Yankees’ Injury Woes: 3 reserve players stepping into major roles

billy mckinney, yankees
Jun 8, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Billy McKinney (57) at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees are no strangers to injuries, a persistent issue they’ve yet to conquer this season. In spite of altering their strength and conditioning coaches and exhausting all possibilities bar signing durable players, the challenges continue.

General manager Brian Cashman seems to have a peculiar affinity for obtaining players with a history of injuries or significant problems, much to everyone’s dismay, these issues persistently resurface.

Lately, the Yankees have had to turn to a number of reserve players to offset the absence of key starters.

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Dealing with Key Player Absences

The team is currently without star Aaron Judge, while Harrison Bader is on the path to recovery, and a reliable, starting-level left fielder is sorely missing.

Unfortunate is the scenario where, following Aaron Hicks’ departure due to unsatisfactory performance, he is now flourishing with the Baltimore Orioles. The 33-year-old has made a remarkable turnaround this season, boasting a .302 batting average and a .412 on-base percentage (OBP) across 14 games with his new team.

Evidently, the Yankees are facing an internal issue, with players not responding favorably to the club’s methods. Blaming the fans for everything isn’t a viable option, considering these are seasoned professionals accustomed to high-pressure situations.

Three Reserve Players Filling Significant Roles

Aaron Judge’s Stand-in: Billy McKinney

Unfortunately, replacing Aaron Judge is an unrealistic expectation. Judge was posting a .291 batting average with a .404 OBP, complemented by 19 homers and 40 RBIs. His path to another MVP award seemed certain, but two stints on the injured list this season have thrown a wrench in the works.

His injuries, both incurred while attempting significant plays, appear more related to unfortunate luck than durability issues.

The Yankees have called up Billy McKinney as Judge’s stand-in, who’s hitting .310 with a .310 OBP. The sample size is small, covering just eight games, yet he hasn’t recorded a walk and is striking out at a 17.2% rate, which translates to a 143 weighted runs created plus (wRC+). McKinney has been adequate, but he’s no Judge.

Harrison Bader’s Temporary Substitute: Willie Calhoun

The Yankees are eagerly waiting for Harrison Bader to return from a hamstring injury sustained several weeks ago.

Bader, the 29-year-old, boasting a .267 batting average with a .295 OBP this year, coupled with six homers and 19 RBIs, and a 118 wRC+, is a pivotal part of the outfield and has demonstrated his clutch capabilities.

However, in the meantime, the Yankees have been relying heavily on Willie Calhoun. Historically a subpar MLB hitter, Calhoun is hitting .238 with a .306 OBP this season, equating to a 96 wRC+. His tally stands at five homers with 16 RBIs and a 12.5% strikeout rate.

Despite a few notable performances, Calhoun’s on-base percentage and athleticism have generally been disappointing. Due to the Yankees’ current limited resources, Calhoun has become an unavoidable choice for a primary starter role.

Jake Bauers: An Unexpected Addition

Following a successful spell at Triple-A, the Yankees promoted journeyman Jake Bauers to bolster the outfield. Hitting .221 with a .303 OBP this season, Bauers has delivered five homers and 14 RBIs, contributing to a 106 wRC+.

Surprisingly, Bauers has proven to be a decent addition, demonstrating a few notable catches in the outfield.

However, he falls short of being a superior starter.

Bauers has done an admirable job filling a depth role and is at most an average supplement. But for the Yankees to regain their competitive edge, they can’t rely on him leading off daily. They need a stronger, more influential bat in their lineup.