Yankees activate veteran third baseman off of the IL

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees at Toronto Blue Jays
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

After weeks of rehab and recovery on the IL, the Yankees have finally activated infielder DJ LeMahieu, who had missed the entire 2024 season up to this point with a foot injury. Coming off of a season where he posted a 101 wRC+ and 1.3 fWAR across 136 games, LeMahieu will not retain the same role as the leadoff hitter for the Yankees upon his return. He will however become the team’s primary third baseman, and his defensive abilities will be more than appreciated at the hot corner.

Entering his age-35 season, the Yankees are hoping the veteran infielder can provide some more depth to their lineup and further boost the best lineup in the league in terms of OPS (.773) and wRC+ (122).

What’s DJ LeMahieu’s Role on the Yankees?

mlb: game two-new york yankees at boston red sox, dj lemahieu
Sep 14, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; New York Yankees first baseman DJ LeMahieu (26) hits a base hit against the Boston Red Sox during the sixth inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees are hoping that the DJ LeMahieu we saw in the second half is the player we get on the 2024 team, as he was one of their more reliable hitters down the stretch after the All-Star Break. After posting a 77 wRC+ and .285 OBP through his first 305 plate appearances, LeMahieu hit eight home runs and had a 129 wRC+ down the stretch to round out the season with more palatable numbers.

Given the 91 wRC+ the Yankees have gotten out of the third base position, they’ll take a 101 wRC+, especially given the defensive excellence LeMahieu brings to the hot corner. He has +10 Defensive Runs Saved and +8 Outs Above Average from 2022-2023, making him one of the 10 best defenders at the position. The question remains whether the bat will age gracefully or not, and 2024 will be a good test for whether LeMahieu is “washed” or not.

READ MORE: Yankees’ Gerrit Cole nearing big step in rehab

MLB: Oakland Athletics at New York Yankees
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DJ LeMahieu actually generated a higher barrel rate, exit velocity, and xwOBACON in 2023 than he did in 2022, but that came with increases to his strikeout rate as well. His SEAGER score and Damage per Batted Ball rates were both better-than-average, but we’ve seen 35-year-old third basemen see sudden dropoffs to their skillsets in the past. Josh Donaldson posted a 126 wRC+ in his age-35 season before putting up a 98 wRC+ the following season with the Yankees, so the decline from a 118 wRC+ to a 101 wRC+ for LeMahieu is something to pay attention to.

This could be a nice boost for the Yankees if they could get solid contributions from LeMahieu at the plate, especially since they know they’ll get a strong defender in the infield. He won’t have to be their table-setter either, with Anthony Volpe serving that role for the lineup, and Aaron Boone confirmed on Talkin’ Yanks that the

  1. Anthony Volpe SS
  2. Juan Soto RF
  3. Aaron Judge CF
  4. Alex Verdugo LF
  5. Giancarlo Stanton DH
  6. Anthony Rizzo 1B
  7. Gleyber Torres 2B
  8. Austin Wells/Jose Trevino C
  9. DJ LeMahieu 3B

The depth of this lineup is excellent, even if LeMahieu were to perform poorly, but if he could be the hitter that we saw in the final months of the 2023 campaign, this team could soar even higher. Given the way that their offense has clicked in recent weeks, DJ LeMahieu being just a complimentary player for this lineup could go a very long way toward making the Yankees the deadliest team in baseball.

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