For most of spring training, Mike Tauchman’s days on the Yankees looked numbered. Tauchman, one of few lefties on the team, saw his stock fall after struggling mightily at the plate last year — even by 2020 standards. In light of the news that the outfielder has made the team, rumors of Tauchman generating trade interest can be put to bed.
Although Tauchman had a breakout year in 2019 where he hit .277/.361/.504, he nonetheless struggled against pitchers who threw heat. His struggles to hit both lefties and high-velocity pitchers only continued in 2020 (notably, he did admit to playing through a shoulder injury last year). His at-bats didn’t look much better during the first few weeks of camp this year, though he appears to have found a groove more recently, going 4-for-11 with two home runs in the last four games he’s played.
Still, considering spring training games don’t count for bupkis, what can we infer from Tauchman’s performance this spring?
For one, he is hitting the ball harder. During the weird, truncated 2020 season, Tauchman had a 84.7 mph average exit velocity on batted balls, which is significantly below the league average (92.8 mph). He also looked uncomfortable and lost at the plate, unable to catch up to fastballs. This spring, he’s been able to increase his average exit velocity to 87.2 mph, and that number goes up to 95.8 mph when isolating his average exit velocity on just fly balls and line drives. The homer he hit in a game versus the Tigers on March 16th — he belted a 96 mph fastball off of Bryan Garcia — is also a promising sign.
Relative to last season, Tauchman has looked eons more competent at the plate so far in camp. In a few different postgame interviews, he has spoken about adjustments he made over the winter to his swing, and how those tweaks have enabled him to feel more confident at the plate. Hitting requires confidence, so that’s a good thing. “You can’t be afraid of failure,” he recently told the YES Network’s Meredith Marakovitz, who had asked Tauchman about the aggressive approach he has displayed at the plate this spring.
It’s both exciting and a relief to see Tauchman hitting the ball harder in camp this year, but he’s not out of the woods yet. Spring training stats rarely indicate how a player will perform during the regular season, so the power Tauchman has shown in 27 Grapefruit League at-bats should be taken with a grain of salt. Also, though his power is somewhat improved, his average exit velocity this spring is still 1.5 mph lower than it was in 2019. Tauchman’s hitting the ball harder than he did in 2020, but his hardest-hit ball this spring clocked in at 102.2 mph. That’s still much lower than his max exit velocity (109.8 mph) in 2019 and 2020 (111.8 mph).
It is promising that Tauchman’s bat eventually got hot in spring training this year. But he still needs to show what he is capable of offensively in the regular season. While his exit velocity has improved relative to 2020, he’s not exactly blowing everything out of the park. Tauchman will need to show more consistency with his power to prove himself during the 2021 season and show that he has a place in the team’s future.