The Yankees have a number of non-roster invites competing for a 26-man spot for the Opening Day roster, but none have impressed more than former fourth-round pick back in 2015, Willie Calhoun. Aside from having a perfect baseball name, the 28-year-old lefty dealt with a number of injuries over the years, including a broken jaw, broken arm, and a number of minor issues in 2022.
Last season for the Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants, Calhoun made just 22 appearances, enjoying 62 plate appearances. He hit .135 with a .274 OBP, one homer, and three RBIs with a 12.9% strikeout rate. Calhoun excels in the strikeout percentage category, recording a 15.3% average across his career. Calhoun has enjoyed just one reasonable season as an MLB player across six years.
Back in 2019, he played 83 games for the Rangers, hitting .269 with a .323 OBP, 21 homers, and 48 RBIs. He has more than enough power to get the ball over the outfield fence, and he’s done a great job of showing contact qualities with underrated power for the Yankees this spring.
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The Yankees are seeing the best of Willie Calhoun:
In fact, he’s making a legitimate push for a roster spot, filling a similar role to Matt Carpenter last year, playing DH, and also capable of filling in in the outfield.
“I think he’s in the mix,” Boone said.
Defensively, Calhoun isn’t the most athletic or productive option. He’s played 1,282 innings in left field during his career, posting a .983 fielding percentage with -14 defensive runs saved and -14 outs above average. At the very best, he can provide average defense, but his offensive qualities do indicate there’s untapped potential.
“I thought he did a good job with his throws, hitting cut-off men, keeping guys to a base that they should have been at … I feel like he’s more than held his own to this point. I don’t think he’s been challenged much, but he’s handled the routine play that he should handle.”
Over 30 spring training at-bats, Calhoun has posted 11 hits, four runs, a homer, and three RBIs. He’s hitting .367 with a .472 OBP and 1.005 OPS. While spring numbers don’t necessarily translate to the regular season, it is undoubtedly optimistic he is hitting consistently and found his groove.
If the Yankees are stuck picking between a few non-roster invites to include on the 26-man, Calhoun should certainly be in the mix and could end up being a productive player when called upon for the Yankees in 2023.