Last year, the New York Yankees had more than their fair share of outfield injuries. Aaron Judge went down with an oblique injury in April. Giancarlo Stanton had a litany of injuries which resulted in a lost season for him. Aaron Hicks went down with an elbow injury and ended up needing Tommy John surgery. Sure we have Brett Gardner re-signed for next season, but it may be a stretch to expect him to duplicate his career year last season. Thankfully, the Yankees have Mike Tauchman ready to play a significant role and should probably be the opening day center fielder. What can he provide exactly? Let’s take a look.
HOW WE GOT HIM
Seen as a minor move at the time, at the end of spring training, general manager Brian Cashman acquired Tauchman by sending unranked pitching prospect Phillip Diehl to the Colorado Rockies. Tauchman actually made the Yankees opening day roster, but he was a below league average hitter for the first half of the season (92 wRC+). However, in the second half of the season, when Tauchman started getting more regular playing time, he flourished. His slash line was .315/.395/.582 which is good for a 156 wRC+. Tauchman had prior success in the minors. In 2018, he produced a .978 OPS with 20 homers and 81 RBI for Colorado’s Class AAA Pacific Coast League affiliate, but never before in the majors. This was his coming-out party. After his rough start, he showed the Yankees that he can be an everyday major league hitter.
Tauchman is listed at 6’2” and 220 pounds, but he moves a lot quicker than that. According to Baseball Info Solutions, Tauchman saved 16 runs last season with his defense, better known as “Defensive Runs Saved.” That was near tops in the league. Because defensive data can be a bit noisy, it’s a good idea to have either multiple years of data or multiple sources of data to confirm a given point. If you prefer to look at Statcast, Tauchman produced nine outs above average. You can see his Statcast breakdown metrics below and where he ranks: above average everywhere.
I am firmly on team “start Tauchman in CF” for the 2020 season. As much as I love Gardner, probably more than most, his center field days are long behind him. He can spell someone 1-2 times a week, but any more than that and you run the risk of him wearing down. Stanton is great, but after a lost season like last year, I think he needs to DH more often than not, just to prove he can stay healthy and be a force again. Mike Tauchman may not end up being the standout offensive player he was last season, but he has shown he can catch the ball and at the very least put together good at-bats. I say give him the starting center field job until Hicks is ready to return. It’s what is best for the team. What do you think?