With April at a close, the Yankees have to be relatively satisfied with themselves. They sit in first place, their pitching has been strong, and their offense has been solid. May brings a new set of challenges, as the Bombers must deal with new injuries to two of their starting pitchers, and a large slate of road games during the month. The Yankees’ key to success going forward is to get some of their slumping hitters going, and to find replacements for Michael Pineda (temporarily) and Ivan Nova (permanently).
Yankees Player of the Month: Yangervis Solarte
Choosing the Yankees’ MVP of the month of April was really no contest. Solarte leads the team in a myriad of offensive categories, including on-base percentage, OPS, RBI, doubles, and walks. He has started games at both third and second base, and has also shifted over to shortstop a few times. Solarte is a big part of why the Yankees’ offense clicked early on despite the season long loss of Alex Rodriguez and the temporary loss of Mark Teixeira.
Yankees Pitcher of the Month: Masahiro Tanaka
Heaping praise upon Tanaka for being one of the best rookies in baseball would be a massive understatement. He has really been one of the best players in baseball, period. Tanaka is second in the American League in strikeouts per nine innings, second in k/bb ratio, and second in WHIP (walks plus hits per inning). Even as an unproven commodity he was paid like an ace, and he has performed like one as well.
Disappointment of the Month: Brian McCann
After a rough start, McCann had a pair of homers in one game against the Boston Red Sox at home and looked ready to break out of his slump. McCann did have a torrid ten-day stretch, but has now dipped his batting average back down to .224 with a 2/20 stretch to close the month out. McCann has the worst on-base percentage and adjusted OPS (OPS+, or on-base percentage plus slugging percentage adjusted to ballpark) among Yankee regulars, and has struck out three times more often than he has walked. Being a catcher, he can bring value to the team in other ways, but he still has had a rather miserable beginning to his Yankee career.
Surprise of the Month: Yangervis Solarte
Solarte was not only the Yankees best player, but he really came out of nowhere to do so. He was cast off by the Minnesota Twins, and even after a great Spring Training he was only expected to be a utility player. He has nearly doubled his walk rate from the minors to 13 percent, and his improved patience is helping him as a hitter. No one is expecting him to keep up his all-star worthy pace, but that does not mean what he has done has not been impressive.
While the Yankees have opened May on a two game losing streak, their current battle with the Seattle Mariners is only their third lost series of the year. If Hiroki Kuroda can get himself going again, the team will worry a lot less about the other issues in their rotation. They may also get the hot stove warmed a bit early this year, but should look for a small name, back of the rotation player to bring to New York, not a Cliff Lee. The Yankees continue to hold onto first place over the nearby Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays, neither of whom they will play until June.
Commentary by Brian Moore
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer covering New York Baseball