A little more than a week ago, the New York Yankees acquired Rougned Odor from the Texas Rangers. Since then, the second baseman has appeared in three games for the Yankees. As the Yankees infield continues to miss first baseman, Luke Voit, Odor will continue to have plenty of opportunities. If he capitalizes on them, the team might move on from off-season acquisition Jay Bruce, sooner than expected.
With the acquisition of Odor, the Yankees have the ability to play DJ LeMahieu at first base. With five solid outfielders and Giancarlo Stanton at DH, all of a sudden Bruce doesn’t have a spot in the lineup. He hasn’t exactly had the best showing in pinstripes either. Offensively, he continues to prove he’s no longer the Bruce of 2017. In 30 AB’s with the Yankees, Bruce has three hits which equate to an underwhelming .133 batting average. He wasn’t exactly hitting the cover off the ball in Spring Training either. In 15 Spring Training games, Bruce hit .206.
Although his offense has been mediocre to start the year, my main problem isn’t his offensive production. It’s his defense. Bruce is not a major league first baseman. In 14 seasons in the major leagues, Bruce hasn’t even started 60 games at the position and it shows. Multiple times this season, we’ve seen Bruce fail to even glove picks at first base. These are picks that major league first basemen HAVE to make. Good high school players pick these balls, or at least glove them and prevent them from getting out of play. These plays can have huge impacts on games.
Take Tuesday night for example. On a tough play for Gio Urshella, he throws a ball in the dirt to Bruce at first. A ball that should be picked. Not only does he not pick it, but Bruce deflects the ball into the first base dugout. Bo Bichttte is now in scoring position off a chopper hit up the middle. Bichette would end up scoring but this play is more significant than one run. It’s early in the game. Jameson Taillon is trying to settle in and get a rhythm going. Plays like this, destroy any rhythm or groove a pitcher is trying to settle into. You execute a pitch, a player has a weak soft contact on it, and all of a sudden there’s a runner in scoring position and you’re pitching from the stretch. This is how big innings start. Poor defense like that doesn’t cut it in October and it cannot continue if the Yankees want to win it all.
The Yankees defense hasn’t exactly been great even without Bruce at first. They cannot afford any more defensive liabilities. With the nature of baseball and a struggling Gleyber Torres at shortstop, Yankee first basemen will continue to see throws like the one’s last night. With Odor at second and LeMahieu at first, the Yankees defense is more sound. So if Odor can prove he belongs in this lineup, we may be seeing LeMahieu picking those balls at first.