Yankees grades for first half of 2021 MLB season

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2021 Yankees first half grades treated image: Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, Aaron Boone and Gary Sanchez
2021 Yankees first half grades treated image: Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, Aaron Boone and Gary Sanchez

The Yankees, at 46-43 after a topsy-turvy first half, are an enormous disappointment so far in a season many believed would generate a deep October run. This report card on their first half will reflect their mediocre state and the fact that their status as a real contender has fallen into the “debatable” category.

In other words, this isn’t the honor roll you’re reading.

CATCHING

Gary Sánchez: B

Yeah, he’s still frustrating sometimes, but you can’t deny the power. His 15 homers are tied for second on the Yankees and his .785 OPS is third-best. He can still be a game-wrecker. Kyle Higashioka remains an able backup and he’s clouted six homers.

INFIELD

Luke Voit: C-

The Yankees dearly missed his power bat when he was injured, and Voit hasn’t taken off (.698 OPS) since returning. Still a massive threat who is capable of reaching base.

D.J. LeMahieu: C

It was a big deal when the Yankees re-signed DJLM last winter, but this season -- so far, anyway -- he’s only shown flashes of the elite hitter he was in the Bronx the two previous years. A .718 OPS is not enough, but he’s been better lately, recording an .860 OPS and a .309 average since June 10.

Gleyber Torres: D

Another low grade because Torres could be an issue beyond this season. In 77 games, he has three home runs, the same number he had in a down season last year in 35 fewer games, and has a .634 OPS, 90 points below 2020. Can he remain at shortstop? He’s made 12 errors, fourth-most in MLB.

Gio Urshela: B+

Still one of the great Yankee finds, Urshela is one of the club’s most consistent performers. Where would they be without him? His .756 OPS is fourth on the team and he’s third with 38 RBI. He remains a quality third baseman, too.

Rougned Odor: C

Some Yankee fans see his seemingly-evergreen opportunities as an indicator of pinstriped ills. But he has hit nine homers in 52 games and his .715 OPS is near the MLB-average of .718.

OUTFIELD

Aaron Judge: A

It’s not Judge’s fault, that’s for sure. The Yankees’ best player continued to prove that, when healthy, he is among the top handful of players in baseball, smashing 21 homers and notching a .901 OPS. He’s a dazzling defender, too.

Brett Gardner: D

Because of Aaron Hicks’ injury, Gardner is playing more than he probably should, but he’s not exploiting the opportunity with a .614 OPS.

Clint Frazier: D

Wasn’t this supposed to be a nifty follow-up to his breakout 2020? He was hitting .186 with a .633 OPS before going on the Injured List recently.

Miguel Andújar: C

After years of no chances or injuries getting in his way, Andújar found playing time in the outfield, only to get hurt again before the break. Will he be Miggy Two Bags ever again? The Yanks could use a reversion to his 2018 form, but his slash line is .253/.284/.383.

DESIGNATED HITTER

Giancarlo Stanton: B

Big G still has big thump and has blasted 15 homers, tied for second on the club, in 69 games. He’s second-best on the Yanks in OPS, slugging and on-base.

Jul 8, 2021; Seattle, Washington, USA; New York Yankees designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton (27) hits a single against the Seattle Mariners during the second inning at T-Mobile Park.
Jul 8, 2021; Seattle, Washington, USA; New York Yankees designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton (27) hits a single against the Seattle Mariners during the second inning at T-Mobile Park.

STARTING ROTATION

Gerrit Cole: A

Whatever is up with the sticky stuff flap, Cole’s numbers are terrific -- he has more strikeouts (147) than anyone, including Jacob deGrom, and is seventh in WHIP (0.93) and 14th in ERA (2.68). He had a lull, post-ban, but his shutout of the Astros, his old club on the final weekend of the first half was kind of epic.

