This Friday in Cleveland the expectation is that shortstop Didi Gregorius will return from the IL to make his season debut. When Didi comes back he’ll be the Yankees everyday shortstop and Gleyber Torres will shift back to second base. As for D.J. LeMahieu, it remains to be seen how Aaron Boone plans on keeping him in the everyday lineup.
The Yankees manager is going to have some tough and interesting decisions to make in the coming weeks but these are good problems to have. With Didi’s return nearing the Yankee infield is about to get very crowded and there are only four starting spots for five All-Star caliber players:
Didi Gregorius, Gleyber Torres, Gio Urshela, Luke Voit, DJ LeMahieu
Of the five LeMahieu might seem like the odd man out when Didi comes back but that’s far from the truth because there are ways to keep his red hot bat in the everyday lineup and here’s how.
The most likely way at least in the short term is by moving him to first base and having Luke Voit take over as the primary DH. Over the past couple weeks, Kendrys Morales has gotten the bulk of that at-bats there but he really hasn’t produced much at all since becoming a Yankee and his days with the team seem to be numbered. Once Didi is activated it wouldn’t surprise me if the switch-hitting veteran gets designated for assignment.
Even though DJ really hasn’t played much at first this season or throughout his career he has the defensive skill set to be very solid there as he gets more and more reps. Voit has improved defensively at first this season but he’s still average at best there and I don’t think he’d have any problem moving to DH for the betterment of the team.
For as long as Giancarlo Stanton remains on the IL (still no exact timetable for his return) the Yanks can also opt to use a rotating DH. Every couple days Boone can give Didi, Urshela, and Torres half days off by having them DH which would then open up their spot in the infield for LeMahieu to fill.
Boone has also already said that Didi is going to ease his way back into the lineup and initially he’s going to start every two out of three games, according to Ken Davidoff of the New York Post. On the days he has off Gleyber will move back to short and DJ will go back to his customary position at second.
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Once Stanton returns and takes over as the DH there’s sure to be an even bigger logjam in the infield but as we’ve seen so far this season these things tend to have a way of playing themselves out. That being said even if everyone is still healthy when Stanton come back the Yanks and Boone need to do continue to find ways to keep LeMahieu’s bat in the lineup.
I don’t think it’s a stretch at all to say that LeMahieu has been the team MVP up to this point in the season. Urshela and Gary Sanchez aren’t far behind him in my view, but he’s been the Yankees most consistent performer and the most clutch since the start of the season. He’s made a huge impact on both sides of the ball and has been exactly what Brian Cashman hoped he would be and then some when he signed him during the offseason.
It’s no coincidence that since LeMahieu has taken over as the team’s primary leadoff hitter in late April this Yankee team has taken off. If their success is going to continue he needs to be out there on an everyday basis, by any means necessary.