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Six weeks into the new season the New York Yankees are 18-16 with a plus-13 run differential. They started 5-10 but have since gone 13-6, the American League's best record during that time. New York just wrapped up a 7-2 homestand, and now the team will head to Tampa for three games against the AL East rival Rays. The Yankees have lost seven straight series against Tampa.

Two weeks ago we broke down Gerrit Cole's increased changeup usage and DJ LeMahieu's early season slump. Here are three new notable recent Yankees trends.

Voit rejoins Yankees

Luke Voit
1B •

The Yankees will have 2020 MLB home run king Luke Voit at first base for Tuesday night's series opener against the Rays. Miguel Andújar was optioned to Triple-A after their most recent game Sunday, and the team officially activated Voit on Tuesday.

Voit, 30, had surgery to repair a torn meniscus at the end of spring training, and he went 7 for 18 (.389) with two doubles and three homers in five rehab games last week. In addition to the encouraging offensive numbers, Voit also seems to be running well post-knee surgery. Here he is scoring from second base on a routine single to left Sunday:

Although they have played better of late, the Yankees are waiting for their offense to really click. They're averaging 4.06 runs per game, a bottom-10 mark in MLB, and they're hitting .222/.320/.381 as a team. That works out to a 102 OPS+, so a tick better than league average in this era of suppressed offense, but still comfortably below expectations for this club.

First base has been particularly dreadful in Voit's absence. Jay Bruce played 10 games at first before retiring, Mike Ford hasn't produced in his limited action, and DJ LeMahieu has had to fill in on occasion as well. New York's first basemen have been among the very worst in baseball these last six weeks:

  • Batting average: .150 (30th in MLB)
  • On-base percentage: .250 (29th)
  • Slugging percentage: .244 (29th)
  • OPS+: 39 (30th)
  • Home runs: 3 (28th)

It would be difficult to be worse than that. The offensive bar at first base is pretty high -- the league average first baseman is hitting .231/.322/.400 (106 OPS+) this season -- and the Yankees have been nowhere close to clearing it. Going from that to Voit is the biggest possible upgrade the Yankees could make to their roster without making a trade, and that upgrade arrives Tuesday.

"He obviously is an impact hitter, an impact bat, and just adds a little bit more length and a little bit more heaviness to our lineup, so it'll be good to get him back," Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters, including MLB.com's Betelhem Ashame, over the weekend. "I feel like he's in a good spot physically, he's been able to rack up a lot of live at-bats here this week, so we're looking forward to getting him back for sure."    

Stanton starting to elevate

Giancarlo Stanton is the personification of the 2021 Yankees. As a team, the Yankees started slowly before taking off about three weeks into their season. Individually, Stanton started slowly before taking off about three weeks into the season. The Yankees have played 34 games and we can neatly split Stanton's season into two 17-game halves:


PAAVG/OBP/SLGHRRBIWin probability added

First 17 games

63

.158/.238/.333

3

12

minus-0.63

Last 17 games

69

.413/.464/.762

6

12

plus-0.70

Total

132

.292/.356/.558

9

24

plus-0.07

Last week Stanton had three consecutive three-hit games for the first time in his career, and five games with at least three hits in a six-game span. According to YES Network researcher James Smyth, Stanton is only the fourth Yankee with 17-plus hits in a six-game span, joining Hall of Famer Dave Winfield (June 1984), Bernie Williams (Aug. 2002), and LeMahieu (June 2019).

"I'm on time for the fastball," Stanton told reporters, including Greg Joyce of the New York Post, over the weekend. "I was swinging through a lot of those in the zone, which then makes everything else (difficult). You're picking everything else up a little later and just in-between. When you can square up the heater and adjust to the rest, that's when I'm at my best."  

Those 132 plate appearances are notable because they are Stanton's most in a season since 2018, when he was totally healthy and played 158 games (705 plate appearances). Injuries limited him to 18 games (72 plate appearances) in 2019 and 23 games (94 plate appearances) in 2020. The production has been a bit uneven, but so far, so good for Stanton and his health.