Jameson Taillon: C

He hadn’t thrown a pitch in the majors since 2019, so it figures there was an adjustment period. His overall numbers (4.90 ERA, for instance) aren’t spectacular, but he was 3-0 with a 3.28 ERA over the final four starts of the first half, including a 2.08 ERA and a .152 average against in his last two outings.

Corey Kluber: C+

He hasn’t pitched since May 25 because of injury, but he authored one of the best moments of the season with his no-hitter in Texas six days earlier. Before getting hurt, he was 4-3 with a 3.04 ERA and had allowed only 41 hits in 53.1 innings, but his grade gets lowered because he was a health risk coming in and that bit the Yanks.

Domingo Germán: C-

At 4-5 with a 4.44 ERA, he’s been OK. He limits walks (19 in 81 innings), which has helped him notch a 1.22 WHIP, second among the Yanks’ currently-active starters. An excellent May outing against Texas dropped his ERA to 3.05, but he’s struggled recently. He and Taillon have given up the most homers (16) on the staff.

Jordan Montgomery: C

In a season where non-Cole elements of the rotation at times have gone haywire, Montgomery has at least provided some consistency, going 3-4 with a 4.16 ERA. He dazzled against the White Sox in May, throwing seven shutout innings with 11 strikeouts, showing his high ceiling. Yanks need more of that.

BULLPEN

Aroldis Chapman: D

Earlier in the season, Chapman was an A+ cinch. His grade is so low now because the Yanks have a closer problem. Chapman looks lost. Since May 23, he has an 11.57 ERA and batters have a 1.202 OPS against him. In 11.2 innings, he’s allowed 17 hits, including five homers, and 15 walks.

Chad Green: B+

Yes, he gave up the José Altuve walk-off to end the first half, but Green (0.79 WHIP) has mostly been a rock in a bullpen that misses the injured Zack Britton and Darren O’Day. Three bad outings are why Green’s ERA is even as high as 2.89.

Jonathan Loaisiga: A

He’s third on the club in WAR, behind only Cole and Judge after a first half in which he went 7-3 with a 2.11 ERA and a 0.957 WHIP.

Nestor Cortes, Jr.: B+

If we’re talking about his mustache, the grade’s an A. But he’s been pretty great at pitching, too, contributing a 1.05 ERA in nine appearances in different roles.

Lucas Luetge: B

The 34-year-old hadn’t pitched in the majors since 2015, but he’s proven to be a reliable lefty option, going 3-1 with a 3.35 ERA and a 6.57 K/BB ratio.

Luis Cessa: B

He’s not a boldface name, but he’s provided quality innings, as evidenced by a 3.00 ERA and 3.47 FIP.

Feb 13, 2020; Tampa, Florida, USA; New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone (17) claps during spring training at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 13, 2020; Tampa, Florida, USA; New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone (17) claps during spring training at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

MANAGER

Aaron Boone: C+

You’ll get no scapegoating here for the Yanks’ blah first half. This is mostly on the players, as it always is, regardless if the manager must wear the public wrath for a disappointing season. It may be frustrating for fans to hear, but he’s doing the right thing by constantly saying he believes in these Yanks.

GENERAL MANAGER

Brian Cashman: Incomplete

Judging by their first half, some Yankee theories entering the season were flawed. Some lefty pop would help. Maybe Cashman took on too much rotation risk in injury-prone Kluber and Taillon. But the GMs real job begins now, whether he decides to re-tool on the fly with a ‘16-esque mini-rebuild or adds to this talented, but frustrating, squad in hopes it all comes together. Check back after the season.

OVERALL: C

An ordinary team gets an ordinary grade, so the Yankees are a big, fat C for the first half.

Bet Hal Steinbrenner won’t put that on the refrigerator door. It’s difficult to ding them more because they haven’t been buried for a playoff spot and they are above .500. And the glittery names on the roster tell us that better days have to be coming, right?

They did beat the Astros twice before ending the first half with a disaster, the second time this year they blew a lead of four or more runs in the ninth inning. No other team has done it even once. Yanks probably figured they’d be standing out in other categories, though.