Jose Trevino’s blistering first half last year was a shot in the arm for the Yankees, and propelled him to his first American League All-Star nod. We all know of his Platinum Glove defensive prowess, but his contributions with the bat upon arriving took the lineup to the next level. Even so, fans knew that his offensive performance was likely unsustainable — the first half of 2022 was his longest stretch as an above-average hitter so far in his career. Expectations for this year were a little higher than they were headed into last season, but nobody was holding out hope he’d mash consistently as he did to open 2022.
As a right-handed hitter, seeing lefties has always been Trevino’s strength and his career platoon splits are severe, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but perhaps redundant with the presence of Kyle Higashioka. Ben Rortvedt, for example, offers a solid glove and left-handed bat that would compliment a righty-hitting lefty-mashing starting catcher. For now though, the Yankees roll with Trevino and Higashioka, maximizing defense but limiting their platoon flexibility behind the plate.
But back to Trevino’s offensive woes specifically. Predictably, Trevino’s bat didn’t stay so hot for the whole year, and he ended 2022 with a 91 wRC+ after being above-average at the All-Star Break. Now, he’s got an awful 57 wRC+ for 2023. He’s up to 124 plate appearances this year pre-All Star Game, and he had 184 before midseason last year, so the sample sizes are starting to become comparable.
Trevino has always been prone to swing-and-miss and a bad habit of chasing breaking balls. In an empirically significant and encouraging change, though, he’s cut down on his strikeout rate each of the last two years, indicating a better approach. It fell from 18.9 percent in 2021 to 17.6 percent in 2022 and 15.3 percent in 2023, a steady improvement.
The other facets of his offensive game have deteriorated, though. He’s been unable to do damage on contact. His BABIP has fallen from .274 to .232 this year, which could be partially attributable to batted ball luck, but could also speak to a lack of quality contact. He’s also been hitting the ball on the ground this year. A big part of his 2022 success was his 39.9 percent ground ball rate, lower than any other year of his career. This season, that mark is up to 45.9 percent. It’s difficult to slug when you hit most balls in play on the ground. Especially with catcher legs.
In 2022, he went up there hacking, swinging at a full 50 percent of the pitches that he saw. Yes, he made some concessions in the form of a putrid walk rate, but his offensive results still improved. He’s swung at a slightly less aggressive rate this year, making more contact but also softer contact.
Let’s take two at-bats into consideration, one from 2022 and one from after his return from the IL at the end of May 2023, to better visualize his struggles.
The first clip is from May 31, 2022, against the Angels. This came a week after he authored an instant classic ending by walking off the Orioles on May 23, with his offensive confidence at an all-time high. He waits out the slider from the lefty and instead of turning on it, drives it to left-center field for a base hit.
Contrast that swing with this recent at-bat against Brayan Bello of the Red Sox on June 11 at Yankee Stadium. The pitch Bello throws is a hanger, much more so than the previous example. Instead of showing the same patient load and quick hands, he drifts forward and his hands are late, putting him off-balance at the point of contact and unable to drive the hanging slider.
He “topped” the pitch and made weak contact for a groundout. We can see the imbalance in his contact in his numbers: he topped just 29.2 percent of pitches in 2022 compared to 39.8 percent in 2023. All of these statistical tidbits illuminate the fact that pounding the ball into the ground has predictably sapped Trevino’s offensive production.
The Yankees don’t necessarily need Trevino to anchor the lineup, but the occasional timely hit is something he provided last year that’s pointedly missing from this year’s squad. With so many talented position players missing time due to injury this year, a boost from some of the less-heralded hitters could prove crucial. Trevino hasn’t been up to the task so far this year, but he could start to chip in if he can get the ball off the ground a bit more.