Heading into the 2019 season the New York Yankees have a number of injury concerns to worry about, but which are the biggest?
The Yankees were plagued by a number of injuries in 2018. The most notable injury was Aaron Judge’s, when he was hit by a fastball from Royals pitcher Jakob Junis on July 26 and fractured his wrist, causing him to miss two months down the stretch. Gary Sanchez had multiple DL stints and only ended up playing 89 games, while Aaron Hicks, Gleyber Torres, and Masahiro Tanaka also missed significant time.
Clint Frazier and Jordan Montgomery missed almost the whole season with injuries. Here’s a look at four players who could have lingering injuries that could be concerns in 2019.
Aaron Hicks, CF
Hicks took over the centerfield job from Jacoby Ellsbury in the second half of the 2017 season and solidified himself as the team’s starting center fielder. He set career highs in a number of stats, including home runs (27), RBIs (79), runs (90), and OPS+ (123). He also recorded the most games (137), at-bats (480) and plate appearances (581) in his career.
However, despite playing the most he ever has in a season, Hicks still had issues with his lingering hamstring issues that have bothered him in the past. He had one DL stint and had to be rested often due to the hamstring, even missing ALDS game three after aggravating the injury in the middle of game two and leaving the game early.
With Ellsbury seemingly irrelevant, Hicks is the only true center fielder on the roster, with Brett Gardner more serviceable as a left fielder at this point in his career. Hicks provides great defense in centerfield, as well as a great eye and switch-hitting power bat at the plate.
He will play a major role on the 2019 Yankees, and his health is something that should definitely be monitored.
Gary Sanchez, C
As mentioned earlier, Sanchez missed nearly half the 2018 season with injuries, easily his worst season since he burst onto the scene as a rookie in the second half of the 2016 season. He hit a meager .186 and only recorded 60 hits in his 89 games, though the power was certainly still there, as he hit 18 home runs.
Sanchez had two separate DL stints- the first due to a groin injury, which he then reaggravated just days after returning from the first DL stint. He also underwent shoulder surgery this offseason, though he is expected to be ready for the start of the season. The Yankees were relying on Sanchez to come into 2018 as one of their best hitters, some even arguing that he could be the best pure hitter on the team.
He must return to form in 2019 to reestablish himself as a force in the middle of the Yankees’ lineup, and he can only do that if he stays healthy.
Masahiro Tanaka, RHP
Tanaka’s Yankees career has certainly had its ups and downs. There have been times, like when he first came over in 2014 and in the 2017 playoffs, when he has been dazzling and nearly unhittable at times. He’s also had stretches, like a good amount of the 2017 season, when he was serving up meatball after meatball and getting hammered by opposing offenses each start it seemed.
2018 was a solid season for Tanaka, as he went 12-6 with a 3.75 ERA and 159 strikeouts. He also pitched very well in ALDS game two, the Yankees’ only win in the series. Tanaka’s main injury concern over the years has been his right elbow. After suffering a partially torn UCL in 2014, many fans (and even doctors) called for Tanaka to get Tommy John surgery, but he refused. Tanaka had minor arthroscopic surgery in 2015 to remove a bone spur, but the elbow hasn’t been much of an issue since then. Tanaka missed a month of the 2018 season after suffering a bizarre hamstring injury running the bases in the Subway Series, but the elbow was a nonfactor.
Tanaka has established himself as a mainstay in the Yankees’ rotation, and he certainly plays a big role in their 2019 plans. Here’s to hoping that elbow keeps holding up.
James Paxton, LHP
Paxton was traded to the Yankees in November in exchange for prospects Justus Sheffield, Erik Swanson, and Dom Thompson-Williams. Over the past few years, he developed into Seattle’s ace, one of few bright spots on a rather mediocre team. 2018 was one of his best seasons, as he set a career high with 160.1 innings pitched and even threw a no-hitter against the Blue Jays.
However, he’s had a number of injury concerns throughout his career. He has hit the DL in each of the last two seasons, in 2017 with a strained pectoral muscle and in 2018 with a lower back injury. In an interview following his trade to the Yankees, he said when asked about his injury history that “I’ve learned how to make sure those things don’t happen again through exercise or whatever and I’m doing everything I can to prepare myself and be ready for an entire season”.
The Yankees will certainly be hopeful that Paxton is right about being able to keep his injuries under control, as he definitely plays into their plans as a key lefty arm in the rotation in 2019.