Yankees betting big on Josh Donaldson bounce-back season

josh donaldson, yankees

The New York Yankees have their expectations set high for third baseman Josh Donaldson, as those within the organization are very confident that he will bounce back and return to his All-Star form.

“The things he did this winter to get himself ready to go — I think you’re crazy to think that a bounce back is not in there offensively,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Tuesday. “This is a guy who still has bat speed and is super talented, and I think physically is in a much better place than he was a year ago.”

Donaldson was quick to become an adversary in the eyes of Yankees fans last season after consistently struggling at the plate, hitting just .222 and only 15 home runs with an abysmal .682 OPS in 132 games. His 15 homers were his lowest for any season playing more than 100 games in his career.

In the postseason, he hit just .172 in 29 at-bats and hit zero home runs, and drove in zero runs, essentially being a non-factor as the Yankees came up short to the Astros once again.

Boone’s latest assessment about Donaldson suggests a newfound confidence in the third baseman, who, prior to last season, had been a consistent power threat at the plate.

While he is definitely capable of having a bounce-back season, lots of adjustments need to be made at the plate for Donaldson in order for him to become the notorious, middle-of-the-lineup power threat that he was once was in his career.

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Yankees’ Josh Donaldson needs to have a bounce-back season:

Donaldson’s weaknesses in 2022 were most prominent when it came to putting balls in play and making solid contact, and given that the Yankees traded for him to become a threat at the heart of the order, those issues must be addressed during Spring Training.

In 2022, Donaldson barreled up only 9.8% of batted balls, which was a significant downgrade from a career-best 17.4% in 2021 when he was with the Twins. On pitches that were in the strike zone, Donaldson made contact with just 72.5% of those pitches, which is a career-low.

After having the fourth-highest average exit velocity in 2021 at 94.1 MPH, that number dropped precipitously to 90.7 MPH in 2022. His hard-hit% was way down as well, ranking in just the 68th percentile according to Baseball Savant.

According to Baseball Savant, Donaldson had a 37.7% whiff rate on offspeed pitches and a 35.9% on breaking balls and ranked in just the 15th percentile in K% in 2022.

Evidently, Donaldson’s plate vision and discipline took a significant hit last season, affecting his solid contact rate. This drop-off significantly neutralized him as a threat in the Yankees lineup and instead turned him into a weak link.

There is reason to be optimistic that Donaldson can return to form after having his worst season in his storied 13-year career, but adjustments in his swing to improve the metrics will be the biggest step for him to take.

The Yankees’ willingness to see what Donaldson has left in the tank is a high-risk but very high-reward move, given what he has proven capable of before.

If Donaldson does make those changes, the Yankees could have themselves a juggernaut lineup full of power and hard-hit balls that already includes established great hitters like Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Anthony Rizzo and could be in for a fun season ahead.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @DylanBacker_