This Yankees’ future is abruptly murky

How a 12 months modifications issues.

Coming off the 2019 season, Yankees followers might be forgiven for pondering their entrance workplace had an alchemist on workers, spinning different groups’ spare components into gold. In any case, they appeared to have lately unearthed gems in Luke Voit and Gio Urshela and it appeared Mike Tauchman, acquired from the Colorado Rockies initially of the 12 months, was simply the following in a rising listing of gamers to learn from pinstripe pixie mud.

Pressed into obligation due to accidents, the outfielder dubbed The Sock Man by John Sterling burst onto the scene in spectacular vogue. His wonderful protection throughout all three outfield positions, mixed together with his on-base abilities and lefty energy, resulted in 3.8 bWAR in roughly half a season’s price of enjoying time. The query heading into 2020 was whether or not the Yankees would be capable of get him the at-bats justified by his breakout efficiency. Now, after a disappointing, albeit temporary, 2020 marketing campaign, the extra applicable query may be: does Tauchman deserve a spot on this roster in any respect?

Let’s begin answering that query by evaluating Tauchman’s 2019 and 2020 seasons.

2019: 87 G, 296 PA, .277/.361/.504, 13 HR, 11.5% BB, 24% Ok, 127 OPS+, 3.8 bWAR

2020: 43 G, 111 PA, .242/.342/.305, 0 HR, 12.6% BB, 23.4% Ok, 84 OPS+, -0.2 bWAR

The very first thing to notice is the extremely small pattern measurement from this just-concluded season. Are 111 plate appearances sufficient to make a definitive judgment on a participant? Definitely not. Nevertheless it’s price noting that neither are the 296 plate appearances from the earlier 12 months. Tauchman merely doesn’t have a protracted main league observe report (he solely registered 69 profession plate appearances previous to 2019), so we’re barely handicapped.

Nonetheless, there are some things that leap out. First, his stroll and strikeout charges from every season are in roughly the identical zone (and each solidly above common as nicely). So we are able to rule out plate self-discipline points as the principle motive for his 2020 struggles. The second notable determine, nonetheless, is that huge, fats zero subsequent to residence runs. And that does communicate to Tauchman’s huge problem this previous season: high quality of contact.

In accordance with Baseball Savant, Tauchman’s common exit velocity dropped from 88.7 mph in 2019 to 85.4 mph in 2020 (the MLB common was 88.3 mph this previous 12 months, so he was nicely off the tempo). His arduous hit charge dropped from 38.9% to 25.4%; barrel charge dropped from 6.3% to 1.4%; anticipated slugging dropped from .422 to .320. He additionally pulled the ball far much less usually: 20% this previous 12 months, in comparison with 29.5% in 2019.

A take a look at pitch breakdowns exhibits what had turn into, by season’s finish, clear to the bare eye: Tauchman was particularly inclined to fastballs. 64.9% of the pitches he noticed in 2020 had been heaters and he hit simply .173 off them with a .250 slugging. The earlier 12 months, he hit .286 with a .537 slugging (although his anticipated stats weren’t as gaudy — a .262 xBA and .456 xSLG — which can counsel his offensive breakout was a bit softer than his general numbers indicated.)

Tauchman additionally had an issue making contact, interval. Whereas we talked about his strikeout charge was good, he did swing and miss way more usually in comparison with 2019: 28.9%, up from 21.7% (for context, the league common whiff charge was 24.5% in 2020, which implies that, simply as with exit velocity, Tauchman discovered himself sliding into solidly below-average territory).

So, taken collectively, Tauchman swung and missed much more, struggled to hit fastballs, made weaker contact when he did hit the ball, and pulled the ball noticeably much less. Feels like his bat might have merely been slower this 12 months, and declining bat velocity is rarely good for participant who will flip 30 forward of the approaching season.

His offense wasn’t the one factor that slipped. Tauchman’s eye-opening 2019 worth stats had been due largely to his great defensive contributions. In restricted enjoying time, he was price 9 outs above common, Baseball Savant’s catch-all metric for protection. That positioned him ninth amongst all outfielders, actually spectacular in basically half a season.

This 12 months, albeit in a lot much less enjoying time, he was price only one out above common. Different defensive metrics, like defensive runs saved, additionally successfully graded him as impartial. Maybe a part of this regression is right down to Tauchman actually slowing down. In 2019, he had a dash velocity of 27.9 toes per second, which ranked within the 72nd percentile league-wide. In 2020, that fell to 27.1 ft/sec, good for 58th percentile. He’s persistently dropped in dash velocity since 2018 (no shock, as that’s a part of getting older) however an identical drop this coming season would possible put him at merely common to barely beneath.

All of this isn’t to say that Tauchman is dangerous defensively. However a participant struggling to hit must be an apparent contributor in one other aspect of the sport, and on this most up-to-date pattern of performances, he was roughly common. And if his slowing velocity portends additional regression in defensive worth, then he’ll actually need to rediscover his offensive potential if he’s to have any future as a Yankee.

Which brings us again to the preliminary query: does he nonetheless benefit a spot on the Yankees’ roster? A variety of that will likely be decided by what the Yankees do with Brett Gardner. In the event that they decide up his $10 million choice for subsequent season, then he’ll possible slot in because the membership’s fourth outfielder, behind Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks and Clint Frazier, who’s accomplished sufficient to earn a beginning function subsequent season. Even with a 26-man roster, retaining Tauchman round may be powerful (he’s additionally out of minor league choices).

However there are some things nonetheless working in Tauchman’s favor. For one, bringing Gardner again is not any certain factor, particularly if the entrance workplace is saddled with a mandate to chop wage (Tauchman, in distinction to Gardner, can be coming into his remaining pre-arbitration 12 months and can be making near the minimal). There’s additionally the unlucky current historical past of outfielder accidents, which could make the Yankees extra more likely to carry 5 outfielders. And there’s the very actual risk that the Yankees view 2020 as extra small-sample noise than a real indication of Tauchman’s skills.

What’s sure is that Tauchman’s maintain on a job within the Bronx is rather more precarious than it was only a brief 12 months in the past.

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