I’m going to get hypothetical on you today, even though I gave you a pretty big clue as to where my leading headline is…well…heading.
What if I told you that the Yankees added a left-handed hitting outfielder, who over the past two seasons and 946 plate appearances in AAA,
- Averaged .397 OBP and .563 SLG (and both improved from 2017 to 2018)?
- Lowered his K%, but improved his BB% from 2017 to 2018?
- Increased his fly ball percentage?
- Increased his HR to fly ball ratio?
- Increased his pull rate?
Before you answer, and before I remind you of the dimensions of Yankee Stadium, in summation:
If there were a player who demonstrated an ability to get on base and hit with power who also has improved noticeably in the areas of plate discipline and hitting the ball in the air to right field, would that be a good fit for the Yankees?
Well, you got that player and he’ll be in uniform Thursday afternoon for the Yankees. And even better, you didn’t have to dole out $330 million for him – it only took Philip Diehl. (Who…?)
We aren’t going to see Tyler Wade Thursday, which is still a little confusing, but we’re going to see Mike Tauchman, which is pronounced “TOCK-min”. What’s the over-under on how many times the brain trust in the booth for Simpleton Summer Camp butchers that on Thursday and beyond?
But let’s back up a little bit.
Over four minor league seasons, Tauchman was a former 10th round pick who showed a good ability to get on base and pretty much nothing else at any level in the minor leagues. Then he posted a big 2017 in triple-A Albuquerque with a .386/.555 OBP/SLG line and followed that with an even better .408/.571 in 2018. Again, this is over a combined 946 PA – not an insignificant sample size. And yes, I’m aware that Albuquerque’s elevation is 5,312 feet above sea level which can inflate numbers. Don’t bother to fact check me on that – I’ve watched all five seasons of Breaking Bad three times – I know a few things about Albuquerque.
But as mentioned, it’s not just the impressive improvement in OPS, it’s improvements in other key areas. Areas that can certainly help one succeed in MLB and specifically in Yankee Stadium. From 2017 to 2018 his walk rate improved from 8.4% to 12.7% (!!!) while his strikeout rate went down. His fly ball percentage on batted balls went from 31.9 to 35.6, his HR to fly ball ratio went from 14.3 to 17.1 and his pull percentage went from 30.2 to 34.9. Those are very good areas in which to be efficient if you’re a lefty in Yankee Stadium.
Obviously, the naysayers have a fair point: A 28-year-old former 10th round pick with 59 career MLB at bats? Pass.
But that is clearly due to an underwhelming first four minor league seasons. Again, he wasn’t a first round pick so he wasn’t given the attention or resources that many prospects are and he also certainly wouldn’t be the first late bloomer in baseball. Hell, the guy who’s injured who Tauchman is replacing is exhibit A on that front.
And the interesting thing to me is that the numbers don’t simply suggest blind improvement through attrition, they suggest a swing and/or philosophical change. He clearly has made adjustments in order to control the strike zone better and to elevate, lift, and pull the ball on contact. If so, his improvement and production is not a fluke and the Yankees may be catching lightning in a bottle.
Well played, Mr. Cashman.
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