Coming off a whirlwind season, the Yankees narrowly missed the playoffs for only the second time since 1996 while battling injuries last season. Short-stop Derek Jeter, who was nursing a broken ankle suffered in the 2012 American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers, played only 17 games in the 2013 season. First baseman Mark Teixeira also injured his wrist and played only 15 games. As if things could not get any worse, outfielder Curtis Granderson fractured his finger and missed more than half of the season.
This past offseason, the Yankees lost a strong majority of their roster. Fears of missing the playoffs loomed in fan’s minds. Hall of fame closer Mariano Rivera retired alongside pitcher Andy Pettite. A couple of players opted to sign elsewhere. All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano left for Seattle, and Curtis Granderson left for the Yankees’ crosstown rivals, the Mets. Third baseman Alex Rodriguez was suspended for the 2014 season. The added blow of Jeter announcing his retirement did not help morale. But they are still undoubtedly a play-off contender.
Instead of wallowing in their losses, the Yankees did what they do most winters — they went out shopping. The team reeled in big name players such as outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, outfielder Carlos Beltrán, second baseman Brian Roberts, catcher Brian McCann and Japanese sensation pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. The whopping $465 million they spent is looking like a wise investment.
The Yankees are in first place of the American League East division, and they are also proudly topping other categories. Ellsbury is among the American League leaders in batting average with a .365, and he also has eight stolen bases to his name. Fellow outfielder Beltrán has the third-most home runs in the league. Journeyman Yangervis Solarte has been making a name for himself filling in Cano’s cleats at second base. He has been hitting with a batting average of .351, and he hit his first career Major League home run three days ago.
On the pitching side, the starting rotation has proven in top shape. Michael Pineda, who was acquired by the Yankees in a trade in 2011 but has been derailed due to shoulder injuries, finally pitched for the Yankees and has not disappointed, going 2-1 with a 1.00 ERA. Tanaka, the anticipated pitcher from Japan who went a remarkable 24-0 with the Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan, posting a 1.27 ERA, has flourished. So far, he has a 2-0 record with a 2.05 ERA. Tanaka’s strikeout to walk ratio is 14 to 1.
Teixeira gave Yankee fans quite a scare when he injured his hamstring early in the season, but he was back going 2-4 against the Rays on Sunday. Outfielder Brett Gardner, who signed a new five-year contract with the Yankees over the winter, has also shown some life. The speed and power that he has shown over the past couple seasons have proven that he is the five-tool player the Yankees need.
If these sample stats are any indication on how the rest of the season will turn out, Yankee fans have nothing to fear.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 21 print edition. Benjamin Vogel is a contributing writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.