Let’s have a conversation about the Yankees’ outfield. And no, this is not an Aaron Judge piece, nor a diatribe about trading Giancarlo Stanton.
Rather, I want to talk about what this Yankees outfield could look like down the road. Not just Judge, but the other two spots in left and center as well.
There’s some important context to this, specifically prospect Jasson Dominguez. He has ten home runs and 37 RBI at Double-A Somerset this year. However, he’s batting just .202 and his strikeout rate (K%) is nearly 28%. He’s still taking his walks, sporting a .378 on-base percentage (OBP).
But it’s crystal clear that Dominguez batting .455 with four home runs in spring training was just a fleeting moment. In reality, he’s still 20-years-old and learning how to hit tougher pitching. Not to mention, he’s facing primarily former college arms who are older and further along in their development.
Translation: Dominguez’s MLB debut is looking more 2025 than ’24.
This leaves the Yankees in a bit of a pickle. Judge has right field locked down when healthy and can also play center. But, as we’ve discussed, it might be smart for the Yankees to extend Harrison Bader and just accept the injuries. He’s basically the Yankees’ Brandon Nimmo in that his center field defense is irreplaceable.
That leaves left field, so who takes over? Not Stanton since his legs are just naturally fragile, even as the DH. Estevan Florial isn’t the answer either and will probably be traded soon. He’s out of options and having a career year at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. No outfielder really stands out as trade or free agency targets either.
But lucky for the Yankees, they seem to have drawn an inside straight this particular injury-riddled season. Despite Stanton missing weeks of action, another Judge injury, and Aaron Hicks finally being cut, two have stood out to otherwise fill the outfield void.
Enter Jake Bauers and Billy McKinney, who parlayed star turns in Scranton to regular work on the big league roster. We’ve already covered Bauers in detail and he’s been pretty reliable in pinstripes. His meager .225 batting average comes with six home runs and a unique ability to hit the ball down the lines and a 112 wRC+. He isn’t a great fielder and takes some ugly routes, but still plays hard and never shies away from a hard catch.
Best of all, Bauers has consistently good at-bats and averages 4.33 pitches per plate appearance (P/PA).
McKinney, like Bauers, is also a left-handed outfielder but a completely different hitter. He doesn’t draw a ton of walks and is only averaging 3.86 P/PA on the year. However, unlike his teammate, he’s more of a bat-to-ball guy and doesn’t strike out. McKinney is batting .281 in 17 games and already has a 141 wRC+, and can also play all three outfield positions.
So what about the money? Both Bauers and McKinney were minor league free agents, so what does that mean for their futures? Cue the Yankees drawing another inside straight because both are arbitration-eligible next season.
It makes perfect sense to keep at least one of the two next year and hope that Oswaldo Cabrera’s hitting also improves. Furthermore, neither man is better than the other. If general manager Brian Cashman wants a true Brett Gardner type who can work the count and hit well enough to be on base regularly, it’s Bauers. If he wants a more reliable Willie Calhoun-type, it’s McKinney.
BILLY MCKINNEY IS OUR MVP pic.twitter.com/dS3QiesqTO
— Talkin' Yanks (@TalkinYanks) June 20, 2023
This truly is the best path forward for the Yankees while Dominguez keeps developing. Plug Judge in right field, extend Bader to man center, and have one of Bauers or McKinney patrol left. They’re reliable, affordable, and, most important of all, durable.
Or, in keeping with the Yankee Way, Cashman could sign a free agent journeyman like Hunter Renfroe or Jesse Winker on a one-year deal because the analytics like them. Perhaps he can trade for Max Kepler, pick up his option for next year, and hope for better results.
But even the stuck-in-his-ways Yankees GM has to realize how much he’s struck gold with both Bauers and McKinney. The sample size is small, but the potential still exists. Give them a real shot and prove they’re more than just one-year roster depth.
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