As is often the case, Stanton leads the world in exit velocity, and not by a small margin either. He's averaging -- averaging -- 98.7 mph with his batted balls. Teammate Aaron Judge is a distant second at 97.0 mph. Going into Monday's games, Stanton was responsible for 10 of the 11 hardest hit balls in baseball this season. The man is an exit-velocity monster.

Impacting the baseball is never an issue with Stanton. Earlier this year, his biggest problem was getting the ball airborne. He hit way too many ground balls. Stanton is the poster boy for the "hit the ball hard and hit it in the air" philosophy and there's a pretty obvious correlation between his ground ball rate and his offensive production:

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Giancarlo Stanton is most dangerous when he's hitting the ball in the air. FanGraphs

In his first 17 games Stanton was sporting a 58.3 percent ground ball rate that was among the highest in baseball and well above his 42.5 percent career average. In his last 17 games, it's a more palatable 49.0 percent ground ball rate. That's still higher than Stanton and the Yankees would like, though it is at least trending in the right direction.

There is still more room for Stanton to elevate the ball, and given how much hard contact he's making, his current hot streak may not be his most torrid stretch of the season. When Stanton gets hot, there's nothing like it. He hits missiles all over the field. With a few more line drives and fly balls rather than ground balls, his overall production could climb even higher.

What the Yankees see in Peralta

April trades are infrequent, but the Yankees made two last month. They first sent two prospects to the Rangers for Rougned Odor on April 6, then, on April 27, they sent outfielder Mike Tauchman to the Giants for lefty reliever Wandy Peralta and a player to be named later. Tauchman was stuck behind Brett Gardner on the outfield depth chart, so the Yankees turned him into pitching depth.

To date, both teams are getting what they wanted out of the trade. Tauchman was 10 for 39 (.256) with a homer while playing all three outfield spots for San Francisco going into Monday's game. Peralta has made five appearances as a Yankee and retired 10 of the 11 batters he faced, including five via strikeout. That includes retiring Juan Soto with the tying run on base in the eighth inning Sunday.

"We're excited about Peralta," Boone told reporters, including MLB.com's Bryan Hoch, following the trade. "We think he can be an important member of our bullpen. We'll just see how the days unfold and how we start to integrate him."  

Peralta is not a household name and he figures to be no higher than No. 4 on the setup depth chart once Zack Britton returns in a few weeks. He's behind Chad Green and Jonathan Loaisiga now, and will be behind Britton as well. There's no such as too much pitching, however, and the Yankees acquired Peralta because he brings some interesting skills to the table.

First and foremost, Peralta is a lefty who throws 96 mph, and that's always attractive. He also has two reliable secondary pitches in his upper-80s slider and changeup. The Yankees are having Peralta lean on those secondary pitches too. In his limited time in pinstripes, he's thrown way more changeups (26) than fastballs (12) and sliders (4) combined.

Secondly, Peralta has long been an exit-velocity suppressor. He doesn't allow hard contact all that often. Since Statcast launched in 2015, Peralta has allowed the 16th-lowest average exit velocity (85.9 mph) among the 455 pitchers to allow at least 500 balls in play, on par with guys like Aroldis Chapman (86.0 mph) and Brandon Woodruff (85.8 mph).

And third, Peralta has a minor-league option remaining, meaning the Yankees can easily send him to Triple-A. Tauchman was out of options, so he would have to pass through waivers to go to Triple-A, and there's no chance he would've snuck through unclaimed. The fact the Giants gave up Peralta (and a player to be named) to get Tauchman confirms he would not have cleared.

Roster flexibility is not the priority -- good players are preferable to optionable players -- but it is a nice little benefit. The Yankees could easily move Peralta to Triple-A should he struggle or a need arise elsewhere on the roster. Tauchman was locked into his spot despite being redundant with Gardner as a lefty hitting speed/defense guy. Now the Yankees have a little more maneuverability.