I am someone who is optimistic that Jay Bruce can contribute some value offensively, but that’s no guarantee. In the last three seasons, he’s posted a mere 92 wRC+ and .305 wOBA, meaning he’s no sure thing at all. He’s a power bat and seeing a left-handed hitter is refreshing but is he the best option at 1B?
I think there’s a very compelling case that Mike Tauchman could be a better fit than Bruce in this role. Luke Voit being injured sucks, but if the Yankees are going to capitalize on an opportunity to get creative, why not? Let’s talk about Tauchman and this first base experiment.
First Base Is Not Important Defensively
While Tauchman is known for his outfield skills, he actually played some 1B before in college. While that wouldn’t matter on the surface, it mattered enough for him to take reps Thursday at 1B, which isn’t shocking to me. The position is rather worthless defensively, with it having the worst positional adjustment at -12.5 out of all positions besides DH. Jay Bruce has a career -4.5 UZR/150 and -3 DRS at the position, so Tauchman doesn’t have to do much to be a better defender. They’d both be below average defensive first basemen, and since the position isn’t valuable defensively, it’s all about offensive output, and Tauchman has a strong case.
Mike Tauchman’s Underappreciated Offense
I myself fell victim to underrating Tauchman’s bat all offseason. It came out that Tauchman had a shoulder injury in 2020 that affected his ability to drive the ball. This was shown in his batted ball data, as his exit velocity, xwOBA, and barrel% all plummeted. Tauchman and Bruce are coming off of similar offensive seasons, with Tauchman having a 78 wRC+ and Bruce an 83 wRC+, but Tauchman in 2019 was far superior. Tauchman boasts a 114 wRC+ and .356 OBP as a Yankee. It’s fair to assume a healthy Tauchman (as shown in Spring Training) can bring up the power numbers. If he can be around a .410 SLG% with his .340-.360 OBP, he’s a better hitter than Bruce most likely. With that being said, does this mean the Yankees should start Tauchman at 1st?
Starting Mike Tauchman Over Jay Bruce At First Base
If you feel confident in Mike Tauchman’s defense at 1B to be good enough to make routine plays: start him. He’s got a knack for getting on base and is a left-handed hitter just like Bruce. Tauchman was on pace for a 5.7 fWAR over 650 PAs in 2019, so the sky is the limit for him. Tauchman also provides speed with a 2.9 BsR, which is extremely valuable. We saw it on Opening Day when he pinch ran and swiped two bases.
Plus when Voit gets back, Bruce is most likely getting DFA’d. Tauchman at 1B is an idea that just makes more sense, and Bruce is a fine bat off the bench.
Many people won’t buy into this, and that’s fine. This is all hinged on some crazy idea of Tauchman being able to play 1B, which is easier said than done. If the Yankees do want to play around with that, all I’m saying is that it’s worth a shot.
Bruce is a worse hitter and runner, so let’s see the Sock Man return to the lineup.