Yankees could give this versatile infielder a look in the Bronx in 2024

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees at Detroit Tigers
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The Yankees have seen Caleb Durbin perform as one of the best players in the International League this season, becoming a doubles machine with the speed and baserunning aggression to provide a top-of-the-order presence. While Anthony Volpe has evolved into the leadoff hitter we all hoped he could be, there are still long-term questions about the infield for the Yankees. Regardless of whether Gleyber Torres turns things around or not, it feels like his time in the Bronx will come to an end after the 2024 season, and their situation at third base is muddied as well.

Tied for the most doubles (16) and steals (20) in the International League, Caleb Durbin could be a legitimate option for the Yankees infield as soon as this year, as he continues to tear up the Minor Leagues.

Is Caleb Durbin Primed for an Infield Job with the Yankees?

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees at Pittsburgh Pirates
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Right now the Yankees have one of the best lineups and rosters in all of baseball, as they’re tied for first in wRC+ (121) and first in team ERA (2.92). It wouldn’t be crazy for the Yankees to just keep rolling with their current 26-man roster until the deadline, but if they did want to shake things up in their infield during the season, Caleb Durbin might provide the exact profile they’re looking for.

The Yankees have developed Durbin to do more than just put the ball in play, as he’s continuing to lift the ball in the air and drive it to left field, ranking in the 87th Percentile in Pulled Flyball Rate. Combining a high walk rate with a high pull rate results in productive trips to the plate, and he has both the speed and baseball acumen to maximize the skills he possesses at a high level.

Caleb Durbin currently has a .870 OPS and 131 wRC+ through 45 games, and his low strikeout rate (10%) and high walk rate (14.3%) bode well for a Major League promotion as well. Plate discipline and making contact are two skills that can translate instantly to any lineup, and while the raw power is certainly below average, he still has respectable game power because of the aforementioned ability to pull the ball in the air.

What Durbin does well is leverage his smaller stature to do damage on pitches up in the zone, as while most pitchers attack up in the zone to great success with their four-seamers, he’s destroying them in that spot. The high fastball has come into vogue thanks to recent data trends suggesting that fastballs with good vertical movement get more strikeouts at the top of the strike zone, but due to his smaller frame, Caleb Durbin is well-positioned to crush those pitches:

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The two pitches that Caleb Durbin struggles to handle most are changeups and curveballs, but the two high-usage pitches in the league are fastballs and sliders, which he handles with ease. He projects well for a Major League role given how he generates success, as it’s not an astronomically high BABIP nor is it a hitter dominating much younger competition, and while I don’t think Durbin will be an excellent Major League hitter, I think he’ll hit enough to produce because his other skills are so polished.

Something the Yankees have struggled with this season is baserunning, as they rank 28th in Baserunning Run Value (-3) and 29th in BsR (-5.2) this season. They can’t magically take a lineup of sluggers and convert it into a lineup of speedsters, but perhaps adding someone like Caleb Durbin can give them a baserunning weapon who has the speed and aggression to steal bases at a high level.

Through 45 games this season, he has 20 steals in 22 attempts, and since joining the Yankees’ organization Durbin has picked up 56 stolen bases in 114 games at an 84.8% success rate. Prorated over 150 games, that’s a 73-steal pace, and that could create some chaos for pitchers trying to hold him on while facing the top of the lineup. Caleb Durbin is the scrappy, gritty, hard-nosed player that your parents would tell you about from their childhood, but he has a modern kick to him that makes him an interesting player for an MLB role.

In terms of roster fit, what Durbin brings to the table is the versatility to play all over the diamond, as he’s become a weapon for the Scranton RailRiders as a super-utility man:

Caleb Durbin is the ultimate underdog; a 5’6 position player drafted in the 14th Round of the 2021 MLB Draft out of a Division III college called Washington University in St. Louis. The Yankees acquired him in a trade that shipped out Lucas Luetge, who they designated for assignment just a few days before the trade. He has never been ranked in the organization’s top 30, but Aaron Boone has raved about him during his impressive run at Spring Training.

Hal Steinbrenner made it clear yesterday that the Yankees are going to usher in more young talent to create a more cost-controlled roster in the coming seasons, and Caleb Durbin could be one of those names we see as soon as this summer.

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