Injury is a part of life for every MLB team, but losing Aaron Judge for an extended period of time might kill the Yankees hopes of winning a World Series.
As soon as Aaron Judge grimaced and disappeared into the Yankees dugout you could feel a sense of despair start to take hold of the team’s vast fan base. It’s unclear whether or not the organization has the talent and resiliency to overcome the loss of their biggest star.
The full extent of Judge’s injury won’t be known until the Yankees get the results of his MRI. It’s very likely that the injury to his left oblique will cost him a significant chunk of playing time. At best, he’ll miss a few weeks of action. At worst, Judge could be ticketed to stay on the shelf for a matter of months.
By any objective measure, the Yankees have been the most injured team in MLB this season. Manager Aaron Boone’s team has been particularly ravaged by physical malady in the outfield. Taking Judge out of the every day lineup now means New York will play without all three of their projected preseason starters for the foreseeable future.
Center fielder Aaron Hicks was the first player to go down with back pain during Spring Training. He’s recently resumed baseball activities in Florida, but his return to the Bronx is not imminent. Optimistic projections for Hicks return would put him back into the lineup in several weeks.
Giancarlo Stanton started the season as Boone’s everyday left fielder before going out of the lineup with a biceps injury. The team believes it’s “possible” that the powerful slugger can return to the active roster during the team’s upcoming road trip, but the fact that he is still feeling tightness in the biceps during live batting practice is not an encouraging sign.
Fortunately for GM Brian Cashman, the outfield depth the organization’s been forced to use to date has kept the team afloat. Brett Gardner may be the longest-tenured player on the roster, but he also leads the team’s current group of healthy players with five home runs. He won’t keep up that type of power surge for long, but he’s a quality option for Boone in center until Hicks returns. Gardner’s quality speed and defense in the outfield also are big assets for the Yankees.
Even Clint Frazier has managed to play really good baseball since being recalled from AAA. There’s never been a big question about his talent, but concussions put his career in serious jeopardy in 2018. The fact that he’s been able to swing a hot bat in a corner outfield spot has done a lot to help the Yankees survive Stanton’s injury.
The more surprising revelation for the team has been Mike Tauchman. He arrived from Colorado the day before the season via trade, but he’s really been an offensive force lately. His average for the season still lags just under .200, but there’s valid reason for optimism given the way he’s been swinging the bat lately. He’s not going to make any Yankee fan forget about Stanton or Judge, but he looks like a potential quality backup at the very least.
With all that being said, the team still can’t survive an extended absence for Judge. He’s not just Boone’s best hitter, he’s also the team’s emotional leader. CC Sabathia may talk the most in the Yankees clubhouse, but Judge is the catalyst for how the team plays on the field.
If Judge misses more than a few weeks of action, the Yankees are going to need a lot of stars to play well above their heads until his return if they want to keep their World Series hopes alive. It’s safe to assume everyone associated with the team will be waiting for Judge’s MRI results with baited breath. They could determine the outcome of the Yankees’ 2019 season.