Yankees getting next to nothing from ice-cold infielder

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees‘ offense has been unusually quiet in recent days, and star slugger Juan Soto isn’t to blame. Instead, Aaron Judge has become more of a liability than an asset for the first time in years, and starting first baseman Anthony Rizzo has experienced a dramatic drop in performance.

Anthony Rizzo’s Struggles at the Plate

Coming off a season marred by serious concussion symptoms, which led the Bombers to end his 2023 campaign prematurely following a strong start, Rizzo’s 2024 performance has unfortunately been among the worst of his career. He is batting .224/.338/.480, yet he ranks in the lowest percentiles in several offensive categories.

Notably, his batting average sits in the 25th percentile at .222, and his expected slugging percentage is just .309, significantly lower than his actual slugging metric.

Rizzo has only managed to barrel 3% of the balls he has put into play and holds a 32nd percentile rating in hard-hit rate and a 21st percentile in sweet spot percentage. These metrics point to him being a considerable liability in the Yankees’ lineup.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Decline in Performance and the Yankees’ Potential Decisions

Rizzo’s ability to handle fastballs has notably deteriorated; he’s hitting only .188 against them with a 21.6% whiff rate. Interestingly, he is performing better against breaking pitches, batting .259, and even better against offspeed pitches at .308. The difficulty with fastballs suggests a decline in pitch recognition and reaction timing, which could be due to regression or lingering effects from his previous concussion.

As Rizzo continues to struggle, the Yankees face tough decisions about his future. They have a promising prospect, Ben Rice, who is excelling at the AA level and is expected to move up to AAA soon. This could potentially fast-track him into a starting role by late this season or 2025.

Despite the challenges, the Yankees are likely to give Rizzo some leeway to regain form, considering his experience and previous contributions. However, he has also been a liability defensively this season, posting a run value of -1 and achieving the lowest success rate of his career at 66%. This month may mark the worst fully healthy performance of Rizzo’s career, raising concerns that it could either be an anomaly or a long-term impact of his concussion.

MLB: Houston Astros at New York Yankees
Aug 3, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees first baseman Anthony Rizzo (48) speaks to the media during a press conference after being placed on the 10-day injured list with post-concussion syndrome before a game against the Houston Astros at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees cannot afford to maintain such inefficiency in the heart of their lineup. Unless Rizzo begins to show improvement, the team will need to explore other options to bolster their roster and maintain competitiveness. At this point, it’s essentially a lock they will take the out in his club-option for the 2025 season, reallocating the $17 million elsewhere.

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