The Yankees are building out a strong girth of utility players

New York Yankees, DJ LeMahieu
May 29, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees second baseman DJ LeMahieu (26) watches his solo home run against the San Diego Padres during the first inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

A team only goes as far as its depth, and the Yankees saw that statement come alive in 2019 as a majority of their starters spent time on injured reserve. The outfield was riddled with the injury bug, and it eventually made its way down in the infield and pitching units. Even catcher Gary Sanchez picked up another groin/hamstring ailment that forced him out for quite some time. Factor in Domingo German’s suspension, and maybe it was just bad luck after all.

Reaching 103 wins on the season in 2019 was no fluke; it was the product of adequate coaching and supplementing of injuries through utility players. However, the emergence of several newcomers undoubtedly helped the cause. Options like Cameron Maybin and Gio Urshela helped compensate for the lengthy absences of Miguel Andujar and Aaron Hicks. Urshela is the only one of the two to be considered a long-term option, considering his age and defensive nature on the hot corner.

The Yankees learned a valuable lesson in 2019:

You better believe GM Brian Cashman is stockpiling players in preparation for another injury-riddled campaign, which is why he re-signed Brett Gardner to a one-year, $12.5 million deal with a second-year option. They also have Tyler Wade, Mike Tauchman,  DJ LeMahieu, and Clint Frazier, who can move around the outfield and infield to help cover if need be.

LeMahieu is the only one of the five players mentioned that will feature in a starting role. Still, he spent time at every infield position in 2020, giving the Yanks an excellent utility option if any injuries occur. His .327 batting average, 26 homers, and 102 RBIs earned him All-Star privileges but finished 4th in the MVP race. Defensively, his worst fielding percentage was .963 at third base, where he played 53 games. Previously, he had only played 41 total games over the past eight seasons at the hot corner. LeMahieu also displayed his elite qualities at second and first base, logging not lower than a .992 fielding percentage, begging the question — should the Yankees keep him at first?

Cashman has done a stellar job filling utility positions with quality players who can jump into starting roles without missing a beat. They will also mitigate fatigue to ensure the regular starters remain healthy. I expect Tauchman and Wade to get plenty of work during the 2020 season. Andujar, on the other hand, could see a DH role while Urshela manages the defensive duties.