Last season, Mike Tauchman was one of the unsung hero of the New York Yankees. The team had some incredibly bad luck with injuries and someone needed to step up his game. Thankfully, Clint Frazier did it for a while and Brett Gardner had a career-best year.
However, Tauchman came almost out of the blue and performed admirably: he finished 2019 with 2.6 fWAR in just 87 games, which translated to a 162-game pace, is roughly 4.8 wins above replacement. That number would make him a borderline star.
But is Tauchman really a 4.8 WAR player? Well, he looks the part defensively. He had a 4.2 “Def” rating according to Fangraphs, which is basically 4.2 fielding runs above average.In left field, he had 12 DRS, 6.3 UZR and 19.1 UZR/150 in 472.2 frames. He was elite out there.
The New York Yankees also sent him for 99.2 innings in center field, and he was OK there, too. He had 2 DRS, 0.7 UZR and 3.7 UZR/150 while patroling the outfield’s most difficult position.
On the basepaths, Tauchman was also a net positive. The Yankees’ outfielder stole six bases plus four on the minors, and had a +1.2 base running rating per Fangraphs.
Is the Yankees’ outfielder a true-talent +.500-slugging hitter?
The offensive side of the game is where his value is more difficult to identify. He slashed .277/.361/.504 with a .364 wOBA and a 128 wRC+, all very good numbers. He hit 13 home runs in just under 300 plate appearances (296.) But his expected stats were somewhat lacking (.248 xBA, .412 xSLG, .323 xwOBA) and that raises the question about the sustainability of his performance.
He did, however, had a more than decent hard-hit rate of over 39 percent and upped his average exit velocity to the 88.5 mph range. So while he may not be a true-talent .277/.361/.504 hitter, he looks capable of batting in the .260-.270 range while slugging somewhere in the neighborhood of .470-.480 and sporting an OBP near .350. With his defense and baserunning, that would make him a very good player, and the Yankees surely won’t complain.
If the coronavirus outbreak hadn’t stopped the season from starting when it was scheduled, Tauchman would have been an unquestioned regular, either in center or left field (he was elite in the latter last year.) However, that wasn’t the case and MLB and the union are still negotiating the terms for a restart, which have caused injured stars in the Yankees’ lineup such as Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton, to get healthier.
Unfortunately for Tauchman, they are all outfielders, and they will all play at least semi-regularly if they aren’t hurt. That’s why Tauchman’s prospects for regular playing time have taken a hit in the last few weeks, and will worsen if there isn’t a quick resolution.