Yankees’ lefty depth outfielder has been a pleasant surprise

MLB: Kansas City Royals at New York Yankees, jake bauers
John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

As the New York Yankees embarked on their 2023 season, they had high hopes that Oswaldo Cabrera and Aaron Hicks would efficiently occupy the left-field position following a tough competition.

Regrettably, this didn’t come to fruition, with Hicks now part of the Baltimore Orioles’ roster and Cabrera being demoted to AAA on multiple occasions due to his difficulties in maintaining an MLB-level performance.

Cabrera’s Offense and the Yankees’ Response

While the Yankees still hold hope that Cabrera can improve his offensive skills, his current season performance has been underwhelming, hitting just .205 with a .266 OBP. His statistics include four home runs, 22 RBIs, a 21.4% strikeout rate, a 7% walk rate, and a 58 wRC+. These disappointing offensive metrics left the Yankees with no option but to demote him, seeking alternative outfield solutions.

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Jake Bauers: A Valuable Reserve for the Yankees

One of the more useful reserves the Yankees have turned to is lefty slugger Jake Bauers. The 27-year-old brings with him a wealth of experience from 378 MLB games. Despite missing the 2022 season at the big league level, he played 115 games in 2021 between the Cleveland Guardians and the Seattle Mariners, hitting .209 with a .290 OBP, four homers, 19 RBIs, and a 63 wRC+.

Bauers’ Performance in the Current Season

In the current season, Bauers has emerged as one of the Yankees’ better hitters, despite some defensive limitations. He has a batting average of .226 with a .316 OBP, including seven homers, 19 RBIs, and a 12% walk rate over 50 games.

Impressively, he also posts a 115 wRC+, indicating he’s performing 15% better than the average player. For only the second time in his career, he has achieved a positive WAR at 0.4.

Bauers’ Record-Breaking Performance and Defensive Stats

Bauers is enjoying a career-best 47.8% hard-hit rate and 20.7% barrel rate, explaining why he’s on track to set a personal record in home runs and hitting the ball harder than ever with a 90.3 average exit velocity.

Defensively, he has played 290.2 innings in the outfield this year, posting a .967 fielding percentage with -7 defensive runs saved and -2 outs above average. While his defensive stats may not reflect efficiency, his above-average batting performance is more than what the Yankees expected when they initially promoted him.

Bauers’ Return from Injury and Contribution to the Team

Following a shoulder injury, Bauers made a swift return to the team, immediately making an impact by securing a hit and a walk in three at-bats during the final game of a three-game series against the Kansas City Royals. The Yankees will certainly require his services in the upcoming two-game series against the New York Mets.

Bauers’ Impact on the Yankees in the Midst of a Disappointing Season

Bauers has undoubtedly been a pleasant surprise for the Yankees amid an overall disappointing offensive season. General Manager Brian Cashman will likely aim to strengthen the outfield and add a few above-average bats in the upcoming week. However, in the meantime, Bauers will strive to maintain his active role within the roster.