The New York Yankees will likely have to slug their way past the Minnesota Twins in the ALDS and infielder DJ LeMahieu is going to play a huge factor in determining the winner of this series.
Throughout this season, DJ LeMahieu has remained a reliable option for the New York Yankees at the top of their lineup. LeMahieu has served as a constant spark at the top of their lineup throughout the entire season.
The 31-year-old led the Yankees roster in games played this season with 145. During that time, LeMahieu has also been the best all-around hitter on the Yankees, not to mention he’s also been one of the best leadoff hitters in the entire league as well.
In his inaugural season with the Bronx Bombers, LeMahieu recorded a career-high 33 doubles, 26 home runs, 102 RBI, .191 ISO, .349 BABIP, 136 wRC+, 5.4 fWAR and slashed a line of .327/.375/.518/.893. The Yankees leadoff hitter also led his team in many of the offensive categories this season.
While LeMahieu didn’t lead the Yankees in doubles, triples or home runs this season, he did lead their lineup in RBI, AVG, BABIP, fWAR, BB/K and sported the lowest strikeout rate as well. Ironically, the Yankees were planning to use LeMahieu as just a complementary player at the start of the season.
After his impressive performance in the regular season, he will likely be the player to make the biggest impact for the Yankees during their playoff series against the Twins.
It’s understanding if that statement above surprises most of you reading this, but the Yankees will be most successful against the Twins if LeMahieu can continue to produce at the top of their lineup. What LeMahieu has been able to accomplish as the Yankees’ leadoff hitter is a big reason for how their offense was so successful this season. During the season, LeMahieu led all leadoff hitters in AVG and concluded this season with the 3rd-best wRC+ (137).
Along with the Yankees, the Twins also have one of the best offenses in the entire AL. Minnesota’s offense scored the most home runs and RBI in the league, with the Yankees’ lineup finishing just behind them in both of those categories.
In addition to both the Yankees and Twins currently owning two of the most explosive lineups in the league, the Yankees pitching staff have also had their struggles keep baseballs in the yard this season.
The Yankees starting pitchers alone produced the third-highest HR/9 (1.76) among all 30 teams this season. So, that means the Yankees will likely need to hit their way past the Twins. In order to accomplish that, they’ll need LeMahieu to continue to consistently set the tone at the top of the order.
If he can do that, his production will be far beyond more valuable than any number of home runs Aaron Judge hits, or how many runners their bullpen strands on the bases.
Currently, LeMahieu has only made it to the postseason twice in his career. During those two appearances, LeMahieu went three-for-20 (.150 AVG) and struck out five different times. So while his brief playing time in October hasn’t gone well so far, this year is likely going to be much more productive for LeMahieu.
Based on his numbers from the regular season, LeMahieu’s impressive production is on-pace to continue against the Twins in this series. Unlike with previous seasons, LeMahieu hasn’t struggled with any type of pitch this season.
So far, he’s created a .324 AVG and a .487 SLG against fastballs, a .319 AVG and a .510 SLG against breaking balls and a .372 AVG and a .679 SLG against offspeed pitches this season.
LeMahieu also hasn’t recorded any concerning strikeout or whiff rates this season as well. The Yankees’ leadoff hitter has produced a strikeout rate of less than 18% against every single type of pitch along with a whiff rate of just 22% or less against those pitches as well. These numbers indicate that LeMahieu should be able to continue to be a productive and reliable leadoff hitter during his third trip to the playoffs.
In previous postseasons, the Yankees have failed to drive in runs without having to hit them in via a home run. For LeMahieu, he does his best work with runners in scoring position. This season, LeMahieu generated six home runs, 73 RBI and a hitting line of .389/.438/.579/1.017 with RISP. In addition to those outstanding numbers, LeMahieu also recorded 13 walks to just 15 strikeouts with RISP this season.
So while Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez and other Yankees power hitters have a high tendency to strike out with RISP, the Yankees will be able to continue to rely on LeMahieu to come through in those tough situations.
In their best three out of five series against the Twins, the Yankees should be able to expect LeMahieu to hit close to a .300 AVG and record an OBP sitting around .350 along with 10 to 15 RBI as well.
The Yankees will definitely need production from their offense other than from LeMahieu to beat the Twins. However, the man who Brian Cashman and the Yankees brought in on a two-year $24 million contract last offseason, is primed and ready to lead their team to another ALCS.