On March 23, the Yankees traded left-handed pitcher Phillip Diehl to Colorado for outfielder Mike Tauchman. Tauchman was a two-sport athlete in high school, quarterbacking the football team in addition to playing baseball. He was drafted in 2013 in the 10th round by the Rockies and was called up four years later. The trade essentially bumped Tyler Wade from making the Opening Day roster, a surprise to many. So what do the Yankees see in the 28-year-old outfielder with only 69 big league plate appearances to his name?
An American League scout described Tauchman as having “plus speed and solid plate discipline with gap power.” He hit .323 in Triple-A last year in 112 games, launching 20 home runs and driving in 84. Furthermore, he posted a 153 wRC+ (100 is league average). Yet his minor league success has not translated to the majors: he has a measly .222 on-base percentage in his brief MLB career.
So is this just a depth piece? Well, the Yankees’ analytics team has been able to aid in detecting diamonds in the rough in recent years. These include players such as Luke Voit, Aaron Hicks, and Didi Gregorius, all of whom have had a big impact at the major league level. Tauchman in all likelihood won’t amount to as much as those players, but given the team’s deluge of early-season injuries, it is possible he can still add some value.
As noted above, Tauchman has plus speed. The average sprint speed in the MLB is around 27 feet per second (fps). Tauchman averaged 28.9 fps in 2018 with a 4.17 second home to first time. In terms of his plate discipline, he has averaged a 9.9 percent walk rate across his time in the minors. For context, a 10 percent walk rate is considered above average (about 8 percent is considered average). Most recently in 2018, he has a 12.7 percent walk rate, which is considered great. He had a 15.1 percent strikeout rate in his minor league career, deemed to be above average. He also sees a lot of pitches. In his major league career, he has averaged 4.29 pitches per plate appearance. That would typically rank in the top ten in the entire league.
There’s at least one fan of Tauchman out there: back in February (before the trade) Alex Chamberlain of FanGraphs wrote a hype post about the outfielder. In it, he details Tauchman’s breakout 2017 season in the minors, which saw his power spike while still putting the ball in play at an above-average clip. Tauchman followed this up with an even better 2018. Overall, Chamberlain found that only six other minor leaguers since 2009 had been better than Tauchman at the combination of power and contact.
Of course, thriving at Triple-A doesn’t guarantee success at the MLB. But we know that he will get some chances to show his value now that Giancarlo Stanton has landed on the 10-day IL with a left biceps strain, joining fellow outfielder Aaron Hicks, who may not be back until May.