It’s no secret that defense was a weak spot for the Yankees in 2020. Plenty of games featured sloppy fielding. But for all the bobbled balls and errors, infielders such as Gio Urshela and DJ LeMahieu contributed Gold Glove-caliber defense, Luke Voit improved his fielding at first base, and Clint Frazier showed he is an above-average outfielder (enough so to be named a Gold Glove finalist). The Yankees made a number of jaw-dropping plays in 2020 that are worthy of a highlight reel. These five impressed me most:
5) DJ LeMahieu takes a base hit away from Rays catcher Kevan Smith
LeMahieu could win a Gold Glove playing at any base, but he shows off his extra-long range at second with this diving snag. If that ball went by LeMahieu, another run would have scored on Smith’s base hit. LeMahieu’s instantaneous reaction and glove work are truly beautiful as he robs an RBI from Smith. In the video, check out DJ’s read on ball and how long it takes for Tyler Wade to enter the frame.
4) Aaron Judge does his best Willie Mays impression, robs Ji-Man Choi of a hit
Ji-Man Choi’s bat gave the Yankees plenty of grief during the division series against the Rays and needless to say, ALDS Game Three would have started off on a terrible note for the Yankees had Choi homered on the first pitch he saw off Masahiro Tanaka in the first inning. Fortunately, Aaron Judge was right on top of it.
With the late-afternoon sun visibly impeding his ability to track the ball, Aaron Judge chased down Choi’s fly ball to the warning track and made a snow cone catch on the run.
3) Kyle Higashioka limits the damage on a cross-up with the bases loaded
The 2020 season provided Kyle Higashioka with a chance to showcase his elite blocking and pitch framing skills. Throughout the ALDS against the Rays, and especially in Game 4 while catching Jordan Montgomery, Higgy made a number of extraordinary blocks behind the plate.
This catch in Game One, which Higgy made following a cross-up with Gerrit Cole, stopped a messy disaster from unfolding with the bases loaded in a one-run playoff game. That Higgy actually caught this pitch and was able to hold the runners is a testament to his reflexes and receiving skills.
2) Clint Frazier robs Rays infielder Joey Wendle of an extra-base hit
With the score tied at two in the top of the sixth, Frazier stretched out to make a sensational diving catch to rob Joey Wendle of a double. Since his outfield troubles in 2019, Frazier really improved his ability to get a speedy jump on the ball and it shows. It was nice to see Frazier looking confident and making sharp plays near the wall this year. After witnessing him struggle with the lingering effects of a concussion he sustained in 2018, Frazier should take pride in his defensive performance in the outfield this year. His superman dives and impressive catches were certainly noticed around the American League, seeing as he was recently named as a 2020 Gold Glove finalist.
1) Gio Urshela initiates a double play from his butt in Game Two of the AL Wild Card Series
Plays made by Urshela could have populated all five spots on this list, and it pains me to choose just one. Due to the high-leverage circumstances and the impact the play had on the Yankees’ momentum, I eventually settled on Urshela turning Carlos Santana’s potential run-scoring base hit into a double play in Game Two of the AL Wild Card Series in Cleveland. More impressively, Urshela turned the play while seated on his butt.
Cleveland had runners on first and second with one out when Urshela dove to his left to stop Santana’s grounder. After making the diving stop, Urshela rolled onto his back and barely sat up before firing the ball to second to initiate a 5-4-3 double play to get out of the inning. Thanks to his defensive wizardry, the Yankees were able to hold the Indians to a one-run lead going into the ninth inning, instead of trailing by more.