The Yankees currently have a log jam in the infield they have to sift through over the next few months. General manager Brian Cashman has been trying to offload Josh Donaldson and his bloated contract, but there have been no takers, given the baggage that comes with him.
There are also questions regarding Gleyber Torres and if the Yankees should utilize him as a trade piece rather than situate him as a starter in 2023. With DJ LeMahieu dealing with a toe injury that could impact him next year, having Torres as a security blanket isn’t a bad move. They can always move him next summer at the trade deadline to bolster a weaker position.
Having put together a solid campaign in 2022, the Bombers likely aren’t trying to move Gleyber desperately.
Nonetheless, let’s take a look at how manager Aaron Boone may build the infield with a few players expected to take on bigger roles.
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Projecting the Yankees’ starting infield in 2023:
1B: Anthony Rizzo
The Yankees extended first baseman Anthony Rizzo on a two-year, $40 million deal with a club option for the 2025 season. At 33 years old, Rizzo hit .224 with a 33.8% on-base rate, 32 homers, and 75 RBIs this past season. He hosted a 133 wRC+, his highest since 2019. Defensively, he was stout, scooping poorly thrown balls out of the dirt on a frequent basis.
With the MLB banning the shift next season, Rizzo’s lefty bat should produce a better batting average and on-base percentage. Featuring a 48.1% pull rate, the shift has been Rizzo’s worst enemy, so that should alleviate some pressure.
2B: Gleyber Torres
At 26 years old, Torres has established himself as a solid second baseman, putting together an adequate 2022 campaign. Over 1082.2 innings, he has a .985 fielding percentage with nine defensive runs saved above average.
The Yankees have connected with the Miami Marlins about a potential trade that included Torres, but with LeMahieu’s status up in the air, retaining him makes the most sense.
Over 140 games, Torres hit .257 with a 31% on-base rate, including a 22.6% strike-out rate and 6.8% walk rate. He put up 24 homers with 76 RBIs and 10 stolen bases. His 115 wRC+ was the highest since 2019.
Torres is a good enough player to fill second base until the Yankees elevate Anthony Volpe, who could take over if Peraza is dominating at SS.
SS: Oswald Peraza
The Yankees are expected to create a position battle between Peraza and Volpe at shortstop next season, but the likelihood of Volpe stealing the gig is low. Peraza enjoyed 18 games of action at the end of the 2022 season, hitting .306 with a 40.4% on-base rate. He also appeared in several playoff games after Isiah Kiner-Falefa was benched due to poor performance.
The 22-year-old infielder proved that he could provide elite defense with solid offensive contributions. Featuring a solid pull rate and flyball percentage, he projects to have a decent rookie season. His STEAMER projections indicate he will hit .249 with a 31% on-base rate and eight homers with 31 RBIs. while those offensive numbers aren’t staggering, his defense should make up for some of his vulnerabilities. In addition, it’s also possible it takes a few months to begin putting together better numbers, which doesn’t necessarily reflect in his season averages.
3B: DJ LeMahieu
Despite the Yankees holding onto Josh Donaldson for the time being, they simply can’t leave DJ LeMahieu out of the equation. DJ is one of the best offensive weapons on the team, hitting .261 with a 35.7% on-base rate this past season, including 12 homers and 46 RBIs.
Defensively, he’s able to play nearly every infield position and enjoyed 385.2 innings on the hot corner in 2022, tallying seven defensive runs saved above average and four outs above average. His .992 fielding percentage also suggests he can be more than adequate at third base, and since he simply can’t feature as a designated hitter, the Bombers need to find a way to incorporate him.
It is possible they utilize DJ as their primary utility man, but that would suggest he doesn’t play every day, which is something the Yankees can’t justify, especially with Oswaldo Cabrera’s utility value on the roster.