The New York Yankees have been forced to change their infield drastically over the past few weeks due to injury, but once they get their primary players back in a position to contribute, they need to find a strong combination they can rely on defensively.
Having a strong defensive infield is essential for the postseason, but it is also about giving some of the younger players reps to see if they can contribute during the playoffs, especially with the team’s offensive struggles becoming blatant.
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Starting Yankees infield:
1B: Anthony Rizzo
The Yankees placed first baseman Anthony Rizzo on the 10-day injured list recently due to headaches stemming from an epidural for his lower back injury he received over the weekend. Rizzo hit home runs in consecutive games recently against the Los Angeles Angels before being shut down, but he’s expected to make a return shortly.
The Yankees need Rizzo starting at first base, who’s hitting .225 this season with a 34% on-base rate and 30 homers. His slugging is essential for the team’s offensive success, especially since Giancarlo Stanton hasn’t found his groove just yet.
2B: DJ LeMahieu
Boone has been trying to give DJ LeMahieu a few days of rest lately. He’s been dealing with a toe injury that has limited his production significantly.
In fact, LeMahieu hasn’t recorded a hit in four consecutive games, which is very unlike the 34-year-old. In the month of August, LeMahieu hit .211 with a 27.6% on base rate, his worst month of the year by a significant margin.
However, DJ needs to be in the equation for the Yankees to have offensive success. Giving him a few days off should help, but he may be dealing with his injury the rest of the way.
SS: Oswald Peraza
The Yankees have watched the degradation of Josh Donaldson in real time, starting off September with a .154 average and 31% on-base rate. In addition to his offensive struggles, Donaldson has committed several errors over the past few days at third base, which presents the idea of shifting Isiah Kiner-Falefa to the hot corner.
Boone needs to be a bit more strategic with how they use Oswald Peraza, considering they pulled him up and stunted his development in the process. Peraza was absolutely crushing with Triple-A Scranton, but Boone refuses to use him at the MLB level, giving him consistent reps.
With Donaldson struggling, this is a perfect opportunity to slot Peraza in at shortstop, moving IKF to third
3B: Isiah Kiner-Falefa
Kiner-Falefa won a Gold Glove at third base several seasons ago, and it seems as if the Yankees don’t want to pull him from the starting lineup.
The 27-year-old is hitting .265 with a 31.4% on-base rate this season, including two homers and 39 RBIs. IKF is making a ton of contact, but usually, it is weak, resulting in outs and ground balls. He features a 52.8% ground ball rate, 25.7% flyball rate, and a 2.3% HR/FB ratio. He’s essentially useless as a slugger, but given his success in the past at third base defensively, this combination of players seems to make the most sense moving forward.