The Yankees’ infield is quickly becoming a serious problem

MLB: New York Yankees at Los Angeles Angels
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Last season, the New York Yankees had a decent infield but a problematic outfield situation — fast-forward to the present day, and that narrative has completely flipped. The team has one of the best outfields in baseball with Juan Soto, Aaron Judge, and Alex Verdugo, but their infield has been one of the most problematic units on the team by a fair margin.

Infield Challenges and Potential Roster Moves

Despite having one of the best records in baseball, general manager Brian Cashman knows he must be proactive at the trade deadline to improve his infield. Anthony Rizzo suffered a right-hand injury during Sunday’s game, and DJ LeMahieu is simply a shell of himself coming off of a foot injury. Not to mention, Gleyber Torres is having arguably the worst season of his career in a contract year, so it is safe to say that the Yankees need to make improvements fast.

The Yankees’ Infield is Becoming a Major Problem

Let’s start with Gleyber Torres and his downward trending statistics. The 27-year-old has played 74 games this year, hitting .222/.298/.333, including six homers and 25 RBIs. He hosts a 24.1% strikeout rate, nearly a 10% increase compared to last season. His 85 wRC+ indicates he’s 15% worse than the average MLB hitter, collecting just 0.6 WAR. Aside from his offensive inefficiency, Torres hosts a career-low .964 fielding percentage at second base with 10 errors, including -1 defensive run saved.

Torres thought he was getting a bag next off-season, and he may have to reevaluate his options coming off a campaign like this. He will still likely get a decent payday, but the Yankees should move on, resetting the second base position with a prospect that has a bit more upside long-term.

Moving onto Rizzo, who has clearly regressed following a season that was cut short due to concussion symptoms. The 34-year-old is hitting .223 with a 289 OBP, including eight homers and 28 RBIs. Rizzo is also 16% worse than the average MLB hitter and has career-low slugging metrics, including a 33% hard-hit rate and a 4.1% barrel rate.

MLB: New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox
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Rizzo has been a bit better defensive lately, but if he’s forced to miss any time, the Yankees could looking to add more talent to the equation, and they could even consider calling up a prospect like Ben Rice.

The team desperately needed Rizzo to turn back the clock and offer his vintage self, but age is catching up, and his power is completely gone, making him more of a liability than an asset.

Shifting over to Anthony Volpe, the Yankees’ 23-year-old budding star, he’s been one of their better players in the infield, if not the best by far. He has played 73 games this season, hitting .266/.323/.405. He’s only hit six homers with 26 RBIs, stealing 15 bases. His 21.9% strikeout rate is 6% less than his rookie season, including a 110 wRC+.

Volpe’s hard-hit rate sits at 35.3% this year, about 7% less than last season, including a 4.3% barrel rate. Volpe’s power has certainly regressed, and his launching has reduced from 14.2° to 5.7°, indicating he’s trying to make more contact rather than hit for power. Ultimately, Volpe has sacrificed home runs to get on base a bit more efficiently and collect extra-base hits, which isn’t a bad trade-off.

MLB: New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays, anthony volpe
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Volpe is a solid offensive player, but his defense is where he’s really shined. He has a .975 fielding percentage, four defensive runs saved, and six outs above average. He continues to develop and earn at-bats. Volpe should become a more consistent lead-off man with experience, but the Yankees know he will remain a bit volatile given his youth.

The Yankees should be concerned about DJ LeMahieu’s upside at this point since he’s slow and lacks power. He’s only played 15 games following up right foot injury that kept him out for the first few months, but he’s hitting .188 with a .304 OBP. LeMahieu hasn’t collected an extra-base hit since last year, posing another black hole in the lineup. His 56 wRC+ plus indicates he’s 46% worse than the average MLB player, and his .188 slugging rate is horrendous.

LeMahieu isn’t the spry young man that the Yankees acquired from Colorado back in 2019. Instead, he’s become an injury-prone piece to a puzzle that needs a reboot.

With the trade deadline coming up in a few weeks, the Yankees need to consider adding two infielders, pushing Rizzo into a supplementary role and LeMahieu into a utility spot. Gleyber will likely be retained, given his age and health are both fine. Torres simply needs to perform better, but it’s time to bring in more talent to help offset the liabilities of Rizzo and LeMahieu at this point in their careers.

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