DJ LeMahieu’s rehab progress shows he’ll be upgrade over Oswaldo Cabrera for Yankees

The two-time MLB batting champ nears his return to the Yankees.
Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees
Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees / New York Yankees/GettyImages

Midseason additions to a team in first place are generally a good thing. A big trade deadline addition in July can be a boost down the stretch. So how about adding a two-time MLB batting champion to the lineup as the calendar turns to June?

DJ LeMahieu continues his rehab assignment with the Yankees’ High-A affiliate, the Hudson Valley Renegades, as they play a six-game series against the New York Mets affiliate, the Brooklyn Cyclones, at Maimonides Park in Coney Island.

On Thursday night, LeMahieu went 1-for-4 with a leadoff double and run scored in the first inning as the Renegades jumped out to a five-run lead in an eventual 16-3 win.

Over his first five rehab games, the 35-year-old LeMahieu is now 4-for-11 with a double, three walks and three runs scored. He’s slashing .364/.500/.455/.955 as he nears his return to the Yankees lineup. Manager Aaron Boone has said he’ll be the Yankees regular third baseman when he's back, which could come as soon as next week when New York is in Anaheim to face the Angels.

LeMahieu has been on the 10-day injured list (retroactive to March 25) with right foot contusion. In his absence, Oswaldo Cabrera’s solid play at third base has been a huge boost for the team as they sit at 35-17 and three games ahead of the Orioles in the AL East. Cabrera has four home runs and 20 RBI, and his defense has been reliable. Per FanGraphs, he’s tied with Josh Smith of Texas for the AL lead on Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) for third basemen at +2, which ties him at fourth overall in MLB.

However, Cabrera’s -4 on Outs Above Average (OAA) according to Statcast, which ranks 35th among qualified third basemen, as well as a .663 OPS (for a below league average OPS+ of 87) leaves room for improvement.

LeMahieu was a +3 on both DRS and OAA last season in his 592 2/3 innings played at third base, and had a +7 on DRS and +4 on OAA in only 385 2/3 innings at 3B in 2022.

DJ also has a career OPS of .769 and OBP of .354, numbers that Cabrera just cannot match. Even in a down year in 2023, LeMahieu slashed .243/.327/.390/.717, numbers that still look better than Cabrera’s .252/.292/.371/.663 line this season.

Yankee fans will be happy that LeMahieu’s return is fast approaching. DJ is scheduled to continue his rehab assignment with the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders this weekend, so we’ll all look forward to his 2024 debut in California next week.