Yankees’ star infielder is primed for huge bounceback season

MLB: New York Yankees at Kansas City Royals
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees, at this point, know that Aaron Judge and Juan Soto will probably hit next to each other in whatever order. However, the leadoff hitter is less of a certainty.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone has stated that his preference would be to let DJ LeMahieu win that job. If 2023 numbers are any indication, he would be an adequate, if slightly underwhelming, option, having hit .243/.327/.390 with a 101 wRC+.

A leadoff hitter with a .327 OBP would be less than ideal, but LeMahieu has been much, much better before. And he hasn’t stopped working on his game since last season.

As a result, he is looking much better, fresher, and dangerous at the plate. Yankees instructors, teammates, and even Boone have expressed optimism that the LeMahieu of old, the one who flirted with a .300 average and comfortably surpassed .350 in the OBP department, can return.

“He’s just more explosive,” Boone said, per The Athletic. “I feel like he picked it up a notch coming into camp,” Aaron Judge added to the same website.

The former MVP candidate had a rough time in the first four months of the 2023 campaign, but he improved in the last two months. After taking a couple of days off after the season, he went back to work: he was, and is, determined to rebound.

“I was ready to turn the page on last year,” the player stated. “Last year was a tough year on everybody. I wanted to give myself every chance to be myself in all areas.”

READ MORE: Yankees’ Aaron Judge working at new position in case of ’emergency’

The Yankees are giving LeMahieu a full plate

The Yankees are making LeMahieu their starting third baseman and probably their leadoff hitter, too, so the infielder will have his plate full. After a full offseason of work, the hope is that he can resemble that 2019-20 player he used to be (he finished with 136 and 177 wRC+ marks, respectively, in those years).

It is believed that a toe injury that took him out of action in the 2022 playoffs affected him early in 2023. Now that he seems fully healthy look out.

He was one of the first Yankees to report to the organization’s player development complex back in early January. That speaks volumes about his commitment to be better.

“DJ looks really great and I’m really excited where he’s at physically,” Boone said. “And I think whatever struggles he’s had at different times over the last couple years have been just that. They’ve been physical in nature. And I think he’s in as good a place as he’s been in the last couple of years. A healthy, productive DJ from an offensive position player standpoint puts us in a really good spot.”

“I’m feeling a big year out of DJ again,” Judge said. “Just the work he’s put in and the laser focus he has.”

It appears we are in for a major rebound season by LeMahieu, and the Yankees sure aren’t complaining.

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