Yankees have a big lineup decision to make with reinforcements on the way

MLB: Chicago Cubs at New York Yankees, dj lemahieu
Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees have been more than just surviving at third base in the absence of DJ LeMahieu, who is traveling with the team to both Cleveland and Toronto starting on Friday. DJ has been rehabilitating a foot injury for the past two weeks but is making solid progress.

To open the year, utility man Oswaldo Cabrera manned the hot corner, and the 25-year-old was fantastic over his first nine games. He hit .333/.389/.545, including two homers and eight RBIs, with a 173 wRC+.

Why Cabrera hasn’t played in the last few games is anyone’s guess, as the Yankees have transitioned to Jon Berti, a 34-year-old infielder whom the Yankees acquired from the Miami Marlins just two weeks ago. Berti is hitting .211/.250/.211 over six games this season but has played solid defense at third base while he struggled offensively; he had one of his best campaigns in 2023, hitting .294 with a .344 OBP.

Two years ago, Berti stole 41 bases for the Marlins, so the Yankees saw the upside he could offer and wanted to get him more opportunities. Still, the question remains: how will manager Aaron Boone operate when LeMahieu returns from injury?

The Yankees Should Push DJ LeMahieu Down The Order

DJ is working diligently to make a return over the next week or so, already participating in batting practice and working on his mobility to ensure that his foot isn’t problematic long-term. He suffered a significant bruise, and if it was a fracture, the Yankees might’ve shut him down for months and not just placed him on the 15-day injured list.

This past spring, LeMahieu hit .222 with a 276 OBP, including three RBIs and a 47 wRC+. Last season, the veteran infielder struggled during the first half of the year but picked things up in the second half once the Yankees fired Dillon Lawson, their previous hitting coach. Post-All-Star break, LeMahieu hit .273/.377/.432, so there’s no doubt he still has a bit of gas left in the tank—the Yankees just need to give him opportunities.

However, Anthony Volpe’s rise has changed LeMahieu’s spot in the lineup considerably. Previously thought to be the primary leadoff man, Volpe has earned that job outright and will likely stay there for the duration of the season, barring any significant changes in production. That being said, LeMahieu could end up toward the bottom of the batting order, even slotting in where Berti is currently in the number eight hole.

This would certainly be a big change for DJ, who is used to hitting up the top of the order and utilizing his contact skills. However, it is a luxury to have him batting toward the bottom since it indicates the Yankees have plenty of talent and quality in other spots, which certainly wasn’t their reality in 2023.

For now, it is safe to say that LeMahieu may never bat lead-off again for the Yankees as long as Volpe is healthy, and that is exactly how it should be given the 22-year-old shortstop’s unbelievable growth.

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