DJ LeMahieu was a highly-anticipated option to make a return to the roster in the ALCS, but the Yankees had made the last-minute decision to leave him off. Taking the stage for their 2022 postseason debut is rookie Oswald Peraza instead, but it presents the controversial question of whether it’s the right move.
With the Yankees looking to take on the Houston Astros in a high-stakes heavyweight clash for a trip to the World Series, should the Yankees have brought DJ LeMahieu with them to Houston?
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Comfortable with Josh Donaldson at 3rd
Josh Donaldson hasn’t hit for average (.250) or slugged well (.250), but he has gotten on base a ton with a .400 OBP in the ALDS, good for a 106 wRC+. He’s played stellar defense as well, making great decisions and strong throws that proved to be crucial in that nail-biting ALDS that went to a decisive Game 5.
Plays like these are extremely important for making good reads, and Donaldson judging that he wouldn’t get the double play and instead going for the out at home, kept Cole from having an implosion in the 3rd; a game the Yankees would go on to win 4-1. If Donaldson continues to have a high OBP and play strong defense at 3B, it’s likely LeMahieu wouldn’t be able to provide much more than getting on-base, and it’s not certain that he’d play better defense at 3B.
Getting More Speed out of Oswald Peraza
Oswald Peraza ranks in the 90th Percentile in Sprint Speed, according to Baseball Savant, and he went 35/40 for Stolen Bases across AAA and MLB. He also showed he can handle the bat pretty well, but it was in a small sample size of just 57 Plate Appearances and facing over 65% fastballs, though he slugged .474 in his really small sample against breaking pitches. Peraza’s going to need to adjust quick if he wants to start, but he’s at least a strong defensive option late in games or a pinch-running option who can swipe a bag or go 1st to home on a ball in the gap, ultimately being a strong option to carry on a postseason roster.
LeMahieu, on the other hand, ranks in the 29th Percentile in Sprint Speed, and his baserunning value is not just zero; it’s a flat-out negative. The Yankees are still going to have strong defensive units in the infield, still will get passable offense from their infielders.
Could the Yankees See DJ LeMahieu in the World Series?
We don’t know how LeMahieu’s toe heals, how any of the infielders play, or even if the Yankees will advance. There’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding LeMahieu, but there is a lot of time between now and a potential Game 1 of the World Series. Game 1 of the World Series is on October 28th, so at minimum, there’s eight more days for him to rest up and get ready for a push to make the roster. If Donaldson, Torres, Cabrera, Peraza, Rizzo, or Kiner-Falefa find themselves struggling, we could see added pressure to see what they have in LeMahieu, but if they’re hitting fine in the infield, there isn’t much of a reason to remove someone from the roster for a question mark.
DJ LeMahieu is someone anticipated to play a huge role in an October push, but as the infield continues to find it’s identity and LeMahieu nurses his injury, he’s just not the best option for this team in the state he’s currently in.