It wasn’t too long ago when there was a seemingly intense “battle” between Jay Bruce and Mike Tauchman for the final spot on the Yankees’ bench. Now, just a little under three weeks into the 2021 season, Bruce doesn’t even play baseball for a living anymore and Tauchman has barely touched the field. Whether you were invested in the spring training competition or not, we can come to the obvious conclusion that the storyline between the two was overblown.
Before the regular season began, I wrote about Tauchman and previewed what his 2021 season could look like. In the article, the central talking point of consideration asked if Tauchman — with four years of club control remaining — would be expendable for the declining, 34-year-old Bruce. Due to Luke Voit’s injury, the Yankees were able to get creative and permit both of them to nab a roster spot, but neither of the two have produced to the level that was expected of them from the bench. One can fairly argue that Tauchman hasn’t been given a fair opportunity to contribute this year, but Bruce performed so poorly that he hung his spikes up before the month was out.
There was a decent group of people that preferred Bruce over Tauchman. Thankfully for the Yankees, they didn’t choose that route. With the poor play of the Bombers over the first few weeks and the hostility of Yankees fans, I could only imagine the backlash the front office would be getting right now if the Yanks cut ties with Tauchman in exchange for 10 games of Bruce. There was a possibility that just one of them would be in pinstripes by the end of March. Little did we know that after both made the Opening Day roster, only Tauchman would still be a Yankee as April neared its conclusion.
Although Bruce is safely in the past, Tauchman’s role on this team is still a little foggy. He hasn’t played in eight days and has only registered eight plate appearances over the course of six games played this year, with just one lousy single to his name. Obviously, that’s an extremely small sample size in his limited playing time, so it’s not easy to tell if Tauchman would be able to produce more than someone like Aaron Hicks, who currently sports a .160/.236/.240 triple slash and a 40 wRC+. The “Sockman” also has swiped two bags on the year, both coming on Opening Day in the bottom half of the ninth inning. He presents speed and a solid glove in the outfield, but his bat is the primary question mark here.
Tauchman has taken some practice reps at first base this year, which could possibly leverage him into a backup role behind DJ LeMahieu, but the Yanks do have the more experienced Mike Ford at the alternate site and could bring him aboard to take Bruce’s old spot. I think Tauchman deserves more of a chance to earn playing time than he’s received thus far. The offense has been dreadful to watch and they’re missing a spark plug.
Am I saying that Tauchman is that guy? Not necessarily, but at this point, what’s the harm in giving him more of a go at the plate? The Yankees offense sits at No. 28 in terms of fWAR with a 0.1. That’s certainly not the “Chase for 28” that they intended to shoot for. If he flops, then it’s not like he’d be doing much worse than how a good portion of the lineup is preforming already. Things need to change at the plate, that’s obvious. Maybe an idea as small as throwing Tauchman in there more often to try and find a rhythm is something that the Yankees could try and hope it leads them in the right direction.