The coronavirus pandemic has affected many things in 2020. Talking about playing time prospects for a New York Yankees’ player is a million times better than doing it about hospitals, deaths, the peak of the curve, the spread of the disease and the millions of job positions lost around the world. Still, we are a Yankees’ blog and it is our job to point out situations regarding the team when we see them.
In this case, COVID-19 made Mike Tauchman lose considerable playing time to start the season. Why is that? Well, with no pandemic, the Yankees would be down three starting-caliber outfielders because of injury: Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton.
However, when the season starts (or shall we say “if”, because of the way negotiations between the MLB owners and the union are going) there is a great chance that the trio is fully recovered and ready to play, robbing Tauchman of some valuable playing time.
Make no mistake about it either, Tauchman needed regular at-bats to cement his place in the starting lineup down the road. Of course, it would be very difficult to be a full-time starter in a team with Judge, Stanton, Hicks and Brett Gardner, not to mention Clint Frazier and now Miguel Andujar. Given Tauchman’s talent and the lack of competition at the time because of all the injuries, however, he could have been given a long look to see whether his batting line from last year was legitimate.
Now, such assessment will be more difficult to fully achieve. The Yankees, given all the bodies and a compressed schedule — hypothetically — will use as many talented bodies as they have, severely cutting Tauchman’s chances of finding a groove.
He will play nonetheless, but...
The one thing that may save Tauchman’s playing time prospects is his awesome defense. That alone should give him plenty of at-bats, but the problem is that the Yankees have two other more-than-capable center fielders in Hicks and Gardner. And while Tauchman’s best position is left field, Gardner can play very well there, too, and it would be Andujar’s most likely spot if/when he plays the outfield.
To say that things are very crowded in the Yankees’ outfield would be an understatement.
Nonetheless Tauchman will play, although not as much as he would have if the season had begun on March 26. Aaron Boone will have to find a spot for him at least semi-regularly, because he may be the Yankees’ best defensive left fielder.
He had a 4.2 defensive rating according to Fangraphs, which is basically fielding runs above average. He rated in the 95th percentile in Statcast’s Outs Above Average, and in the 79th percentile in outfield jump. In 472.2 frames in left field, Tauchman had a 6.3 UZR and a 19.1 UZR/150, with a very good 12 DRS. He was a capable center fielder in limited time, too, with a 0.7 UZR, a 3.7 UZR/150 and 2 DRS in 99.2 innings.
Tauchman even played some right field, and he did it with honors: 0.2 UZR, 2.2 UZR/150 and 4 DRS in 122 frames.
Inside edge fielding tells us that Tauchman the left fielder made all his routine plays, 90 in total, three of four in the “Likely” category (60-90% probability) for a 75%, and all three “unlikely” plays he qualified for (100%.) The dude is rangy.
While he might not actually be a .277/.361/.504 hitter, or a 128 wRC+ one if you will, if he can at least have a 110-115 wRC+ with that defense, he will justify his playing time.