Yankees fans expressed a lot of confusion when the team acquired Mike Tauchman and optioned Tyler Wade after a strong spring training performance. The Yankees sent left-handed relief pitcher Phillip Diehl to the Rockies in exchange for Tauchman, a 28-year-old outfielder with 52 games of MLB experience under his belt. It seemed like a strange decision to block Wade’s path to the major league roster with an unknown career minor leaguer, but Tauchman wasn’t unknown to the Yankees’ front office. In fact, he has more upside than your typical emergency outfield replacement.
I’ve seen a handful of comments referring to Tauchman as this year’s version of Shane Robinson. In his nine-year MLB career, Robinson has averaged two home runs and 23 RBI per 162 games. Tauchman has far less MLB experience, but he’s coming off a minor league season in which he put up an exemplary .323/.408/.571 line and drove in 81 runs in 112 games. He walked nearly as much as he struck out and blasted 20 home runs. There’s no denying there’s much more upside in Tauchman’s offensive profile than a player like Robinson.
Tauchman came into the minor leagues as a speed-first outfielder with limited power and has since become a poster boy for late-blooming prospects. Alex Chamberlain of FanGraphs took a deep dive on Tauchman back in February and highlighted his 2017 season, during which he doubled his career home run total. The outfielder paired his sudden power surge with a spectacular 7.7% whiff rate and a strong .55 BB/K ratio.
The outfielder improved all of those metrics once again in the 2018 season, with his BB/K ratio skyrocketing more than 50%. There’s something to be said for a player that experiences a breakout season and continues to grow across the board a year later, even if he’s past his mid-twenties. Tauchman seems to have an understanding of the power and contact balance it takes to become a valuable big league regular in 2019, and he made the necessary adjustments to keep his career moving in the right direction.
With all of that said, Tauchman hasn’t exactly set the world on fire in his first chance with the Yankees. He’s batting only .182 and striking out in 36% of at-bats through his first 11 games. There are, however, signs of a player that’s capable of turning some heads. On Wednesday, Tauchman knocked in a run with a two-out double off a Chris Sale slider, and later smoked a 2-0 cutter from Erasmo Ramirez 399 feet into the second deck at Yankee Stadium to all but put away the Red Sox. His playing time might be sporadic, but the Yankees now have some evidence of the impact Tauchman can make on any given night.
Barring any setbacks, Aaron Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton will be returning from the injured list in the coming weeks. Tauchman might once again find himself roaming a Triple-A outfield or warming the bench, but the experiment isn’t over yet. There’s a higher ceiling on him than first meets the eye, but whether or not he gets the opportunity to reach it could be a whole different story.