Prior to spring training, the third base position for the New York Yankees was open for the taking. Most advocated for DJ LeMahieu to take over full-time and offload the $21 million in salary owed to Josh Donaldson this upcoming season. However, manager Aaron Boone has consistently expressed confidence in Donaldson, hoping for a bounce-back campaign after one of his worst offensive seasons as a professional.
In 2022, Donaldson hit a putrid .222 with a .308 OBP, 15 homers, and 16 RBIs. He recorded the highest strikeout rate in his career at 27.1% and dipped below a double-digit walk rate for the first time since 2012. He hosted a 97 wRC+ and represented a 1.6 WAR.
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Despite offering Gold Glove level defense on the hot corner, his numbers offensively were so dismal he was statistically categorized as a below-average player. Some would argue there’s no way he can replicate such embarrassingly poor numbers in the batter’s box this upcoming season, but his power metrics continue to drop as the 37-year-old ages.
That hasn’t stopped Boone from providing optimistic quotes like this:
“I think you’re crazy to think a bounce back is not in there offensively. This guy still has bat speed. He’s super talented and I think physically, he’s in a much better place than he was a year ago.”Aaron Boone told reporters at Spring Training on Tuesday.
The Yankees can be this confidence that Josh Donaldson will turn back the clock:
Donaldson posted a 43.2% hard-hit rate in 2022, his lowest since 2018. His 9.8% barrel rate was the third lowest in his career, and his average exit velocity landed at 90.7 mph, his worth since 2018 as well. His inability to barrel the ball up consistently and his hard-hit metrics taking a nosedive compared to his 2021 numbers certainly indicate significant regression. He’s had a few dips in the past when he was younger but still managed to get on base at a 35% mark at the very least.
Josh’s on-base rate dipping to below 31%, well below his career averages, certainly justifies objection and caution regarding his contributions. One way or another, Donaldson will be gone after the 2022 season, and his salary will be offloaded permanently. They still have to pay a $6 million vesting option that was transferred over in the acquisitions from the Minnesota Twins.
Obviously, hoping Josh performs better this upcoming season is ideal, but he’s done nothing to show we can trust Boone and his resounding take that he will bounce back in a big way.