Yankees’ utility man may have rediscovered his form

MLB: Texas Rangers at New York Yankees, dj lemahieu
Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

As the trade deadline approaches, the New York Yankees seek every opportunity to reinforce their offensive capacity. The burden of aging veterans with costly contracts has been the team’s Achilles heel this season. However, utilityman DJ LeMahieu appears to be scripting a turnaround tale following a disappointing first half.

DJ LeMahieu: Struggling Veteran with Potential

At 35, LeMahieu sports a .232 batting average and a .295 on-base percentage (OBP), having hit eight homers and contributed 28 RBIs this season. He’s struggling with a 22.6% strikeout rate, almost 10% higher than his last season, and his walk rate of 7.7% is the first time since 2020 he’s slipped into double digits below. His 84 wRC+ (Weighted Runs Created Plus) signifies that he’s performing 16% below the league-average batter, which is an anomaly for LeMahieu, known for his elite discipline at the plate.

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The All-Star Break Turning Point: LeMahieu Finds His Footing

However, there has been a notable change in LeMahieu’s performance following the All-Star break and the appointment of new hitting coach Sean Casey. Over the last 15 days, LeMahieu’s stats show a promising upward trend: a .324 batting average, a .359 OBP, a .486 slugging rate, and a .845 OPS (On-base Plus Slugging). He’s also hit a home run and had only five strikeouts in 37 at-bats.

In contrast to his .172 batting average and .226 OBP in June, he’s now hitting .254 with a .318 OBP in July, showing a marked improvement over the past two weeks.

LeMahieu’s Continued Value to the Yankees: The $90 Million Deal

LeMahieu’s current six-year, $90 million contract, averaging $15 million per season until 2026, underscores the Yankees’ need for him to continue as a net positive contributor. On the defensive front, he continues to be a valuable player in the infield, having played 472.1 innings at third base this season with a .993 fielding percentage, two defensive runs saved, and two outs above average.

The Yankees deeply missed LeMahieu’s contributions in the postseason just a year ago, making 2023 a bumpy year as he attempts to regain his form. A performance drop-off of this extent is unusual, even for a player of 35 years. Yet, age is undeniably a factor affecting his game.

The Silver Lining: LeMahieu Boosts Yankees’ Offensive Prospects

Despite the challenges, DJ LeMahieu’s recent surge in positive metrics suggests a potential boost for the Yankees’ offense over the next two months. As the team struggles to secure a spot in the Wild Card race, LeMahieu’s return to form could be a much-needed impetus.