more realistic, but it’s also the situation they find themselves in. The Yankees need to win every winnable game these days if they want to dig themselves out of the hole they’re in.
|Aldaberto Mondesi||SS||Strained oblique||10-day IL||Aug. 9|
|Brady Singer||SP||Shoulder fatigue||10-day IL||Aug. 11|
|Daniel Tillo||SP||Tommy John||60-day IL|
|Ronald Bolaños||RP||Strained flexor||60-day IL||Aug. 15|
|Jesse Hahn||RP||Shoulder impingement||60-day IL|
|Kyle Zimmer||RP||Neck spasms||10-day IL||Aug. 14|
|Andrew Benintendi||LF||Shoulder||DTD||Aug 9.|
|Alec Marsh||RP||Undisclosed||DTD||Aug. 18|
Player Spotlight: Salvador PérezEmbed from Getty Images
We covered Pérez the last time we saw the Royals, but there aren’t a whole lot of notable elements to the Royals these days, unfortunately. I would have talked about Danny Duffy, but he won’t be taking the rubber against the Yanks. And Andrew Benintendi, an old pal from Boston, is also out – and having a brutal season. Not to mention, Pérez is clearly the best player in the lineup. You stop him, you have a much easier time slowing down the Royals. So, let’s get to it.
Overall, the Royals’ catcher is having a great season, hitting .272/.300/.505 (115 wRC+) on the season. He has already hit 27 home runs this year, which is a career high. Couple that with 18 doubles and a full 39% of his hits have gone for extra-bases this year. He’s been one of the best hitting catchers in baseball for years, and this year is no exception – even if his 2.5% walk rate is preposterously low. (Not that this is a surprise, either.)
That said, Pérez has been somewhat struggling of late. Since we’ve seen him last, he’s hitting just .248/.272/.461 (95 wRC+) with a 30.6% strikeout rate. He does have 9 home runs over the period, so he’s still dangerous, but he’s been mired in a slump. (At least over this period, as it seems like he may be close to snapping out of it.)
The way to get him out is unchanged. Pérez crushes balls in the zone when he makes contact, but he also whiffs a lot. Check it out:
His profile essentially speaks to the value of a north-south approach. Hit him with fastballs up in the zone – just north of it, if possible – and then spin the breaking balls and off-speed pitches below the zone. Nothing really revolutionary here. The issue with Pérez is that it’s a fine line. Miss low and he’ll be ready to punish any mistake. Still, given his propensity to swing and the lack of lineup protection around him, the Yankees shouldn’t given him anything to hit this week. Let him do the rest.
- Whit Merrifield, 2B (.269/.315/.388, 91 wRC+) – a fall from grace for Whit, who is having his first below-average season since his 2016 rookie campaign…his power is all but evaporated at this point
- Carlos Santana, 1B (.230/.345/.386, 103 wRC+) – walks a ton, has some pop…easily one of the most dangerous Royals even if the 2019 campaign feels a lifetime ago
- Salvador Perez, C (.272/.300/505, 115 wRC+) – see above
- Andrew Benintendi, LF (.255/.306/.409, 94 wRC+) – a below average year for the former Sox, even discounting last year’s abysmal performance in 14 games
- Hunter Dozier, 3B (.198/.274/.356, 72 wRC+) – utterly brutal season for Dozier, who was pretty good in 2019 and solid in 2020
- Ryan O’Hearn, DH (239/.268/.434, 86 wRC+) – strikes out a lot, never walks, doesn’t hit for much power, so a one-true-outcome guy
- Michael A. Taylor, CF (.242/.301/.364, 83 wRC+) – he’s hit 10 HR already, his most since 2017, when he hit 19 in a season
- Edward Olivares, RF (.232/.271/.446, 93 wRC+) – has only played in 19 games, but owns a 1.7% walk rate
- Nicky Lopez, SS (.277/.351/.353. 97 wRC+) – no power, but everything else is good…a valuable player in a better lineup with good walks and very low strikeouts
Tonight, 8:10 pm ET
RHP Carlos Hernández (3-1, 4.58 ERA)
The 24-year-old misses bats (76th percentile K rate and whiff percentage), throw super hard (98th percentile velocity), and spins the ball well (77th percentile fastball spin). Even if the overall numbers aren’t there yet, that’s a profile that can give the Yanks fits.
Tuesday, 8:10 pm ET
RHP Jameson Taillon (7-4, 4.04 ERA)
Taillon has been much, much better of late, and the Yankees will be hoping he can keep up what’s been a several-week resurgence at this point.
LHP Daniel Lynch (2-3. 6.00 ERA)
Lynch, a former first rounder in 2018, is making his debut campaign in 2021. It hasn’t gone great so far, but a lot can change quickly for talented arms. He throws a fastball, slider, change, sinker, and occasional curve. He’s been hit hard so far, and he has middling velocity and below-average spin.
LHP Nestor Cortes (0-0, 2.15 ERA)
Nasty Nestor is basically my favorite pitcher to watch these days in pinstripes, save Stephen Ridings. Let’s hope his deceptive delivery and arsenal can keep the Royals as off-balance as its kept everyone else lately.
Wednesday, 2:10 pm ET
RHP Brady Singer (3-7, 5.13 ERA)
Singer has some decent underlying stats (he doesn’t give up a lot of loud contact) but hasn’t had a great go of it to start his professional career. The Yankees haven’t named their starter yet.