With the Yankees designating Aaron Hicks for assignment, the left field position has once again become an open competition. It appears that general manager Brian Cashman is not inclined to make a significant investment in the position, particularly given the pressing needs in the starting rotation.
Cashman cannot afford to deplete his farm system to secure a viable starter in left field and an effective pitcher to compensate for major injuries in the rotation.
To that end, the Yankees procured Greg Allen from the Boston Red Sox on Friday night, adding a player with notable speed and athleticism.
Allen notably scored the decisive run on Saturday night against the Cincinnati Reds, even though Anthony Rizzo provided the team with a solid 7–4 lead courtesy of a two-run home run in extra innings.
The Yankees now have a position battle unfolding for the left field position:
1.) Greg Allen
Allen is a capable defensive player who registered two defensive runs saved and two outs above average for the Pittsburgh Pirates over 293.1 innings last season. Owing to his excellent range and tracking abilities, the Yankees can rely on Allen for consistent defensive performance, although his offensive consistency throughout his MLB career leaves room for improvement.
Having not played a game this season prior to Saturday’s brief appearance, he recorded a .186 batting average and a .260 OBP for the Pirates over 46 games last year. He managed two home runs, eight RBIs, and stole eight bases.
However, he has had a strong start to the minor-league season with Boston’s Triple-A affiliate, hitting .250 with a .407 OBP, and recording a 19.2% strikeout rate and a 13.9% walk rate. He was second in stolen bases in Triple-A with 23 before the Yankees traded for him.
Allen’s replacement of Aaron Hicks was unexpected, but the Yankees saw the necessity and decided to absorb the remainder of Hicks’s contract. It can be inferred that Cashman was unable to find suitors for Hicks due to his third consecutive season of subpar performance.
2.) Jake Bauers
Since his promotion from Triple-A Scranton, the Yankees have seen valuable contributions from Jake Bauers. Despite a .194 batting average and a .302 OBP currently, Bauers has had several notable individual performances. He boasts a 14% walk rate, but his 34.9% strikeout rate needs to diminish to secure his roster spot.
He seems the most likely candidate for demotion once Giancarlo Stanton recovers from his hamstring injury. However, should Bauers improve his performance, the Yankees might consider demoting another player.
Given his erratic hitting and negative statistics in the outfield — a .944 fielding percentage across 86.1 innings this year and -1 defensive run saved — he appears the most likely candidate.
3.) Isiah Kiner-Falefa
Recently, utility player Isiah Kiner-Falefa, a former infielder, has shown improvement. While his batting average is only .202 with a .256 OBP, his wRC+ is on the rise and currently stands at 50.
Kiner-Falefa has hit two home runs this season, both within the past week. In his last seven games, he has recorded three hits and two home runs over seven at-bats, indicating he’s starting to heat up.
After recording a .200 batting average and a .245 OBP in April, his offensive numbers are gradually improving, hitting .206 with a .270 OBP and .741 OPS.
Defensively, the former primary infielder has demonstrated solid efficiency, recording two defensive runs saved and one out above average. Given Josh Donaldson’s injury and the likely need for DJ LeMahieu to rest at some point, Kiner-Falefa’s place on the roster seems secure.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see him given more fielding opportunities, akin to his participation in Saturday’s game against Cincinnati.
4.) Oswaldo Cabrera
It’s safe to say that Oswaldo Cabrera has been reassigned from the starting left-field position, returning to his primary utility role.
The 24-year-old has a mere .207 batting average with a .264 OBP, but his defensive prowess across virtually every position is evident. This versatility cannot be overlooked, and the Yankees highly value it.
In his outfield duties, he has already contributed four defensive runs saved and has helped stabilize several positions requiring reinforcement.
Cabrera was always intended to serve in a super-utility role, and it’s encouraging to see the Yankees finally embracing this strategy.