If the Yankees want to push for a World Series appearance in 2023, they will need DJ LeMahieu at the top of his game. LeMahieu featured in 125 games last year but was knocked out for the postseason and the homestretch run due to a toe injury. There was concern that it may pop up again this upcoming campaign if he didn’t undergo surgery. Still, DJ elected to take a more natural route and rehabilitated to the best of his abilities.
LeMahieu has been working diligently down in Tampa to heal and prepare for the upcoming year. He hit .261 with a .357 OBP, 12 homers, and 116 wRC+ last year, despite fighting through a ton of pain. Defensively, DJ indicated the injury didn’t hold him back much, but swinging became a difficult motion given the pressure it put on his back foot.
With that being said, the Yankees need his bat in the lineup, which means he must take on a starting defensive position. With Gleyber Torres at second base and shortstop expected to be situated by Oswald Peraza or Anthony Volpe, the hot corner is open for the taking. The team still has Josh Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa on the roster, but LeMahieu was fantastic defensively at third base across 385.2 innings last season. He posted a .992 fielding percentage with just one error, earning seven defensive runs saved above average and four out above average.
Luckily for the Bombers, his health continues trending in the right direction, as manager Aaron Boone stated on the Yankees Hot Stove on YES Network.
The Yankees are optimistic about DJ LeMahieu’s availability to open the season:
Boone stated that LeMahieu is in a “really good place” right now, and he expects him to be healthy for Opening Day in March. That is a great sign for the veteran infielder that will once again play a significant role for this Yankee team.
One of the more important variables that DJ brings to the table is his ability to hit leadoff. The Yankees don’t have any other option to get on base at a 35%+ percent clip. Last season, he enjoyed 363 at-bats in the leadoff spot, hitting .256 with a .358 OBP. He started the 2022 season on fire, but the injury dragged his numbers down late in the season.
There’s a solid argument to make that the Yankees’ playoff success depends heavily on his ability to create offense and provide Aaron Judge with a man on base to leverage his home run-hitting abilities.