The 2019 season is not even a week old and already the Yankees have five times as many players on the injured list as they do wins. They are 2-3 through five games and later today CC Sabathia will become the tenth Yankee on the injured list. His five-game suspension is over and he’ll continue what is essentially his Spring Training in Tampa.
The Yankees are not missing bit players either. Including Sabathia, the ten guys on the injured list combined for nearly +25 WAR last season and nearly +23 ZiPS projected WAR this year. Look at some of the players the Yankees are without right now:
- Miguel Andujar (starting third baseman)
- Dellin Betances (ace setup man)
- Didi Gregorius (starting shortstop)
- Aaron Hicks (starting center fielder)
- Luis Severino (ace starter)
- Giancarlo Stanton (starting designated hitter)
That’s rough. Andujar (labrum tear), Gregorius (Tommy John surgery), Hicks (back soreness), and Stanton (biceps strain) aren’t expected back anytime soon either. Stanton seems to be the closest and he’ll be shut down ten days, then reevaluated. The Yankees will be short in their lineup for a while.
The Yankees had to scramble to acquire Mike Tauchman following the Hicks injury and they had to scramble again after Stanton got hurt over the weekend. They called up Clint Frazier, who is essentially their top prospect even though he’s exceeded the rookie limits, and he went 0-for-3 with a sacrifice fly to drive in his team’s only run in his season debut last night.
“I think it was just trying to be comfortable in the box again,” Frazier said to Brendan Kuty when asked about his poor spring. “I just went back to being as simple as I could and trying to be as athletic as I can in the box (after being sent to minor league camp) and the results were immediate.”
Last year’s concussion issues robbed Frazier of a chance to play everyday while Aaron Judge was sidelined with his broken wrist. Those seven weeks of outfield playing time instead went to Shane Robinson and Neil Walker, and later Andrew McCutchen. The timing was very unfortunate. That was a big lost opportunity for Frazier.
This year’s injuries give Frazier another opportunity to show he belongs in the big leagues and show why he was once the fifth overall pick in the draft and a highly regarded prospect. Stanton’s going to be reevaluate in ten days, and even if all goes well, he’ll still have to get back into game shape. I’m thinking Giancarlo is at least three weeks from returning.
Three weeks isn’t that long when you play a 162-game season, but it’s not nothing either, and it’s what Frazier has right now. His little run as an everyday guy two years ago was interrupted by the All-Star break and then an oblique injury. This time around Frazier can experience the daily grind. He can be a normal baseball player, basically.
In a perfect world Frazier would go to Triple-A and mash and make up for the time he lost last year, then come up in a few weeks and begin to wrestle the left field job away from Brett Gardner. Instead, the injuries mean Frazier is going to play a bunch for the Yankees right away, without all those Triple-A at-bats to get back up to speed. Not ideal, but what can you do?
History has a way of repeating itself. One week into last season Brandon Drury went down with migraines and blurry vision, opening the door for Andujar. Miggy ran with it. Frazier won’t replace Stanton, but the Stanton injury does give Clint a chance to show he belongs and is worth keeping around. Andujar took advantage. Now Frazier will try to do the same.
“This is the opportunity I wanted last year,” said Frazier to Ken Davidoff two days ago. “… Right now, I’m feeling the best I felt at the plate in a long time, so I think that extra couple of days in Tampa is going to be very beneficial to myself to come up here and try to make the most of every opportunity I get.”