Yankees’ leadoff hitter looking ‘explosive’ with spring training underway

MLB: New York Yankees at Kansas City Royals
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In a perfect world, Yankees‘ second-year shortstop Anthony Volpe would man the lead-off spot, given his capabilities on base. Volpe showcased a unique ability to distract pitchers and put himself in scoring position last season, but his on-base percentage was inconsistent and is a noted variable that must improve in 2024.

It is possible that Volpe will take over the lead-off spot long-term, but for now, the Yankees are set to feature veteran DJ LeMahieu once again. Now 35 years old, LeMahieu is coming off a down 2023 season, hitting .243/.327/.390, including 15 homers, 44 RBIs, and a 22.2% strikeout rate. His strikeout rate increased about 10% compared to 2022, but it was the first half of his season that completely dismantled his overall production.

The Yankees Saw the Real DJ LeMahieu After the All-Star Break

Pre-All-Star break, LeMahieu hit .220/.285/.357, but his numbers took a major turn for the better after the All-Star break. Over his final 220 at-bats, DJ hit .273/.377/.432, including eight homers, 17 RBIs, 36 walks, and 54 strikeouts. He was a completely different player in the second half of the year, and manager Aaron Boone has noticed an extra spring in his step to open spring training this week.

“He’s just more explosive, to me, in the batting cage. It’s very noticeable. I felt like he started to address some things in the second half of last season and put together a stronger second half. But to me, he’s even in a way better physical position than he was then and any time probably in the last couple of years.”

LeMahieu is now a full year removed from a toe injury that derailed his 2022 season, so the expectation is that he will return to full strength and offer the Yankees a productive and consistent player.

Transition and Adaptation

LeMahieu has been one of the team’s best offensive assets in recent memory and is scheduled to transition full-time to third base with the departure of Josh Donaldson.

Last season, LeMahieu enjoyed 592.2 innings on the hot corner, posting a .994 fielding percentage with three defensive runs saved and three outs above average. Generally, DJ is great at most infield alignments, so the team feels confident he can lock down third base with ease.

Setting the Stage for Success

However, elevating his offensive metrics and getting back to his old self will prove to be a substantial factor in the team’s offensive success, especially with Juan Soto and Aaron Judge batting just behind him.

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