What does DJ LeMahieu mean to the future of the Yankees’ infield?

VENICE, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 28: DJ LeMahieu #26 of the New York Yankees awaits the pitch in the second inning during the spring training game against the Atlanta Braves at Cool Today Park on February 28, 2020 in Venice, Florida.

DJ LeMahieu will be in pinstripes for the six more years. How does that impact the New York Yankees’ top infield prospects?

Josh Benjamin

Ding dong, DJ LeMahieu is back!

All rejoice and dance down River Avenue! Let the drinks flow at Stan’s! Grab a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub for the road because The Machine is coming back to the Bronx!

Yes, fans, it’s obvious. DJ LeMahieu signing a six-year, $90 million deal to return to the New York Yankees is cause for celebration. My wife and I were up with our two-month-old daughter when the news broke, and she wasted no time in whipping out her phone and ordering herself his jersey. And all while the baby was fussing!

Anyway, back to business. Almost like clockwork, after Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reported LeMahieu was “dismayed” by the Yankees’ approach this offseason, he wound up re-signed days later.

However, the Yankees need to answer some questions about the future now. Luke Voit, Gleyber Torres, and Gio Urshela are all strong players, and New York can’t keep them all long-term.  On top of that, star slugger Aaron Judge will soon need an extension. Giancarlo Stanton’s contract is…well, it’s Giancarlo Stanton’s contract.

This means the New York Yankees have to hope what few strong infield prospects they have down on the farm work out. Let’s take a look at a few of them to see just how they’ll fit in New York down the road.

Austin Wells

The Yankees took Wells with the 28th pick in last year’s MLB Draft, knowing full well he wasn’t going to play catcher as he did at Arizona. As the MLB Network crew says in the clip above, he’s more of a Kyle Schwarber type. That would indicate a sort of DH/outfield role in the future.

Yet, think of baseball history across the board. More than a few catchers have also played some first base, if not switched positions outright. It wasn’t long ago that Jorge Posada played first for the Yankees, as did Brian McCann. As Luke Voit’s price goes up, it’ll be nice to have a cheaper option down on the farm.

Now consider that because of the pandemic, Wells couldn’t report to the minors for game action shortly after being drafted. He’s only 21 and has plenty of time, but could be lagging in development just a smidge.

Why not give him some reps at first base and see how he does? Best case scenario, he handles it well and finds his niche in baseball. Worst case scenario, the team tried something new with a prospect and it didn’t go as planned. No harm, no foul.

Anthony Volpe

Anthony Volpe is living every young New York Yankees fan’s dream. The Yankees drafted the New Jersey native straight out of high school in 2019. Now, the young shortstop is preparing for the majors in hopes of someday assuming Derek Jeter’s sacred mantel.

For now, though, the best thing the Yankees can do with Volpe is to take a “wait and see” approach. He’s prone to strikeouts and hit just .215 his first year in the minors, but remember he’s not even 20 yet. Additionally, his average arm makes one wonder if a switch from shortstop is coming.

It’s obviously way too soon to worry about Volpe’s future in the Bronx, but the man to watch in his case is Gleyber Torres. He struggled last season after coming to summer camp out of shape, so he’ll be under the microscope in 2021. If his inconsistencies remain, expect the Yankees to put more time and energy into Volpe as he works his way through the minors.

Oswald Peraza

Oswald Peraza is also someone to watch in case Torres regresses further. The 20-year-old shortstop signed with the Yankees out of Venezuela in 2016 and hit .263 across two levels of A-ball in 2019.

As for his hitting, that’s where the question mark lies. Peraza has turned some heads with his ability to use the whole field, and he can get some life on line drives. Yet, with a spindly 6’0″, 176 pound frame, he makes Willie Mays Hayes look like Mike Tyson.

The good news is Peraza is still young and can up his power with a few trips to the weight room. Like Volpe, he doesn’t have a clear path to the team, but remember his name in case Torres’ struggles continue.

Trevor Hauver

For a third-round pick, Trevor Hauver is certainly an interesting prospect. The former Sun Devil hit .316 in college and was primarily an outfielder with a few spot starts in the infield. MLB.com gave Daniel Murphy as his pro comparison, which seems an accurate ceiling.

But in terms of how well Hauver will fit with the New York Yankees in a few years is hard to say. He’s already 22 years old and without a clear position. Even as an infielder, his limited range means second base could be the limit. Unless DJ LeMahieu suddenly can’t play the position anymore and has to move to one of the corners, Hauver could struggle to find at-bats.

On the other hand, think of the Yankees infield from a financial standpoint. Voit, Torres, and Urshela will make just over $13.3 million combined in 2021. Not all can receive lucrative long-term deals in New York, and Hauver probably needs at least two years in the minors himself.

Thus, maybe Urshela moves on, DJ LeMahieu moves to the hot corner, and Hauver takes over a second. Maybe he’ll be a super-utility man, a la Tyler Wade and/or Ben Zobrist. The good news is much like DJ LeMahieu, Trevor Hauver gives the Yankees options.

 

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