The Yankees are riding high coming off a series win against the A’s and yesterday’s off-day. They went 5-1 last week against two quality opponents in the Blue Jays and A’s, and all 5 wins were of the comeback variety. The Bronx Bombers find themselves 3rd in the AL East at 38-33 just 4 games back in the loss column behind Tampa and Boston.
They now begin a stretch of 13 games in 13 days starting with a three game series against the Royals. As much fun as comeback wins are, let’s get out to a 5-0 lead in the 1st tonight and never look back, mmkay?
Their Story So Far
Well, after getting off to a hot start, the Royals have plummeted back to Earth. After going 15-9 in April and at one point having the best record in the AL, the Royals now find themselves in 3rd in the weak AL Central with a 32-38 record and a -40 run differential. Their postseason odds have fallen from a high of 27% to 1%.
Though they are not a huge threat and are just 3-7 in their last 10 games, the Royals did the Yankees a solid taking 2 of 3 from the Red Sox over the weekend. As a team, the only thing the Royals are exceptional at is stealing bases and they are 2nd in MLB behind the Padres. They steal 0.71 bases per game, contrasted with the Yankees who are last overall at 0.21 steals per game. Shutting down the running game, particularly Whit Merrifield who has 20 steals on the year, will be key for the Yankees’ backstop duo.
Steals are the only category the Royals are top 10 in baseball on either side of the ball. They rank 20th in OPS, 19th in runs, 24th in homers, 27th in starter ERA and 18th in reliever ERA. Their only regular offensive starters above league average are Salvador Pérez (131 wRC+), Whit Merrifield (100 wRC+), and Carlos Santana (114 wRC+). Among pitchers, Danny Duffy, Brady Singer, Mike Minor, and Scott Barlow are the only ones who have accumulated more than 1.0 fWAR so far this year.
|Seuly Matias||RF||Finger||10-Day IL||After this series|
|Adalberto Mondesi||SS||Oblique||10-Day IL||After July 2|
|Cam Gallagher||C||Shoulder||10-Day IL||After June 27|
|Danny Duffy||SP||Forearm||10-Day IL||After July 1|
|Ronald Bolaños||RP||Elbow||60-Day IL||After August 11|
|Andrew Benintendi||LF||Ribs||10-Day IL||After June 25|
|Jesse Hahn||RP||Shoulder||60-Day IL||After June 25|
Player Spotlight: Salvador Pérez
With Alex Gordon retiring after last season, Pérez is the longest tenured Royal and team leader. Finishing out the last year of his contract before a record 4 year $82 million extension kicks in next year, the six-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove winner is having a career offensive year. He is currently hitting .292/.323/.540 with a 131 wRC+ good for 1.8 fWAR thus far. He has shown that last year’s 162 wRC+ in a shortened season is no fluke. He already has 18 HR and is on pace to shatter his career high of 27 HR set back in 2017 and 2018.
As usual, Pérez rarely walks, which explains his low OBP. His BB% is 2.8% this season which is actually below his career average of 3.4%. In the past two season, Pérez has sold out for more power which has resulted in career high ISOs of .300 and .248, as well as career high K% of 23.1% and 24.7%. This trade-off has clearly been worth it, as seen by the high wRC+ figures.
Notably, Pérez is still hitting for a high average despite the increased K’s and whiff rates because his quality of contact has improved. According to Statcast, he has a career high average exit velocity of 93 mph and max exit velocity of 114.2 mph. That has also led to a career high hard hit % of 55.9% which is a huge jump from his previous career high of 47%. Hitting the ball harder leads to good peripherals, and in Pérez’s case great results as well.
That visual clearly shows that when Pérez makes contact, he makes hard contact though he does swing and miss a lot. The other interesting piece of Pérez’s profile this year is that he is going the other way more frequently with a 25.5% oppo%. Although never a pull-hitter, Perez is going up the middle or to right field nearly 60% of the time, which is valuable in this era of shifts against RHH. His spray chart shows this as well, with only 10 of his 18 homers to the left of dead center.
