WFAN's Beat Reporter Analyzes Key Components Of First-Place Bombers' Impressive -- And Unexpected -- Start

By Sweeny Murti
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They are in first place. They are the talk of Major League Baseball.

Can they keep it up? We’ll see.

Here are some thoughts and notes as the Yankees approach the 40-game mark, or the quarter pole of the season.

— It’s been five years since the Yankees have had more than one position player in the All-Star Game. That will probably change if they can keep their hot start going.

Aaron Judge and Starlin Castro seem like no-brainers right now. I could also see Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius both getting All-Star nods despite losing some time to injury in April. The last time the Yankees had four position players all under 30 years of age in the Midsummer Classic was in 1976 — Chris Chambliss, Thurman Munson, Mickey Rivers, and Willie Randolph.

— The emergence of Aaron Hicks this season had me thinking that the trade that brought him here (from Minnesota for John Ryan Murphy) would have been considered an absolute steal from the very beginning if he had a start like this a year ago. As it stands now, it’s a phenomenal trade for the Yankees and goes alongside some of the recent lopsided deals general manager Brian Cashman has pulled off.

Aaron Hicks

Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks is congratulated in the dugout after scoring a run in the first inning against the Cubs on May 6, 2017 in Chicago. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Consider that all the Yankees gave up for Gregorius, Castro, and Hicks were Shane Greene, Brendan Ryan, and Murphy. If you had to give up those three just for Didi it’s a no-brainer now.

Adam Warren was dealt as part of the Castro deal, but returned a few months later in the Aroldis Chapman trade to Chicago.

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It’s hard to win trades outright, but what we saw were three deals that have turned out to be a win-win-win for the Yankees.

— Has Michael Pineda finally figured it out? Last season was a curiosity because of how dominating his peripheral numbers were compared to actual results. But so far in 2017 Pineda has put together a body of work that the Yankees thought they could have had last year. He got a lot of run support on Wednesday night in Kansas City, and despite giving up a couple home runs he got the Yanks into the seventh inning.

Tampa Bay Rays vs. New York Yankees

Michael Pineda of the New York Yankees pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays during the New York Yankees’ home opener on April 10, 2017. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

People ask me if Pineda is for real, and here’s my problem with answering this question — I’ve seen “Big Mike” be good, even great, for short periods of time. But I haven’t seen him put together a full 30-start season at that level yet. So it’s not like we haven’t seen his potential before.

Two years ago, Pineda started 5-0 with a 2.72 ERA. But from May 15 to the end of the season he went 7-10 with a 5.04 ERA.

How Pineda goes from here forward will be the key.

— Brett Gardner’s recent hot streak had me thinking about his career as a Yankee.

This is his 10th season in pinstripes, and he’s no longer the scrappy young speedster that came up in 2008. Well, I guess he still has some scrap and some speed, but at 33 it’s not fair to call him young anymore. Sorry, Brett.

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The Yankees’ Brett Gardner yells as he runs the bases after hitting a three-run homer in the ninth against the Cubs on May 5, 2017, at Wrigley Field on May 5, 2017, in Chicago. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

I’ve heard fan opinion of Gardner go hot and cold, but I can’t help but just think that we haven’t appreciated that he’s been a pretty good player for a decade now.

Now calm down, haters. I didn’t say he was great. I didn’t say he was going to have his number retired. I didn’t say he was going to the Hall of Fame.

But I feel like we get so caught up in the “smash or trash” game, especially with homegrown players. There has to be some middle ground to appreciate a player who has given his all to this organization to probably become as good a player as anyone thought possible when the former walk-on at the College of Charleston was drafted in the third round in 2005. There are only five players drafted ahead of him that have a higher WAR, according to, and they were all taken in the first 11 picks of the first round: Alex Gordon, Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, and Andrew McCutchen.

Gardner’s hot streaks make people believe he should be so much better than he is. When he settles into his normal year, fans are quick to think he should be traded off for someone better.

The Yankees have a lot of young outfield talent on the way in the minor leagues, and some of it considered very high-ceiling. I don’t know how they will all turn out. But I think any one of them would consider themselves lucky if they had Gardner’s career.

Follow Sweeny on Twitter at @YankeesWFAN

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