The Yankees saw DJ LeMahieu come off of his second straight season of breaking down and missing the postseason due to injury. This time around, a toe injury caused LeMahieu to struggle down the stretch with a .355 OPS in his final 103 PAs, but he still posted a strong 116 wRC+ on the season. A high-OBP contact machine, LeMahieu is one of the premier leadoff hitters in the sport, and his presence was sorely missed at the top of the Yankee lineup.
With December coming to a close, the Yankees are seeing positive signs of healing for the 34-year-old infielder, which could be pivotal for this squad.
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Progression at the Tampa facility:
LeMahieu had been working out at the Yankees’ Spring Training facilities in Tampa, trying to evaluate where he’s at physically. To the delight of the Yankees’ medical staff, LeMahieu has been able to do baseball activities. Dan Martin of the New York Post reported a source says he’s not expected to need surgery on his injured toe, and that would mean LeMahieu would be ready to go on Opening Day.
The Yankees getting strong luck on this front could ease a lot of question marks surrounding the infield, but where does DJ LeMahieu fit in the Yankee lineup?
The Yankees every day 3B should be DJ LeMahieu:
DJ LeMahieu is projected for a 119 wRC+ in 2023, and he was an elite defensive 3B in 2022. With 7 DRS and 4 OAA in 385.2 innings at the position, he had just as many DRS as Josh Donaldson did in ~42.7% of the innings played at the position. He’s an extremely talented defensive player who has great finishes despite below-average arm strength. Donaldson struggled mightily at the plate as well and serves no real purpose with diminished power and a middling OBP, while LeMahieu could post an OBP from .350-.360 and be the everyday leadoff hitter.
LeMahieu also has a knack for clutch hits, with a 1.12 Win Probability Added and 133 wRC+ with Runners on Base. His skill set of a low chase rate, high contact rate, and 10-15 HR power is what allows him to project so well, and it should get him the starting job at 3B. Benching Gleyber Torres (115 wRC+) would also be an awful idea considering the Yankees sorely need offense, and this gives them the best lineup optimization.
- DJ LeMahieu 3B (119 wRC+)
- Aaron Judge RF (163 wRC+)
- Anthony Rizzo (126 wRC+)
- Giancarlo Stanton (132 wRC+)
- Gleyber Torres (120 wRC+)
- Oswaldo Cabrera (106 wRC+)
- Harrison Bader (105 wRC+)
- Oswald Peraza (105 wRC+)
- Jose Trevino (90 wRC+)
With their projected wRC+ numbers next to them, the lineup is simply a lot deeper with LeMahieu in it. It gives them the stable presence at the top of the lineup that they were missing in the ALCS, providing great discipline and contact skills. With fewer swings and misses and better OBP out of their 3B position, they’ll look significantly better as a unit at the plate. LeMahieu’s going to be able to get on-base for the big bats like Judge/Rizzo/Stanton/Torres while also driving in the runners he inherits when he’s at the plate. Sometimes just putting the ball in play is all it takes, and LeMahieu is built for situations like these.
The Yankees are a LF away from having one of the best offenses in the AL if LeMahieu is healthy, and these updates indicate he’s on his way to being ready for Opening Day.