The only thing better than having one super-utility option is having two. Luckily for the New York Yankees, they have multiple players on the roster for 2023 that are capable of playing various positions at a very high level.
Of course, we are familiar with the services that DJ LeMahieu provides, despite dealing with a toe injury that limited him this past season to 125 games and forced him out of the entire postseason. Despite that, he still ended up hitting .261 with a 35.7% on-base rate, 12 homers, and 46 RBIs. LeMahieu fought through the pain and played stellar defense, but his batting was impacted quite significantly down the stretch. In the month of September, LeMahieu only enjoyed 15 at-bats, but that was after hitting .211 with a 27.6% on-base rate in August, well below his season averages.
The 34-year-old infielder is still recovering from the toe injury which could end up requiring surgery. However, he is expected to be healthy next year, so the Yankees will have a great problem on their hands– how to split up the utility roles between DJ and Oswaldo Cabrera.
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The Yankees will enjoy utilizing Oswaldo Cabrera to his maximum capabilities:
Cabrera, a 23-year-old rookie this past season, made a significant impact offensively and showcased some of his offensive qualities in the process. Over 44 games, Cabrera hit .247 with a 31.2% on-base rate, six homers, and 19 RBIs. He struck out at 25.7% but walked at 8.8%, going through a few stretches of solid production.
However, his primary value came on defense, shifting to the outfield, a position he had never played before reaching the MLB. Across 278.2 innings in the outfield, he enjoyed a perfect fielding percentage with nine defensive runs saved above average.
In fact, Cabrera also played well at most of the infield spots, despite a smaller sample size. He had even taken a few reps at first base, specifically 13.1 innings worth. Cabrera is even capable of serving as the team’s backup catcher, but the Yankees would like to avoid that situation if possible.
With that type of utility value, it will be interesting to see how the Yankees situate their starting team. Manager Aaron Boone traditionally utilizes utility options regularly, as if they were starters, but splitting up the time between Oswaldo and LeMahieu should be interesting.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see DJ take over a full-time infield spot, notably second base or third base if the team manages to offload Josh Donaldson and Anthony Volpe isn’t ready just yet. That would also indicate Gleyber Torres was traded, but because of DJs lasting injury, some believe that Brian Cashman will keep Torres around until the trade deadline next year.
Nonetheless, the emergence of talented youth has provided solutions across-the-board for the Bombers, but that doesn’t mean they should avoid bringing established talent during free agency to continue building a World Series-caliber roster.