3 concerns for the Yankees to open the 2024 season

Syndication: Arizona Republic, aaron judge, yankees
Michael Chow/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Yankees sit 5-1 on the season and have enjoyed some stellar performances from individual players. Juan Soto and Anthony have elevated the entire team with their contributions, but that doesn’t mean the team doesn’t have weaknesses and inconsistencies. In fact, there are a number of concerns that could rear their ugly head over the next few weeks, some more pressing than others.

Let’s take a look at where the Yankees could stand to improve, and there is plenty of optimism regarding these individual variables.

Three Early Concerns the Yankees Face

1.) Nestor Cortes’s progress

The Yankees are betting on Nestor Cortes to recover his 2022 form when he earned an All-Star appearance over 158.1 innings. He enjoyed a 2.44 ERA, his best metric by far in his career.

However, he pitched only 63.1 innings last season and dealt with a left rotator cuff strain that disrupted his consistency. Over 10 innings this year, making two starts in the first week of the regular season, Cortes hosts a 6.30 ERA with a 64.1% left-on-base rate. His walks are up to 3.60 per nine, and his strikeouts are down by 3 per nine innings. Of course, the sample size is small, so it is safe to say that Cortes will continue to improve as the season continues.

On Tuesday, Nestor pitched five innings, striking out just two batters and allowing eight hits and three earned runs. His ground ball rate is up, but teams are capitalizing on his lack of innings over the last year. Nobody expected him to step right back into the fold and dominate, so this is an anticipated result, but the Yankees need to continue showing progress, especially since he’s a key component and helping supplement Gerrit Cole’s loss.

2.) Aaron Judge is struggling

Aaron Judge hitting at his normal level is a matter of when and not if. The 31-year-old had a few disruptions toward the end of spring training with an abdominal problem.

Fortunately, he’s been able to play through any discomfort, but his numbers certainly haven’t reflected his 2022 MVP version. Over 28 plate appearances, Judge is hitting .125/.214/.167, hosting a 10.7% walk rate, 25% strikeout rate, and 17 wRC+.

By most accounts, he has been bad, and the Yankees are waiting for him to heat up alongside one Soto. Judge’s hard-hit rate has dropped to 44.4%, and he hasn’t barrelled a ball yet this season.

In addition, he is struggling to hit home runs, but once he starts to find his groove, Judge should be right back to his normal self but the Yankees are feeling the effects of his demise at the moment. While Soto and Anthony Volpe have picked up the slack, when their offense is firing on all cylinders, they should be incredibly difficult to beat.

3.) Contact quality is lacking

The Yankees have seemingly changed their hitting strategy this off-season, focusing on more contact.

In fact, their quality of contact ranked among the worst in the league during the first week of the season. They rank 27th in exit velocity and hard-hit hit percentage. They rank 30th in barrel percentage and 29th in pull rate.

Unfortunately, Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Anthony Rizzo have all been struggling considerably to open the year, so it is no surprise their numbers are down big. However, this isn’t an unusual situation for teams as they ramp up into the flow of the season, so expect these numbers to continue increasing. At the end of the day, wins are the most important metric and the Yanks have five of them.

Mentioned in this article:

More about: