Keep scrolling after this post for more of our 2020 projections
Since the 2020 season is just 60 games, Aaron Boone will have a few interesting decisions to make on how he uses the bench. With such small sample sizes for bench players, statistical projections are hard to make.
The third base job is Gio Urshela’s to lose, with Miguel Andujar fully back from his shoulder injury in 2020.
Andujar’s offense is his strong suit. In 2018, his last full season, he had 27 home runs, 170 hits and 92 RBI with a .297 average. It was interesting to see on the Yankees roster list for Summer Camp that Andujar was listed under “Infielders/Outfielders” alongside Tyler Wade, and Rosell Herrera, who raked in spring training back in March. Andujar looked comfortable in the outfield down in Tampa.
Andujar could get some reps at first base, too. He will likely see a few games at DH this season I’m sure, but that spot is reserved mostly for Giancarlo Stanton, if Judge is as healthy as we all hope.
Mike Tauchman is next on the bench as the backup outfielder. Last year in 87 games he recorded 13 home runs and 47 RBI, and made some outstanding catches. I think Tauchman has a lot to show this season to back up what he did in 2019. Barring injury to one of the big outfielders, Tauchman will likely slot in to give guys rest, especially Aaron Hicks as he comes back from Tommy John surgery. He could also be a late-game defensive substitution for Stanton when he plays the outfield.
Kyle Higashioka will be on the bench as the backup catcher. With 60 games in only 66 days, it’s guaranteed that Gary will need at least a few days off. Even if I’m generous and say Gary plays 75% of games, Kyle plays 15 games this season.
Last year in the first 15 games of the season, Higgy hit .226 with 3 homers and 11 RBI over 13 starts.
I don’t expect particularly big things from Higgy offensively in 2020 in such a small sample size. While he has some pop with the long ball, Higashioka is known as a defensive catcher who can frame pitches. He averaged about a 54.5% strike rate which is above league average in 2019. If he can hit .250 in a backup role, the Yankees will take that all day.
Tyler Wade is my personal favorite bench player. The kid can do almost anything, playing outfield, second, and short. He’s also one of, if not the fastest player on the team. Wade is the backup middle infielder this season, meaning we should see him about 25% percent of this season between the two positions, based on DJ and Gleyber’s history.
With 16 games out of 60 I expect a few impactful plays to come from Wade, but I expect even more from his speed. Wade will be a valuable asset off the bench as a pinch runner, and his ability to bunt for a base hit puts pressure on the defense.
In the first 16 games Wade played last season, he started 12 and hit .243/.349/.592 with 7 runs scored, and 5 stolen bases.
My heart wanted to give this last spot to Clint Frazier, but the reality is we need Mike Ford to back up Luke. If Luke goes injury free, I will think that he would play about 85% of games meaning Ford starts about 10 games this season. Ford only made three errors in his 217 innings last season so he’s certainly going to give us a solid performance when he is at first base. Ford is average at the plate with a .259 in 50 games last season, and I don’t expect much different this season. However, his power threat can’t be denied.