Mazzeo: Yankees benefiting from Aaron Judge’s improvements, young talent heading into series vs. Nationals  - NY Daily News

05/16/2018

WASHINGTON — The Yankees are rolling as they head into this two-game series in D.C. against the Nationals — Sports Illustrated's preseason prediction for the World Series — 19-3 in their last 22.

The slider was a pitch that had flummoxed him. The Red Sox had gotten him out with high and hard stuff. And he often failed to come through in the clutch. But not this time around. It all comes back to an unwavering approach to hitting.

The Bombers, though, don't really have much in the form of major issues at this point.

"There's nothing for me to worry about with the track record he's got," Cashman said of Stanton. "Obviously we acknowledge that he's struggled against righties so far, but he's going against lefties like nobody we've ever seen. Over time based on his abilities and his history I think the best is yet to come."

Talented youngster Miguel Andujar will continue at third base, with Brandon Drury having been activated from the disabled list but assigned to Triple-A Scranton as he continues to progress from migraines and blurred vision that have had him sidelined since April 7.

The Yankees lead the majors in runs scored despite the ups and downs from guys like Brett Gardner, Didi Gregorius, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, Aaron Hicks and Neil Walker.

The Bombers are eventually going to need another impact starting pitcher behind Luis Severino, but that market is still in the early stages of developing.

"Physically he looks much better than he has in the past," the scout said of Torres. "He probably worked pretty hard on his conditioning. He's shown me a little more range at second. He and Didi are excellent up the middle."

Judge's consistency has been welcomed.

Said the scout of Stanton: "He's vulnerable in (against righties). They can jam him in and then the breaking ball is a lot tougher because it's breaking down and away. Hopefully they make enough mistakes. Because if they get too much if the plate, that's when he's dangerous."

1. Vs. Sliders: .149 (20-for-134) vs. .400 (12-for-30)

At the forefront of the team's success is the evolution of Aaron Judge, who has proven that his historic 2017 campaign as a rookie was no fluke. The 26-year-old right fielder has improved in three notable categories from last season to this season.

"We've played really well in the first 40, and I'm hoping I can say the same in the next 40," Brian Cashman said of his 28-12 Bombers on Monday.

Whether the Yankees' righty boppers can handle star righty pitching in the playoffs with a month of advanced scouting to find their weaknesses remains to be seen. Granted, it's only a quarter past 2018.

Greg Bird (ankle) has moved his rehab to Double-A Trenton, while Tommy Kahnle (shoulder) and Adam Warren (back) are throwing in Tampa, two key relievers they could certainly use. Kahnle is closer to a return than Warren.

3. In Late & Close Situations: .215 (17-for-79) vs. .348 (8-for-23)

"I see a guy that is continuing to evolve and mature as a hitter. He's got a plan and what I like about him is he uses the whole field, particularly for a power guy. His strength is really left-center to right-center, up the middle, but he can hit it out anywhere."

Just take a look at these significant upticks in batting average:

2. Vs. the Red Sox: .151 (11-for-73) vs. .524 (11-for-21)

"Clearly he's a man with a plan that knows what he's doing," Cashman said of Judge. "So I usually stay out of the way."

Gleyber Torres has also proven to be a force, his rust this spring after a long injury layoff just a thing of the past.

In the meantime, everyone has been marveling at how well their big-time prospects have translated in the big leagues. Andujar hasn't gotten an extra-base hit since April 28, but he's posted eight singles in his last six games while playing solid defense at the hot corner.

Added one scout who has seen Judge lately: "He's doing a lot of what he did the first half of last year, identifying pitches and showing offensive discipline. He's laying off the slider down and away early, which means he's getting in a lot better hitting counts.

Stanton, with his heavily closed stance, is demolishing lefties (.457, seven homers) while struggling mightily against righties (.192, three homers). The Bombers will see Nationals lefty Gio Gonzalez (2.22 ERA) and power righty Max Scherzer (1.69) on Tuesday and Wednesday.