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Mike Tauchman should have a prominent role with the Yankees in 2020

Tauchman’s season ended in disappointing fashion, but it shouldn’t cloud how he was performing before his injury.

MLB: New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

When the Yankees brought in Mike Tauchman from Colorado before the 2019 season began, it felt like nothing more than an emergency depth move brought on by lingering back issues for Aaron Hicks. As the season began to unfold, Tauchman performed like a 28-year-old who had only played in 52 major league games, logging a 76 wRC+ through 20 games in the first month of the season.

As Tauchman continued to see regular playing time, though, his production began to increase. Suddenly, he was performing like one of the top outfielders in the league, furthering the Yankees’ narrative of seemingly underwhelming fill-ins exceeding expectations. As Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton battled injury through most of the season, Tauchman became a consistent contributor. From when he was recalled from Triple-A on June 29 through his final action of the season on September 8, Tauchman posted a .976 OPS with 21 extra-base hits, all while playing quality defense in the outfield.

Through the first half of the season, Tauchman’s wRC+ was 92, compared to 156 in the second half. Clearly, he began to recognize the potential that the Yanks saw in him when they traded for him back in the spring, and that potential could be sustainable given what Tauchman showed throughout the season.

In the second half of the season, Tauchman began to put together better at-bats, dropping his strikeout rate from 30.2% to 19.2%. He also seemed to stop going all-in for the short porch in right, as his opposite field percentage rose 10%, while his pull percentage dropped 10%. Tauchman’s lefty swing is great for Yankee Stadium, but instead of looking to pull every pitch, he instead focused more on keeping his batted balls off the ground, dropping his groundball rate nearly 20%. The results spoke for themselves.

The Yanks are stacked with right handed power, and with Didi Gregorius potentially moving on, Tauchman could give the team a valuable lefty bat in the lineup, one that didn’t seem to mind facing southpaws last season. Tauchman posted a 161 wRC+ against lefties last year in 83 plate appearances, compared to 115 against right-handers. Particularly in the second half of the season, Tauchman showed plenty of offensive value.

Then there’s his defensive ability, which was just as promising as his bat in the second half of the season. After splitting time in all three outfield positions, primarily left field, Tauchman posted a DRS of 16, while his outs above average was in the 90th percentile, and his outfielder jump was in the 79th percentile, per Statcast. Tauchman covered plenty of ground and showed an ability to play center field productively, which he could be asked to do next season with Hicks recovering from Tommy John surgery.

With Hicks expected to miss the entire first half of the season, Tauchman could be a pivotal piece to the Yankees in 2020. Based on his all-around production last year, especially once he became a more stable presence in the lineup, there should be plenty of optimism and intrigue for his second season in pinstripes.