Yet teams are still shifting 65% of the time against Perez and he is taking advantage. So how do you get him out?
Simply, you take advantage of Perez’s aggressiveness and propensity to swing and miss. Perez’s swing take profile shows that he absolutely crushes pitches over the heart of the plate yet struggles with pitches in the shadow and chase zone:
Those -2 runs in the shadow zone and -3 runs in the chase zone are where you need to attack Perez because he will swing at those pitches more than he should and is not doing damage against them. There is a huge discrepancy between his +14 runs in the heart zone compared to other zones, so look for the Yankees to nibble off the plate against Perez hoping that he will chase pitches.
- Whit Merrifield, 2B (.274/.326/.412, 100 wRC+)…leads the league with 20 stolen bases
- Carlos Santana, 1B (.245/.366/.396, 114 wRC+)…lost his power the past two years but still has a great eye with a 15.4 BB%
- Salvador Pérez, C (.292/.323/.540, 131 wRC+)…see spotlight above
- Jorge Soler, RF (.183/.283/.329, 71 wRC+)…quite the fall off since leading the AL with 48 HRs two years ago
- Ryan O’Hearn, DH (.189/.246/.377, 69 wRC+)…returning from the IL tonight
- Hunter Dozier, LF (.157/.226/.335, 52 wRC+)…another guy having a terrible offensive year after two solid years with a 123 and 104 wRC+ the last two years
- Kelvin Gutierrez, 3B (.229/.266/.322, 61 wRC+)…has the ignominious negative offensive, defensive, and baserunning WAR so far
- Michael A. Taylor, CF (.229/.281/.332, 69 wRC+)…will be a popular trade candidate next month since he can play CF
- Nicky Lopez, SS (.260/.350/.329, 93 wRC+)…true definition of a slap hitter
- Sebastian Rivero, C 0-6 in two games…looking for his first MLB hit
- Hanser Alberto, INF (.267/.283/.388, 80 wRC+)…backing up the young Royals infielders
- Jarrod Dyson, OF (.278/.339/.407, 105 wRC+)…nice to see him back with the Royals who he won the 2015 World Series with
Tonight, 7:08pm eastern
RHP Brady Singer (3-5, 4.76 ERA)
Singer has had some bad luck giving him a 3.62 xERA and 3.44 FIP and he is 74th percentile for average exit velocity against (No stats vs. Yankees).
RHP Gerrit Cole (8-3, 2.31 ERA)
It’s the start we’ve all been waiting for – how will Cole fare while being checked for sticky stuff? I think the ace will be an ace showing everyone he’s exactly who we thought he was (Stats vs Royals).
Wednesday, 7:08pm eastern
LHP Kris Bubic (2-2, 4.17 ERA)
As you can see in his Statcast breakdown, the only thing Bubic has going for him is his curveball spin. Hopefully the Yankees can tee-off against the 23 year-old (No stats vs. Yankees).
RHP Michael King (0-3, 4.08 ERA)
It’s been a rough go of late for King who has yet to surpass a 50 game score in any of his starts. Although he is limiting homers, he has been plagued by walks of late (Stats vs. Royals).
Thursday, 1:08 pm eastern
RHP Brad Keller (6-7, 6.34 ERA)
The righty throws hard and gets hit even harder with average and max exit velos against in the bottom 15% of the league. He has given up 5+ runs in each of his last 3 starts (Stats vs. Yankees).
RHP Jameson Taillon (1-4, 5.59 ERA)
It’s been a rough go for Jamo (sorry, had to) thus far this year. He used his sinker a season high 15 times last time out and it’s a trend worth watching (Stats vs Royals).
FanGraphs says the Royals are carrying 11 pitchers in their bullpen, though Bubic is scheduled to start one of the games this series. Hopefully the Royals have to use all of them after their starters get knocked out early.