Yankees Turmoil: Trio of utility men running into offensive walls

yankees, dj lemahieu
Mar 6, 2023; Tampa, Florida, USA; New York Yankees third baseman DJ LeMahieu (26) throws to first fro an out against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the fourth inning during spring training at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees cannot presently afford lackluster offensive performances. The absence of their superstar hitter, Aaron Judge, has rendered the team mediocre, despite an array of big-name players and expensive contracts dotting the roster.

In the wake of scoring less than four runs in four successive games, the Yankees are starting to lose their footing in the AL East standings. They currently trail by 9.5 games from first place, a position solidly held by the Tampa Bay Rays.

In second place are the Baltimore Orioles, lagging by 5.5 games. This could mean that the Yankees might miss out on the post-season alongside several other teams due to the strength of their division. Of course, there’s still a long way to go.

Entering the 2023 season, the Yankees were notably enthusiastic about the potential of their numerous quality utility players. Regrettably, all three have hit a formidable offensive roadblock.

The Yankees are currently dealing with three struggling utility players:

1.) DJ LeMahieu

DJ LeMahieu has been one of the Yankees’ most consistent performers over the years. Now aged 34, he ended the 2022 season on a positive note, despite a toe injury that significantly reduced his numbers in September. He nevertheless managed a .261 batting average with a .357 OBP.

However, LeMahieu is now potentially facing his worst season professionally, hitting .236 with a .298 OBP and an 89 wRC+, his lowest since his 2018 season with the Colorado Rockies.

While LeMahieu brings the Yankees outstanding defensive prowess at numerous positions, his offensive struggles have occurred at an inopportune time. Prior to Sunday’s loss to Boston in June, the veteran infielder hit .158 with a .200 OBP. In May, he hit .238 with a .294 OBP, significantly below his career averages.

Understandably, LeMahieu is vexed and asserts that he must trust his instincts more and refrain from overcomplicating the process.

2.) Isiah Kiner-Falefa

The Yankees transitioned Isiah Kiner-Falefa to a utility role following his unsuccessful bid for the shortstop position during spring training.

Regrettably, his performance has been a shadow of his former self, hitting .245 with a career-low .286 OBP this season. Despite never exceeding a 100 wRC+, he now has the lowest number in his career at 79 since 2019.

Although IKF proved to be a commendable substitute outfielder, his offensive productivity has been just as poor as LeMahieu’s. Interestingly, IKF hasn’t been deployed as much of late, despite hitting .292 with a .320 OBP in June. The Yankees might want to contemplate using him more frequently, given this rise in his stats.

3.) Oswaldo Cabrera

Oswaldo Cabrera has been one of the most underwhelming performers this season. He currently has a .196 batting average with a .244 OBP and a .307 slugging rate. His 50 wRC+ is among the team’s worst, leading to the Yankees’ decision to relegate him recently before a spate of injuries struck the outfield.

At this stage, the Yankees seem to possess ample defensive talent but lack an above-average batter to bolster their offense in the absence of Judge and Harrison Bader.

Cabrera, at 24 years old, still has the potential to improve his performance and become a valuable contributor in the future. However, for now, his struggles in the batter’s box make him an unreliable choice for a regular starting position.

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