Opinion: D.J LeMahieu emerging as bright spot in dark start to Yankees’ season

After two weeks the Yankees sit at a record of 6-9 and there has not been much to smile about. They lost five of their last six after sweeping Baltimore previous weekend, and injuries have continued to pile up. One of the bright spots of the season to this point, nonetheless, has been the emergence of D.J LeMahieu.

He’s not so much of a power threat, but the Yankees knew that before adding him. In his first 14 games, LeMahieu has slashed .396/.455/.500 without a home run and seven RBI. He’s put up a .446 wOBA and a 187 wRC+. Something we may continue to see is his name in the leadoff spot if he keeps this up.

New York Yankees second baseman DJ LeMahieu is congratulated by starting pitcher James Paxton after throwing out Baltimore Orioles’ Jackson to end the top of the second inning of a baseball game, Saturday, March 30, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Despite his stellar numbers so far, we need to be mindful of his .487 BABIP. That is good for second highest in the MLB behind Tim Beckham. Without a doubt, then, we can expect a regression for LeMahieu. However, where LeMahieu has been thriving early on this season has been in hitting the fastball, and hitting it hard.

In 22 at-bats that have ended in a fastball, LeMahieu is slugging .591 with a .496 wOBA. Even with those overly-gaudy numbers, LeMahieu’s xSLG is still .509 on fastballs, and his xWOBA is .424. So, even with regression, D.J can still get to the fastball with relative ease. D.J has had similar success with breaking balls, slugging .600 on the pitch with a .442 wOBA. His expected numbers, though, show a stark difference. His xSLG is .430, still pretty good but a long way from .600, and his .316 xWOBA is a far cry from a .442 wOBA.

Another way of looking at his high BABIP, rather than just chalking it up to luck, is that his hitting tendencies lead to one. He is in the 86th percentile in exit velocity this season and the 95th percentile in hard-hit %. It’s early, but his 34.2% LD% is a vast improvement from the end of last season when he had a 23% LD% in September.

New York Yankees’ DJ LeMahieu runs past third base to score on a single by Aaron Judge during the third inning of a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers Wednesday, April 3, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Despite his overly-hot start, that will likely even itself out, LeMahieu has done exactly what the Yankees wanted out of him when they brought him over. They are not expecting him to hit the ball out of the park every at-bat. They want him to get on base and provide a solid glove in the field. That is exactly what he has done up this point early on in the season.

With the long-term absence of Miguel Andujar, LeMahieu’s only going to become more of a staple of this team. For a team that relies so heavily on the long ball and extra-base hits, LeMahieu can provide stability by hitting for a high average and getting on base. That’s not to say that Andujar will be gravely missed, or that D.J is a better player, but he’s more than just a capable replacement.

He is, at the end of the day, a lone bright spot in an otherwise gloomy start the Yankees’ 2019 campaign. They trail the red-hot and very good first-place Tampa Bay Rays by 5.5 games in the AL East. They have a decent hole to climb out of, and D.J LeMahieu is not going to be the sole answer. A lot of guys need to step up, but so far D.J has done his part.


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