An All-Star collection of Yankees sit on the club's injured list, which has been one of the main culprits to their 8-10 start to the season. There are six regulars that have already missed significant time in 2019, but who is missed the most?
After a stellar rookie season, there were high expectations for Andujar in 2019. Andujar's shoulder injury could turn out to be a gut punch for the Yankees if rehabilitation is not enough to resolve the issue and surgery is ultimately recommended. Andujar was off to a slow start over a small sample of three games, producing an OPS of .445. Yet Andujar is a hitting machine, making his missing power bat in the middle of the lineup an issue for the offense. The duo of Gio Urshela and DJ LeMahieu have provided better defense at the hot corner, while the latter has also been stellar at the plate (albeit with less power).
The right-hander reliever has been on the injured list with a shoulder impingement since the beginning of the season and his prognosis for return is now set for sometime in June. Betances, expected to be the setup man for closer Aroldis Chapman, is not perfect, but losing a pitcher with the ability to shut down any lineup with nasty strikeout stuff is a void that's been hard to fill. Zack Britton and Adam Ottavino have done their jobs on most nights, but the middle relief crew -- namely Chad Green and Jonathan Holder -- have struggled when placed in high leverage situations.
When it was revealed Gregorius suffered an elbow injury during the 2018 postseason and Tommy John surgery was deemed necessary, instantly his void left at shortstop was felt. His solid fielding and left-handed power at the plate has indeed been sorely missed. The Yankees signed oft-injured Troy Tulowitzki to replace Gregorius and is unsurprisingly also on the injured list. LeMahieu filling in at second base for most games has allowed the Yankees to use Gleyber Torres at shortstop on a regular basis, but the youngster is not nearly the fielder that Gregorius is.
Hicks, like Andujar, was set to build on a terrific 2018 campaign. Hicks was the focus of many analysts that suggested the best was yet to come for the Yankees center fielder. However, Hicks has been bogged down by a bad back since spring training and is just now getting back to baseball activities. With Hicks on the injured list, the Yankees have had to rely more heavily on Brett Gardner than initially expected. Gardner is still quick, but has lost enough speed that covering center field has been an issue. Further, Gardner's had a rough go at the plate this season, hitting just .191 with a dismal .286 on-base percentage, forcing the Yankees to shift him away from the leadoff spot on occasion.
The Yankees' ace has been on the shelf since spring training, but his return date remains up in the air after it was discovered that he suffered a lat strain in addition to the shoulder issue that forced him to the injured list. In his place, the Yankees have had to rely on J.A. Happ, James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka to lead the rotation. Happ has disappointed, while Paxton and Tanaka have had some success with blips of concern. As far as depth, Domingo German has made solid three starts for the Yanks, while CC Sabathia has just returned from the injured list.
Stanton did not receive enough credit for staying on the field for 159 games last season and producing 38 home runs and 100 RBIs in the process. Since Stanton has been down with his biceps injury, it has seemingly affected Aaron Judge's ability to fully bust out. Judge is performing well this season, but it is likely that he's been unable to get onto a hot streak because he doesn't have Stanton backing him up in the lineup. Clint Frazier, who has been the designated hitter of late, has been a fine spark to the lineup -- .971 OPS with four homers and 12 RBIs in 14 games -- but has been yet to be trusted to completely slide into Stanton's lineup spot.
While all six players covered would aid the Yankees struggles, I would argue that the team misses Hicks more than the others.
The Yankees have received solid contributions from the infielders to cover Andujar and Gregorius. Betances deepens what was supposed to be an elite bullpen, but the trio of Britton, Ottavino and Chapman is still among the best end-game groups in the league. Stanton's power is clearly missed, but Judge isn't exactly faltering and Frazier's production should help for a bit longer. The rotation has enough depth to sustain Severino's time away from the club, even though it seems as if just Paxton is able to dominant a game like Severino.
As for Hicks, the dynamic tools he provides the Yankees are simply not replaceable on the roster.
Gardner has a place on the roster, but his contributions would be better served as a part-time player instead of one expected to grind on a daily basis. Gardner's inconsistency at the top of the order has dragged down the Yankees' offense at times; plus his decreased range and weak arm have not helped in center field.
Hicks is a spark plug the Yankees are missing at the top of the order. Hicks hitting from both sides of the plate -- and producing equally well as a left-handed and right-handed hitter -- provides the Yankees with an assurance of a quality at-bat on a daily basis.
His defense has also been missed with Gardner in center field, where an elite fielder is needed. Hicks covers more ground and his arm is one that generally goes untested in the outfield.
Hicks' return -- more so than the others -- would help improve two aspects of the game that need a boost. Finally, Hicks back in the fold might actually give Gardner the bits of time off he needs to stay strong and be a more valued contributor.
Once Hicks returns, it would not be surprising to see the Yankees take a step forward as a club.