The New York Yankees are in a battle for first place in the tough American League East division.
They are, as of Thursday afternoon, 1.5 games behind the leaders, the Tampa Bay Rays, and one game behind the second-ranked Boston Red Sox.
That means somebody will need to step up and improve their performance.
These two Yankees players need to rise to the occasion.
2. Gleyber Torres
Since coming off the COVID-19 reserve list, Yankees shortstop Gleyber Torres has done nothing but hit.
He is 11-for-23 with a double and a home run in six games since he returned to full health after testing positive for the virus.
However, he had such a bad start to the season that his overall line looks a bit off of what he can do.
He is currently hitting .274/.354/.356 with two homers and 18 RBI.
The average and on-base percentage are respectable and in line with his career numbers, but the slugging percentage is way down.
Torres needs to pick up the pace and start hitting for his trademark power.
The Yankees certainly need him to recover his lost power.
I remember when Gleyber Torres was in the grouping of "best young players in the game".
Still just 24. But hasn't slugged over .400 in past 2 season. Power has fallen off the table.#yankees
— Robb Scott (@RobbScott7) May 22, 2021
During his last full season, Torres hit 38 home runs, with a healthy .535 slugging percentage and .256 isolated power (ISO, which means slugging minus batting average).
Last year, Torres’ ISO was a meager .125, and this year, it’s even worse, at .082.
If he recaptures his power stroke, the Yankees will be very tough to beat.
1. Jameson Taillon
Among the Yankees starting pitchers, Jameson Taillon has been the most inconsistent so far in 2021.
So far, Taillon has a high 5.06 ERA in 42.2 innings with the Yankees.
There are a few run-prevention metrics other than ERA that suggest he has been slightly better than that.
For example, he has a 4.51 FIP, which means Fielding Independent Pitching.
The problem so far for Taillon is not that he hasn’t been able to miss bats: he has, evidenced by 27.9 percent strikeout rate.
Jameson Taillon, 81mph Curveball and 95mph Fastball, Overlay. pic.twitter.com/GGrnf824l4
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 1, 2021
The issue with him has been that he hasn’t been able to prevent home runs.
Taillon has allowed 1.90 home runs per nine innings, by far the highest among the Yankees starters.
He has changed his pitching style this season, getting more whiffs up in the strike zone with his fastball, but also allowing more hard contact.
Now that Kluber will be out for a considerable amount of time, Taillon will need to get his ERA down, and it wouldn’t hurt if he could average more innings per outing, too.
He should be fine moving forward, but the Yankees could use some improvements from Taillon.