Grading the 2023 Yankees position players’ first-half performance

An art of Yankees slugger Aaron Judge in Seattle, the city which is hosting 2023 All-Star Game.

Table of Contents

Would you have believed back in March that the Yankees would find themselves out of playoff contention halfway through the season? Well, they are currently if the season ended today. A big reason for that has been the poor play of their star players, injuries, and lack of offense.

At 49-42, it is time to fix the accountability of Yankees players by giving them their grades. But, how do individual players grade? We evaluated players who had a minimum of 75 at-bats during the first half of the 2023 season.

Yankees Catchers

66 Kyle Higashioka, Grade B+

Kyle Higashioka - ESPN
SUMMARYWARABHHRBARRBISBOBPSLGOPSOPS+
20230.0138335.23914220.279.406.68588
Career1.275415635.207841090.251.390.64175

Kyle, expected to be a solid backup to Yankees catcher Jose Trevino, has seen just as much time. He gets points for catching a perfect game this season, only the 28th in career history. His batting average, even with the additional playing time, has performed slightly better offensively than Trevino.

Higashioka had an impressive performance in the Yankees’ loss to the Cubs before the All-Star break, going 3-for-4 with a home run, one RBI and one run scored. This was his fifth home run of the season and his second in the last four games. In this recent stretch, he has been hitting well with a .545 batting average (6-for-11). On the defensive side, Higashioka has shown his skills by throwing out runners at a 40% rate and displaying solid framing and defensive runs saved. However, he has also committed 8 errors. Higashioka brings power to the plate and his strong defensive abilities make him a reliable backup for Trevino, with an expected playing time of around 200 at-bats this season.

39 Jose Trevino, Grade C+

Jose Trevino - ESPN
SUMMARYWARABHHRBARRBISBOBPSLGOPSOPS+
20230.5152324.21115150.255.316.57059
Career3.297623524.2411051133.272.365.63775

Jose has been solid defensively and is known to be a defensive catcher. With that said, it’s expected that he would be primarily a defender. But the Yankees expect him to at least be hitting above his weight. However, his batting and slugging percentages are down this season.

Trevino has been having a tough time at the plate in the first half of the season. He currently has a batting average of .211, an on-base percentage of .255, and a slugging percentage of .316 in 162 plate appearances.

Yankees Infielders

28 Josh Donaldson, Grade F

Josh Donaldson - ESPN
SUMMARYWARABHHRBARRBISBOBPSLGOPSOPS+
20230.1991510.15213150.232.465.69788
Career46.849561300276.26281180540.359.491.850131

The Yankees have had a series of players who have struggled to perform well, and now it’s Donaldson’s turn to face criticism. He hasn’t been playing up to his past success and has also dealt with injuries. His standout season when he won the American League MVP award was a while ago in 2015, and now at 37 years old, it seems like he may be nearing the end of his career. This season, he has a batting average of .152 and an on-base percentage of .232 in 112 plate appearances. It appears that his time with the Yankees is coming to an end, and he is losing his position as a third baseman to IKF.

Josh Donaldson is nowhere near what the Yankees had hoped when they acquired him from the Twins. Although he has hit a respectable 10 home runs after coming off the IL, that has been it. He has only 5 non-HR hits and is well below his career numbers. Although there are plenty of other players who are not hitting well, his lack of hitting while collecting 25 million/year gives him an F.

26 DJ LeMahieu, Grade F

DJ LeMahieu - ESPN
SUMMARYWARABHHRBARRBISBOBPSLGOPSOPS+
2023-0.1277617.22028270.285.357.64379
Career30.155831637114.29383760891.353.415.767101

LeMahieu has been given a lot of playing time in the past eight games, with most of them as the leadoff hitter, but he’s still having a tough time performing well. Since his toe injury last year, it appears that LeMahieu has lost some of his strength and skills, resulting in a disappointing first half of the season. He currently has a .220 batting average, a .285 on-base percentage, and a .357 slugging percentage. Additionally, he has had more strikeouts (71) than walks (24) in 76 games. The Yankees’ efforts to help him improve his performance have not been successful so far.

48 Anthony Rizzo, Grade C+

Anthony Rizzo - ESPN
SUMMARYWARABHHRBARRBISBOBPSLGOPSOPS+
20231.23118011.25741390.348.405.753110
Career40.458891556294.26488092872.365.477.842127

Despite being a leader and receiving recognition as the player of the week, the third baseman is going through a difficult period where his power at the plate has decreased. This decline in power started after his impressive streak of hitting back-to-back home runs on May 23-24 in Cincinnati. His recent neck injury may be affecting his ability to generate power. Currently, Rizzo has a batting average of .257, an on-base percentage of .348, and a slugging percentage of .405. He has hit 11 home runs and driven in 39 runs, but he also has a high number of strikeouts (79) compared to walks (33) in 311 plate appearances.

