Yankees need to keep struggling infielder benched

josh donaldson, yankees
Oct 23, 2022; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees third baseman Josh Donaldson (28) reacts after striking out in the third inning against the Houston Astros during game four of the ALCS for the 2022 MLB Playoffs at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees, fresh from a three-game series win against the Texas Rangers, demonstrated they can triumph over more formidable teams. A crucial part of this series was a strategic decision to bench struggling infielder, Josh Donaldson, which contributed to their scoring prowess.

The Donaldson Dilemma: A Struggling Veteran

Donaldson, aged 37, had a discussion with manager Aaron Boone before the Sunday game, sparking speculation among reporters about possible significant news. Some suspected that the Yankees might designate Donaldson for assignment, but the reality proved otherwise. Boone revealed that Donaldson would be getting ample playing time soon.

In spite of Donaldson’s underwhelming performance – batting .125 with a .197 OBP, including six homers and eight RBIs across 21 games – the Yankees are resolute in giving him an extended opportunity to reclaim his All-Star form. Donaldson’s performance metrics, including a .222 batting average and .308 OBP last season, have gradually declined, indicating the twilight of his professional career.

The LeMahieu Advantage: A Defensive Star

The Yankees’ two out of three victories against the Rangers suggest that keeping Donaldson on the bench might be a wise move, especially considering DJ LeMahieu’s contribution of a two-run double in Sunday’s game.

Despite his struggles, LeMahieu provides outstanding defense at the hot corner and boasts superior stats to Donaldson, batting .230 with a .286 OBP, including seven homers and 25 RBIs across 64 games. The concern, however, is LeMahieu’s skyrocketing strikeout rate, which has doubled to 26.3% this season from a 13.1% rate in 2022.

Reports affirm that LeMahieu is in excellent health, and his slump could be attributed to a mental lapse, raising the likelihood of a turnaround rather than a further decline in his stats.

The Third Base Conundrum: Kiner-Falefa as an Alternative

In addition to Donaldson, the Yankees have Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who has been utilized as a utility player this season. Kiner-Falefa has a .239 batting average with a .275 OBP, including four homers and 17 RBIs across 61 games. While his stats are not outstanding, they are still superior to Donaldson’s in most areas, except slugging.

Donaldson currently has a 48.9% hard-hit rate, 22.2% barrel rate, an average exit velocity of 91.3, and a 6.2° launch angle. The next step in his hoped-for production increase will be to raise his launch angle, but a 15% spike in his first-strike rate and a rise in ground balls have undermined his output.

Weighing the Options: The Case for Oswald Peraza

While there’s ample time for Donaldson to reverse his fortunes, the Yankees have other contenders for third base. Oswald Peraza, performing well offensively in Triple-A and demonstrating Gold Glove-level defensive skills, is a viable candidate deserving of consideration.

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