Yankees outfielder is heating up at the right time

willie calhoun, yankees
Mar 13, 2023; Fort Myers, Florida, USA; New York Yankees designated hitter Willie Calhoun (24) hits a base hit against the Minnesota Twins in the first inning during spring training at Hammond Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Willie Calhoun, who signed a minor league deal with the New York Yankees and received an invitation to spring training, enjoyed an impressive start to his preseason. He was one of the team’s standout performers in February and early March. Although his numbers gradually declined, he had a strong showing overall in exhibition games.

However, as the regular season commenced, Calhoun struggled to maintain his spring training form for weeks, becoming a target for criticism amidst the Yankees’ difficulties. Admittedly, his performance has been notably disappointing. Yet, even with his below-average hitting stats this season (.250/.288/.396 with an 88 wRC+), he has recently shown signs of improvement.

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It remains unclear whether the Yankees continued to include Calhoun in their lineup due to their faith in him or a lack of alternative options. Regardless, their decision to keep him on the roster is beginning to yield results.

The Yankees may have discovered a valuable asset in Calhoun after all:

Although it’s only been eight games, Calhoun has posted a .577 slugging percentage, a 155 wRC+, and a 56 percent hard-hit rate during that span. He is known for making consistent contact (with an above-average 15.4 percent strikeout rate for the year), though the quality of that contact had previously been lacking.

Now, Calhoun is regularly hitting the ball with power. Both of his home runs this season have occurred within the last eight games. Due to the Yankees’ injury situation, he has seen ample playing time.

It’s important to remember that Calhoun was once a top prospect in both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Texas Rangers organizations, despite his MLB career being marked by consistent underperformance. A broken jaw from a hit by pitch in spring training 2020 not only derailed his career physically but also had psychological effects.

Is it possible that the 28-year-old is a late bloomer? He still has much to prove, but his performance is trending upward just when his team needs him the most.