Yankees could leave Mike Tauchman behind with surprise player surging

Mike Tauchman, New York Yankees
Mar 6, 2021; Bradenton, Florida, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Mike Tauchman (39) at bat during spring training at LECOM Park. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees have a lively position battle unfolding in the outfield, with a surprise player climbing the depth chart as spring training continues. Heading into the 2021 season, the expectation was that Mike Tauchman would be a lock to make the roster, but he has struggled this spring, just as he did in 2020 when he finished with a .242 average and 23.4% strikeout rate.

Ultimately, Tauchman is a solid defensive player that is extremely inconsistent on offense, and the Yankees might be looking to add a slugger in case Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton are forced to miss any time.

Mike spoke to reporters after Sunday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays. He finished with one hit over three at-bats and was thrown out attempting to steal a base. His demise this spring opens up the door for Jay Bruce, a slugger who has exceeded expectations this spring.

“A really good way to make myself crazy is worry about that,” Tauchman said after a tough outing on Sunday. “There’s certain things that I’m trying to get done in spring training. It didn’t go well today, I got thrown out, but going first to third, going gap to gap for balls, being aggressive with leadoffs, trying to see a lot of pitches, stuff like that. That’s infinitely more important to me than worrying about some competition or whatever.”

What does Jay Bruce offer the Yankees?

Bruce offers the Yankees an entirely different makeup compared to Tauchman. Last season, he hit just .198 but is historically a double-digit home run hitter every year. In 2019, he slammed 26 homers and collected 59 RBIs. He strikes out a very similar amount to Tauchman, but that extra slugging ability gives him a push, especially since the Yankees view the long ball as a run producer.

There is a possibility that the Yankees roll into the season with Tauchman and Bruce on the roster, but with the retention of Brett Gardner, that reality seems a bit more unlikely. Bruce is currently hitting .333 this spring with two homers and three RBIs. Luckily for Tauchman, Bruce struck out twice over three at-bats against Toronto, giving him a bit more time to make up lost ground.