Why one player could determine the Yankees’ 2023 season

yankees, dj lemahieu

When looking at the Yankees roster, some vulnerabilities could come back to bite them in the butt during the 2023 season. Their top players, notably Gerrit Cole, Aaron Judge, and newly signed pitcher Carlos Rodon will make a significant impact. Still, just as 2022 ended, the Yankees may end up relying on one significant player to help them push through the postseason.

Injuries have been prevalent for the Bombers over the past few seasons, if not the past decade. While Giancarlo Stanton remaining healthy is a catalyst for success, the more impactful player may end up being DJ LeMahieu.

LeMahieu missed a solid chunk of time due to a toe injury last season, forcing him to skip out on the playoffs and diminishing the campaign’s second half. Despite LeMahieu struggling down the stretch, he managed to play 125 games, hitting 12 homers with 46 RBIs. He recorded a .261 average, a .357 OBP, a 12.4% walk rate, the highest in his career, and a 116 wRC+. However, the team sorely missed him as a postseason contributor, averaging .272 with a .340 OBP across 21 playoff games in his career.

Luckily, LeMahieu has been working diligently to rehabilitate his toe this off-season. Manager Aaron Boone is confident he will be ready for opening day in March, but the Yankees, with and without LeMahieu, are completely different teams.

The Yankees need DJ LeMahieu to remain healthy for one big reason:

Considering Andrew Benintendi signed a fresh contract with the Chicago White Sox, the Yankees don’t have any alternatives at the lead-off spot. LeMahieu serves as the primary leadoff man, enjoying 363 at-bats last season in the position. He recorded 93 hits, 38 RBIs, 56 walks, and nine homers. He earned a .256 average with a .358 OBP and .730 OPS.

Honestly, if the Yankees lose LeMahieu for a chunk of time again, specifically down the stretch and in the playoffs, their season is immediately in jeopardy. DJ is not only a phenomenal offensive player, but he provides above-average defense at multiple positions. His ability to play first, second and third base makes him valuable, if not essential.

There’s a strong argument that LeMahieu should start at third base this upcoming season, enjoying 385.2 innings there last year. He posted seven defensive runs saved above average, four outs above average, and a .992 fielding percentage, tallying just one error.

The team still has Josh Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa on the roster, but leaving out DJs bat is simply unacceptable. As long as Gleyber Torres man’s second base and Anthony Rizzo is healthy at first, the hot corner should be occupied by the 34-year-old veteran.