Yankees getting strong reports from veteran infielder in Spring Training

MLB: New York Yankees at Kansas City Royals
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DJ LeMahieu’s excellent second half last season has propelled him not only into being the Yankees’ starting third baseman but also their primary leadoff hitter. He hit eight home runs with a 129 wRC+ after the All-Star Break, and the team is hoping that they can see a version of the three-time All-Star that looks more like his second-half self, then we could see a lineup that finishes towards the top of the league in run-scoring.

The Yankees have high hopes for LeMahieu in 2024, and he’s already getting some praise from both players and coaches in camp.

If the Yankees want to have a table-setter in front of Juan Soto and Aaron Judge who can get things started at the top of their lineup, they’ll need LeMahieu to take a step forward from his 2023 season, and it looks like he’s in the right condition to bounce back.

DJ LeMahieu Looking to Remain the Yankees’ Table-setter

MLB: New York Yankees-Workouts
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One of the biggest lineup questions the Yankees will have to answer pertains to their leadoff spot, as while DJ LeMahieu is penciled in there, he’ll have to prove himself once again in 2024. Last season, he wasn’t himself, but speculation about his toe injury has led many to conclude that he was still working back from it in the first half of last season. There are some notable data points to suggest that LeMahieu, who is in the fourth year of a six-year deal signed after the 2020 season, might have been healthier in the second half of that season.

LeMahieu was a more selective hitter and fit the bill of a table-setter a lot better, and that’s something he’ll look to continue in 2024. The ability to remain patient and work walks will force pitchers to throw fastballs over the heart of the plate as they avoid walking LeMahieu with both Juan Soto and Aaron Judge looming behind him. Age has certainly got to him. There’s no denying that he can’t hit a ton of home runs and run the bases well, but what can he do?

Guys, check your reports or I’m gonna point at Pete.

He can get on base!

Aaron Boone gave some quotes to The Athletic about his belief that the struggles he had last year and at the end of 2022 were related to injury. He missed both the 2021 and 2022 postseason due to season-ending injuries that would keep him off the playoff roster, and there’s a legitimate concern about how he’ll age, given how hard those previous injuries have hit him. The Yankee skipper gave some insurance that LeMahieu is in a good spot, and there’s optimism regarding how that will translate to on-field results.

“I think he’s in as good a place as he’s been in the last couple of years. A healthy, productive DJ from an offensive position player standpoint puts us in a really good spot.”

Aaron Boone

READ MORE: Yankees’ left-handed starter looks brilliant in early Spring Training action

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It’s hard to set expectations for DJ LeMahieu in 2024, as while you’d want a season similar to what he did after the All-Star Break, a 129 wRC+ projection would be unreasonable. One would hope that he improves on his 2023 numbers, but that’s not a universal opinion among projection systems, which are understandably lower on him than in years past. The ball is in LeMahieu’s court, he’ll have to prove himself to be the hitter that the Yankees say he’s capable of being, as that could change the dynamic of the Yankees’ lineup.

The average leadoff hitter had a 111 wRC+ and .340 OBP last season, so DJ LeMahieu is going to have to play above projections to live up to his role. It’ll be a test of the Yankees’ scouting and player evaluation, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they tinkered with the leadoff spot as the season progresses. Youngsters like Anthony Volpe and even Jasson Dominguez could emerge as options in the leadoff spot, but LeMahieu is hoping to fend off all challengers and keep his spot.

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