2 key ways DJ LeMahieu can help Yankees' offense as he returns

Houston Astros v New York Yankees
Houston Astros v New York Yankees / New York Yankees/GettyImages

The Yankees have been firing on all cylinders offensively, and it appears another bat will be back sooner rather than later.

DJ LeMahieu has been out all season with a non-displaced foot fracture, but will continue to participate in a rehab assignment this weekend. Thus far, he's competed for both the Somerset Patriots and Hudson Valley Renegades. When he does return, presuming his foot holds up, the vaunted utility man could fit New York’s current arrangement by providing versatile defense and respectable plate discipline.

When LeMahieu does return, he will purportedly serve as the team’s primary third baseman to begin things, a spot that’s been held by Oswaldo Cabrera and Jon Berti in recent weeks.

“We know the things he can do for us,’’ Cabrera told the New York Post.

Even though Cabrera acknowledged what the 35-year old can bring to the table, New York hasn’t necessarily needed him to this point. According to FanGraphs, Cabrera is currently tied for third in Defensive Runs Saved among third baseman through his first 322.2 innings at the position.

LeMahieu will have to play the position with elegance. While he’s a four-time Gold Glove winner, it’s not known how swift he’ll look coming off a foot injury. It’s possible that he could spend time at first base and allow Anthony Rizzo to occasionally sit when facing a left-handed starter. Offering this versatility will also allow Cabrera to remain a relevant force.

How DJ LeMahieu can contribute to Yankees despite regression

Offensively, LeMahieu has regressed since winning batting titles in 2016 and 2020. Age has certainly contributed to his inconsistent play. His K% was a career-high 22.2% by the end of last season, and his barrel% only ranked in the 26th percentile.

Admittedly, he was slightly better towards the end of 2023. LeMahieu hit .273 in the second half of the season and his September/October wRC+ of 104 was above average. It’s not likely that the veteran will suddenly return to All-Star form, but he should be able to put together tough at-bats and make pitchers work.

Even over the last few decline years, LeMahieu’s chase rate has been respectable. With the Yankees now boasting a number of batters who can hit for both contact and power, his greatest strength may be his ability to work deep into counts and force pitchers to attack him.

Even if this does not always result in a base hit or walk, he’ll be applying pressure and adding to the opposition’s pitch count. Consider LeMahieu another Jon Berti, and his contributions will be far more appreciated than if the expectations float around the All-Star level. Such a presence could be extremely helpful for the Bombers, especially if manager Aaron Boone decides to bat LeMahieu towards the bottom part of the order, and continues to trust Anthony Volpe in the leadoff spot.

The first place Yankees have proven to be a tough bunch, and DJ LeMahieu could add more versatility to an already prolific roster.