Yankees make big first base changes

yankees, dj lemahieu

The New York Yankees will have to finish the rest of the season without veteran first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who was shut down on Tuesday as he rehabilitates from concussion symptoms.

The Story Behind Rizzo’s Sudden Decline With the Yankees

Earlier this season, Rizzo took a knee to the head from Fernando Tatís Jr. during a game against the San Diego Padres. The incident left him noticeably dazed. Despite launching the season on a high note, Rizzo’s performance metrics took a hit—initially perceived as a part of the team-wide slump but later attributed to his injury.

The 34-year-old had inked a two-year, $40 million contract this past off-season with a 2025 club option. He ends his 2023 campaign with 99 games under his belt, sporting a .244 batting average, a .328 OBP, 12 home runs, 41 RBIs, a 23% strikeout rate, an 8.3% walk rate, and a 99 wRC+. His absence is keenly felt, given his early-season form as one of the Yankees’ top hitters.

DJ LeMahieu Steps Up to the Plate

In light of Rizzo’s absence, DJ LeMahieu will continue to serve as the go-to first baseman. The 35-year-old has had a hot streak lately, boasting a .291 batting average and a .391 OBP in August. His season stats include a .241 batting average, a .321 OBP, 14 home runs (his highest since 2019), 37 RBIs, a 22.5% strikeout rate, and a 10.1% walk rate. With a wRC+ of 100, he’s finally hit the league-average mark this year.

LeMahieu’s six-year, $90 million deal lasts through the 2026 season, making it crucial for him to regain his familiar consistency. Hiring hitting coach Sean Casey seems to have positively impacted LeMahieu, as evidenced by his surging numbers.

LeMahieu’s Defensive Capabilities

Not to overlook his defense, LeMahieu has been a Swiss Army knife in the infield. This season, he has logged 587.2 innings at third base and 273.2 innings at first. His fielding percentage at first base stands at .996, marked by only one error and one defensive run saved. At third, he has contributed three defensive runs saved and three outs above average, highlighting his role as a defensive stalwart.

A Glimpse at Prospects: Andres Chaparro on the Radar?

If the Yankees decide to lean into their prospect depth, Andres Chaparro could be a viable option. The 24-year-old infielder is hitting .249 with a .337 OBP this year, and he’s cracked 23 homers along with 80 RBIs. Chaparro has clocked 409 innings at first base this season. He’s a competent defensive player there

Should the Yankees’ front office opt for a prospect-centered strategy, Chaparro’s promotion could be on the cards, adding yet another layer to their infield conundrum.

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