25 Gleyber Torres, Grade B

Gleyber Torres - ESPN
SUMMARYWARABHHRBARRBISBOBPSLGOPSOPS+
20231.43348413.25150368.325.413.739105
Career12.82432640111.26334034644.330.449.779113

Torres was considered a potential trade option before the season, but he has regained his rhythm and provided the Yankees with some much-needed hits. However, Yankees fans haven’t forgotten his poor performance as a shortstop in the previous two seasons, when he struggled to fill the shoes of the beloved Didi Gregorius. Unfortunately, Torres has continued to make mistakes this season, with 8 errors so far. In terms of his batting performance, he has a .251 batting average, a .325 on-base percentage, and a .413 slugging percentage. He has hit 13 home runs, driven in 36 runs, and has a 37:53 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 334 plate appearances.

Torres also often makes mistakes when running the bases, which makes it hard to trust him in those situations. The fact that his name keeps coming up in the Yankees’ trade discussions makes it challenging to fully support him as a long-term player for the team.

11 Anthony Volpe, Grade A

Anthony Volpe - ESPN
SUMMARYWARABHHRBARRBISBOBPSLGOPSOPS+
20232.13066613.216383316.287.395.68288
Career2.13066613.216383316.287.395.68288

Anthony Volpe is a local talent that fans have been eagerly waiting to see play for the Yankees. Recently, he made a remarkable improvement in his performance by adjusting his batting stance after watching video footage with a former teammate. This kind of story resonates with the New York/New Jersey spirit and could become part of the team’s history if he continues to perform well. 

Yankees fans are hoping for him to be Derek Jeter, who was Volpe’s favorite player when he was growing up. Despite being a rookie, Volpe has stood out on multiple occasions while some experienced players struggled. His current statistics show a .216 batting average, a .287 on-base percentage, and a .395 slugging percentage, with 13 home runs, 33 runs batted in, and 30 walks to 98 strikeouts in 306 plate appearances.

Outfielders

22 Harrison Bader, Grade A-

Harrison Bader - ESPN
SUMMARYWARABHHRBARRBISBOBPSLGOPSOPS+
20231.2152397.25720308.286.461.746104
Career12.8172842559.24624920765.315.410.72598

Harrison Bader has been performing exceptionally well with runners in scoring position since he joined the Yankees. His batting average in those situations is .349, which means he’s been successful in driving in runs when it matters most. This kind of clutch performance reminds fans of the successful Yankees teams from the 1990s. Additionally, when Bader is in the lineup, the Yankees have been playing at a pace that would result in over 100 wins in a season. Bader’s contributions are not limited to his offense alone; he also excels defensively. 

Bader has been a pleasant surprise with his power-hitting. Even though he displayed his home run skills during the postseason last year, he has already hit seven home runs this season with the Yankees. This is more power than he showed while playing for the St. Louis Cardinals and even more than some of his experienced teammates. Additionally, Bader’s excellent defensive skills help prevent the opposing team from scoring runs.

He is really good at catching balls hit toward him in center field. The Yankees centerfielder knows how to position himself, quickly react, and take the best path to catch the ball. This makes him very valuable to the pitchers on his team. However, his frequent injuries are a concern for the Yankees.

61 Jake Bauers, Grade B+

Jake Bauers - ESPN
SUMMARYWARABHHRBARRBISBOBPSLGOPSOPS+
2023-0.1134307.22418192.312.470.782115
Career-0.7111123834.21413912917.308.363.67082

The 27-year-old outfielder is having an impressive season. He is one of the Yankees’ best hitters, with a wRC+ above 110, which means he is performing better than average. Jake Bauers has helped the team in the outfield, although he hasn’t been consistent with his hitting this year. Since joining the main roster in 49 games, he has a .224 batting average and has hit seven home runs and driven in 19 runs.

95 Oswaldo Cabrera, Grade C

Oswaldo Cabrera - ESPN
SUMMARYWARABHHRBARRBISBOBPSLGOPSOPS+
2023-0.9181374.20425195.259.309.56858
Career1.13357510.22446388.283.364.64882

Cabrera has been playing as a backup player for the Yankees this season. He has a batting average of .204 and has hit four home runs, scored 25 runs, driven in 19 runs, and stolen five bases in 74 games. Due to his underwhelming performance, he might have to switch between playing in the Major Leagues and Triple-A. Cabrera will also be expected to fill in different positions as needed in the team.

12 Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Grade A

Isiah Kiner-Falefa - ESPN
SUMMARYWARABHHRBARRBISBOBPSLGOPSOPS+
2023-0.3192495.25528239.303.380.68390
Career9.8207954725.26326218969.314.350.66583

He has become a versatile and valuable player for the Yankees, playing in multiple positions. After a disappointing season in 2022, he made some changes and improved his performance. He had a great eight-game stretch where his OPS was 1.029, showing his ability to contribute offensively. Kiner-Falefa has played in seven different positions for the Yankees this season, covering almost every spot on the field except for first base and catcher.

