The Yankees Are Adding One of Baseball’s Best Hitters to their Lineup

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The Yankees traded 19-year-old Juan Then to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Edwin Encarnación, making their already fearsome lineup the league’s most dangerous. We’ve all had our eyes on the starting pitching trade market, so this trade really came out of nowhere. Absolutely nowhere. Ninja Cashman strikes again.

Anyway, while there’s been a lot already written about Encarnación and the Yankees, including on this very website, I wanted to provide a basic overview of who he is as a hitter and look at what he’ll bring to the team when he joins them tonight. Long story short: he’s the prototypical Yankee hitter, with extreme power and above-average plate discipline. Let’s take a look at the Yanks’ newest addition.

Power, Power, and More Power

Encarnación, to put it simply, is one of the most dangerous power hitters in baseball. He’s been an MLB regular since 2005 and just recently hit his 400th career home run (he has 401 total in his career). For his career, which spans more than 6,700 at-bats, Encarnación is a .263/.353/.498 (126 wRC+) hitter. He’s one of the good ones, folks.

He has hit 32 home runs or more in each of the last 7 seasons, twice cracking 40 and hitting 38 and 39 in two other seasons. He’s been among the top 10 in the AL in this category over that span, cracking the top 5 four times and ranking as low as 9 only once.

He’s hit 284 home runs over that period. With 21 home runs already in 2019 (more on that in a moment), he is well on his way to an 8th straight season with 30 or more. If he’s lost a step over the years, we haven’t seen it yet.

In fact, Encarnación has been one of the best hitters in the American League this year. Here’s how he ranks in the relevant power numbers relative to his 102 peers with 200 or more at-bats in 2019:

  • HR: 21 (1st)
  • SLG: .531 (18th)
  • Expected Slugging: .523 (86th percentile)
  • Isolated Power: .290 (6th)
  • Barrels/PA: 8.7% (24th out of 160 batters with 150 or more batted ball events)
  • Exit Velocity: 90 mph (67th percentile)
  • wRC+: 139 (19th)

That paints a pretty good picture of who Encarnación is as a hitter: he’s one of the most powerful and dangerous batters in the league, both in raw data and relative to the league. His 41.9% hard hit percentage (meaning the percentage of balls he hits over 95 mph) is a further illustration of this. He hits the ball hard and far.

One small caveat–if we can call it that–is that Encarnación is a right-handed batter who pulls the ball. He pulls the ball 50% of the time, with only about 18% of all batted balls going the opposite direction across his career. Here’s his 2019 spray chart to illustrate that visually:

Lots of balls clustered there on the left side, but honestly, who cares. Yankee Stadium is a “friendlier” ballpark to lefties than righties, but two things: 1) when a player has the power Edwin does, this barely matters at all and 2) the Yanks’ lineup has a lot of righties, and it sure hasn’t stifled their power.

Encarnación will mash in Yankee Stadium, especially when protected by Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Gary Sánchez, and Luke Voit. That’s a lot of righties. It’s also a lot of good players. The Yanks will survive, I think.

It’s exciting to think that a player with this power capability will be added to the Yankee lineup. It really is. You can’t have too much power, no matter what you read on Twitter.

Discipline

Encarnación is also a patient hitter, adding to his offensive lethality and making him the prototypical New York Yankees hitter. I mean, the Yankees have a type, and that type is a patient hitter with power. Encarnación is exactly that.

Here is how he ranks in relevant plate discipline figures relative to his peers in the American League:

  • On-Base Percentage: .356 (32nd)
  • BB%: 14.2% (10th)
  • Swings at pitches out of the zone: 26.7% (27th)
  • Pitches/Plate Appearance: 4.31 (5th)
  • Pitches Seen: 1246 (7th)

Encarnación doesn’t chase many pitches out of the zone, walks more than almost anyone else in the American League on a rate basis, and sees more pitches than most batters do. That’s a very good profile, though it’s not a particularly surprising one for a power hitter who has remained a power hitter as long as Edwin has. There’s usually a reason for that, and good pitch selection is a big indicator.


In other words, the Yankees just traded a 19-year-old pitcher for one of baseball’s most established and feared power hitters with a track record of excellence. One who is hitting .241/.356/.531 (139 wRC+) with 21 home runs on June 17, at that. He’s not yet slowing down.

Even better is the fact that Tampa Bay, likely his first opponent, is paying more money ($5m) toward his salary than the Yanks ($3m) are. I get that we all want more pitching–believe me, I do–but it’s borderline irresponsible to complain about adding a player like this to your team, especially at this cost. The Yankee lineup is about to be capital-A Absurd.

The Yankees are 43-27 (.614) and in sole possession of 1st place in the AL East (a 0.5 game lead is still a lead). They’ve weathered the storm of injuries afflicting their lineup better than anyone could have dreamed. Now, with just about 45% of the season in the books, Edwin Encarnación is set to join a Yankee lineup that is about to regain Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge, to say nothing of Luke Voit and Gary Sanchez.

The rest of the league should watch out, because the Yankees are about to get a whole lot more dangerous, and I suspect it is going to be a lot of fun to watch.

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8 Comments

  1. Willie

    So the Yanks have CC, DD and now EE, in order of acquisition. I don’t know of an FF, but there probably is one.

  2. Namecap Spaceman

    Great article Bobby–your best one so far. This deal also kept EE from the Red Sox and Rays, who were both rumored to be interested in him.
    It’s also hilarious that the Rays are paying him more than the Yankees are. If the situation were reversed, the media would be all over how the thrifty Rays outfoxed the crazy spending Yankees.

  3. Gonzo The Great

    Fun piece of info from Cots on EE’s contract:

    – annual bonuses based on home attendance figures: $0.15M each for 2M, 2.15M, 2.30M, 2.50M, 2.75M tickets. $0.25M for 3M tickets.

    He actually got traded into a situation where he gets paid another $75k (I think).

  4. yanks317

    I love this trade, but I keep looking at his 2018 numbers and getting a little worried. Nagging injuries last year maybe? Even his 2018 was 115 OPS+. Looks like he’s much closer to his 16-17 form this year.

  5. Robinson Tilapia

    I love, love, love, love this trade.

    Also, Juan Then now becomes “Juan Never.”

  6. I'm Not the Droids You're Looking For

    Lineup is total boner making, though it sucks that Clint has to be sent down. I get it, but it sucks.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      It’s tough to be a solid prospect, with bad injury luck, right now in this system. He’s still young. This has has HAS to be the end of the line for Gardner this off-season. We can then begin to think rotation with the four outfielders, with Tauchman as fifth.

      • RetroRob

        Likely. Gardner is still a decent player. He’s at a 100 OPS+ (same for wRC+), so he’s still league average with the bat. League average is good. Add in his plus defense, ability to play center, positive base running, and his club house leadership, and you have a good player for the fourth OFer role. He’s the only Yankee OFer from Opening Day not to go on the DL. Showing up is important in a day when benches are short.

        That all said, my guess is they would like for Tauchman to take over the fourth OFer role in 2020, with Frazier taking over a full-time role rotating with Judge, Hicks and Stanton through the OF and DH slot. That’s all based on him not being traded. I certainly think they will trade him for the right pitcher (no, that’s not MadBum), but they won’t simply give him away for a rental. The Yankees themselves don’t know the answer yet. The market will help them determine that, but they’ve added talent so they can better react if the right pitcher becomes available.

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