Much like the beginning of last year, the Yankees outfield depth has been dealt a massive blow in 2020. Giancarlo Stanton continues to battle injury like he did early in 2019, when a biceps strain in the opening series of the regular season sparked the start of an avalanche of injuries that made him a non-factor for most of the year. Aaron Hicks experienced a similar fate, and Aaron Judge suffered an oblique strain that took a chunk out of his season.
Before the wave of injuries hit the Bombers, Mike Tauchman was brought in via trade, in a move that nobody seemed to think would move the needle to much for the Yanks. But boy, were we all very wrong.
Tauchman spent time at all three outfield spots, posted a 128 OPS+ and clocked 13 home runs in 296 plate appearances. One of the many surprising heroes of last year’s division title, Tauchman was crucial to the team’s ability to weather what was a historic amount of injuries.
One year later, and it looks like the Yankees will need an encore from Tauchman. Judge, Stanton and Hicks all look likely to miss Opening Day, making Tauchman a starter for the early parts of the season, at least. Can he show his 2019 wasn’t a fluke and keep the Yanks afloat yet again? Fortunately, Tauchman’s trend through the 2019 campaign suggests he will be up for the challenge.
Tauchman didn’t just surprise with his .865 OPS last season. He continued to get better as the season went along. In July, over 57 plate appearances, Tauchman was a monster, posting a 221 wRC+ and an isolated power of .327. In August, over 97 plate appearances, Tauchman posted a 127 wRC+, helping boost his mark over the second half of the season to 156, compared to 92 over the first half. He was producing at a similar rate in September before a calf injury ended his season, but just because he wasn’t a factor in October, it shouldn’t be forgotten how valuable he was before that.
It also shouldn’t be overlooked that Tauchman consistently developed a better eye at the plate as the season went along. Take a look at his monthly strikeout rate through the 2019 season:
On top of his ever-improving bat, Tauchman was huge defensively, and not just because of his versatility at a time when multiple outfield positions needed to be filled. Tauchman posted a DRS of 18 last year, and was above average in every spot, including center field. That could be huge for the Yanks when Brett Gardner — likely the regular center fielder until Hicks returns — needs a breather, whether it be from playing on turf, playing day games after night games, or if Gardner just needs a rest as a 36-year-old everyday player.
Tauchman proved himself in 2019, and like Luke Voit last year after a monster 2018 campaign, the Yanks will be watching closely to see if Tauchman is the real deal. Given the already gloomy injury situation, the Yankees could really use another strong year from Tauchman.