The 28-year-old player has a batting average of .255, an on-base percentage of .303, and a slugging percentage of .380. He has hit five home runs, driven in 23 runs, and scored 26 runs. Additionally, he has stolen nine bases. In addition to his performance as a position player, he has also pitched four innings with an ERA of 2.22 and a WHIP of 1.0 for the Yankees. His defense has also gotten better compared to previous seasons.

57 Billy McKinney, Grade A

Billy McKinney - ESPN
SUMMARYWARABHHRBARRBISBOBPSLGOPSOPS+
20230.575184.240870.269.467.736100
Career0.276516032.20995793.276.395.67181

The 28-year-old outfielder has been a valuable addition to the Yankees’ roster. McKinney has a batting average of .240 and has driven in seven runs. He has hit three doubles, one triple, and four home runs. In 15 out of 24 games, he has gotten at least one hit, and he has had multiple hits in two games. He has hit a home run in 16.7% of his games and has scored a run in seven out of 24 games this season.

33 Franchy Cordero, Grade D

Franchy Cordero - Yahoo Sports
SUMMARYWARABHHRBARRBISBOBPSLGOPSOPS+
2023-0.15794.1586110.186.386.57254
Career-0.771015325.215978513.282.386.66881

After making a strong start with four home runs in his first seven games, Cordero’s performance took a downturn. In his last 12 games with the Yankees, he struggled at the plate, batting only .158 with a low on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Despite his struggles in the majors, Cordero had a much better performance in Triple-A, hitting .345 with a high OPS, seven home runs, and 28 strikeouts in 34 games. It seems that Cordero will continue to be used as a replacement for injured players.

99 Aaron Judge, Grade A

Aaron Judge - ESPN
SUMMARYWARABHHRBARRBISBOBPSLGOPSOPS+
20232.31755119.29142403.404.6741.078194
Career39.32813799239.28457753743.395.588.983165

The player known for hitting the most home runs in the American League is not just about power hitting, although that is a significant aspect of his game that fits well with the Yankees’ style. He has a batting average of .298 in his last 354 games, showing his ability to consistently make contact with the ball. Additionally, he is a strong defensive player, making valuable contributions to the Yankees’ success. Moreover, he embodies the team-first mentality and is a role model for others, just like past Yankees captains.

The player wearing the No. 99 jersey for the Yankees is extremely popular, and his jersey sales have been among the highest in all of Major League Baseball for six consecutive years. However, there are a couple of factors that have affected his performance. Firstly, his performance in the postseason has not been as strong as in the regular season, with his OPS (On-Base Plus Slugging percentage) being lower. The Yankees have also had mixed success in the playoffs during his career. Additionally, he has had frequent injuries, and there is now concern about a potential surgery in the offseason that may cause ongoing pain in the future.

Yankees Designated hitters

27 Giancarlo Stanton, Grade D

Giancarlo Stanton - ESPN
SUMMARYWARABHHRBARRBISBOBPSLGOPSOPS+
2023-0.1148309.20318230.276.426.70292
Career44.653851413387.26283399442.352.534.885140

The player known for his power-hitting has struggled this season, hitting only nine home runs in 163 plate appearances. His performance has been below the Yankees’ expectations, with a batting average of .203, an on-base percentage of .276, and a slugging percentage of .426. Injuries have been a major concern for him, as he has missed a significant number of games throughout his time with the Yankees. His large contract has also been a topic of discussion, as it limits the Yankees’ flexibility to pursue other players. With another key player, Judge, out due to injury, fans had hoped that he would step up and contribute more, but he has only hit .158 with two home runs since June 6.

24 Willie Calhoun, Grade B

Willie Calhoun - ESPN
SUMMARYWARABHHRBARRBISBOBPSLGOPSOPS+
2023-0.1134325.23916160.309.403.71297
Career-1.998823737.2401141200.300.404.70486

The 28-year-old outfielder was having a decent season, with a batting average of .239, an on-base percentage of .309, and a slugging percentage of .403. He had hit five home runs and driven in 16 runs in 44 games since joining the Yankees. Calhoun was signed to a minor league contract in the offseason but has made a positive impact against right-handed pitchers, posting a solid .747 OPS. He has split his playing time between the designated hitter and the outfield. Notably, three of his five home runs have come at crucial moments, either tying the game or giving the Yankees the lead. His contributions have been unexpected but valuable in helping the team win games.

Yankees batting mid-term report card

GPAABRH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOBAOBPSLGOPSOPS+TBGDPHBPSHSFIBB
Team Totals9133212987400690125111293845420279732.231.300.410.710961224662762210
Rank in 15 AL teams15914149310121241311789139

Yankees fans can also go through our starting pitchers’ grading and bullpen pitchers’ grading.

What do you think about the grades? Leave your opinion in the comments below.

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