The Yankees’ Hot Start Is Hiding Some Notable Players’ Struggles

The Yankees' 2024 campaign is off to a good start, but that success is covering up the struggles of some of their biggest stars.

Gleyber Torres #25 of the New York Yankees celebrates after hitting a walk off home run to defeat the Texas Rangers at Yankee Stadium.
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 08: Gleyber Torres #25 of the New York Yankees celebrates after hitting a walk off home run to defeat the Texas Rangers at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, May 8, 2022 in New York, New York. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

There is no denying that the New York Yankees have had quite the start to their 2024 season. The revamped Yankees currently sit in a tie with the Baltimore Orioles at the top of the AL East standings – just like everyone predicted.

However, their early success is providing a smoke screen for the struggling bats of players such as captain Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres.

Stats, standings, and rankings were all updated prior to games on Monday, April 29.

Expectations for Judge were through the roof following the acquisition of superstar Juan Soto to bat ahead of him in the lineup. So far, Judge has struggled, at least by his own high standards.

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Yankee fans are still waiting to see the full potential of the modern-day “Murderers’ Row” in the Bronx. Thankfully for the fanbase, despite Judge’s early struggles, there are signs that the pains may end soon.

Sitting below the “Mendoza Line” until a 2-for-4 performance on Sunday, Judge has been fighting to show any sort of consistency at the plate. Although his strikeout (27.1%) and walk (16.5%) rates are fairly similar to his career numbers, he is simply not squaring up the ball nearly as much as usual.

For someone who typically ranks toward the top of the league in sweet spot percentage, it’s clear to see why Judge is struggling. He currently ranks in just the 51st percentile in that category, barely above league average.

On the bright side, Judge has looked much better over the past six games, hitting .348 with three home runs and seven RBIs in that span. In Saturday night’s 15-3 blowout win over the Milwaukee Brewers, Judge blasted a 417-foot home run to center, driving in Soto. This is exactly what the Yankees were looking for when they added Soto; he just needs to get on base and let Judge do the rest.

In a contract year, Gleyber Torres knows he has to perform well this season. Yet so far, he has done quite the opposite.

The 27-year-old second basemen was one of the few bright spots during a 2023 season that saw a majority of the Yankees lineup struggle offensively. He had a career-high 3.8 WAR last season, but he currently sits at a disappointing 0.1 WAR.

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Still homer-less a month into the season, Torres is desperately in need of a drastic turnaround before it gets too late. In some instances, you might think a player is merely having bad luck, and that is why he is playing well below his talent level. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case with Torres.

When looking at his underlying metrics this season, Torres looks like a completely different player than he was before. One of the better contact hitters in the league last year, Torres’ strikeout rate has nearly doubled in 2024. When he has made contact, he has not been hitting the ball hard at all.

Torres is definitely a fan-favorite, and he’s someone you just hate to see struggle this badly. It’s nice, then, that Torres has looked much better over his last five games, hitting .333 with four RBIs – twice as many as he had in his first 24 games of the season.

Yes, five games is a tiny sample size, but sometimes all it takes is one good week for a player to get back on track.

There are conspiracy theories out there suggesting that ever since Torres was drilled on the thumb during the opening series in Houston he has been trying to play through pain. Maybe we are seeing something similar to Anthony Rizzo trying to play through injury in 2023, when he looked like a completely different player.

Who knows, but Gleyber could finally be healing, and hopefully, we’ll see him return to form soon.

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The last player that should be mentioned here is rookie catcher Austin Wells. Wells has struggled in a different way to open up 2024. Sometimes bad numbers are simply caused by bad luck, and that seems to be the case for Wells.

He is currently hitting .159 on the year with no home runs. Even though he is splitting time with Jose Trevino, those numbers are just not good enough. However, anyone who has watched Wells play this year has seen that he is hitting the ball hard, it just keeps going right at the defense.

Wells’ current expected batting average (xBA) is .273. That’s a difference of -0.114 between his actual average and xBA. To put this into perspective, if Wells was a qualified hitter, he would have the second-largest negative xBA differential, behind only Edward Olivares of the Pirates (-0.116).

On the bright side, Wells has gone 4-for-9 with three walks over his last three games. Once again, a struggling Yankee looks like he is starting to figure it out. Fans shouldn’t be worried about Wells in the slightest, considering he is young, has had terrible luck, and can lean on Trevino, who has had a nice start to the year.

The first month of the 2024 season has not gone the way anyone hoped for Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, and Austin Wells, but the good thing about the Major League Baseball season is that it’s long – very long.

Seasons are always filled with highs and lows, and these guys are just too good to struggle the entire year. Despite their slow starts, the Yankees are still playing at a very high level, and luckily for Judge, Torres, and Wells, it’s buying them some time before fans start to hit the panic button.

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