What is stirring up excitement about DJ LeMahieu at Yankees camp?

DJ LeMahieu arrives at Yankees spring training camp in Tampa on February 18, 2024.

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The Yankees’ spring training has sparked discussions about their potent lineup, particularly the batting order surrounding the dynamic duo of Aaron Judge and Juan Soto. While their consecutive placement seems likely, the leadoff spot remains a question mark.

Early indications suggest DJ LeMahieu could reclaim his previous All-Star form despite turning 35. Behind closed doors, various coaches and staff members have reportedly showered him with praise. Manager Aaron Boone and Judge have publicly echoed their confidence in the veteran hitter.

Back to business for Bomber sparkplug LeMahieu?

LeMahieu’s experience, contact skills, and ability to get on base make him a strong candidate to set the table for the big guns. However, his performance in 2023 saw a slight dip, raising questions about his consistency at the leadoff spot.

Boone commented that LeMahieu appeared to be more explosive. Judge remarked that he felt his teammate had picked up the pace upon entering camp.

dj-lemahieu-new-york-yankees
MLB

New York Yankees veteran DJ LeMahieu has voiced his disappointment with the team’s and his own performance in the 2023 season. The Yankees fell short of expectations, finishing fourth in the AL East with an 82-80 record, while the lead-off hitter personally struggled in the first half of the season before finding his stride in August and September.

Following the season’s conclusion, LeMahieu took a short break before quickly returning to training, demonstrating his commitment to a strong comeback. This dedication reflects his desire to improve upon a season that didn’t meet his own standards or those of the team.

LeMahieu expressed his readiness to move forward from the previous year, stating on Tuesday that the challenges of the previous season affected everyone. He aimed to provide himself with every opportunity to return to his usual form in all aspects.

Entering this season, he faces a new challenge he has yet to encounter. It marks the first time in his career that he will start on Opening Day as a third baseman. Despite earning four Gold Gloves at second base and demonstrating proficiency at first base alongside Anthony Rizzo in recent years, he now transitions to the hot corner. Last season, he frequently filled in at third base during Josh Donaldson’s absence and performed commendably, registering three outs above average, as per Statcast.

LeMahieu mentioned that playing third base requires the most effort from him compared to the other two positions he covers. However, he expressed feeling relatively at ease in that position and has found enjoyment playing there in recent years. He noted that whether he primarily plays at third base or elsewhere doesn’t affect his mindset.

LeMahieu’s bounce back hinges on toe injury recovery

A key concern for the Yankees regarding DJ LeMahieu is his offensive recovery from a right foot injury that impacted him in 2023. The injury, involving a ligament in his second toe, saw LeMachine choose rehab over surgery.

While initial signs were promising, the injury clearly affected his performance early last season. His batting average in the first 90 games sat at .232, with an OPS of .674, while he hit only 8 home runs and 28 RBIs.

However, a positive trend emerged in the latter half of the season. Over his final 46 games, LeMahieu showed improvement, batting .266 with a .799 OPS, 7 home runs, and 16 RBIs. This suggests a potential return to form, but questions remain about his full recovery and the potential long-term impact of the injury.

Dj LeMahieu of the New York Yankees is slamming his helmet after a disappointed game against the Mariners on June 23, 2023.
Charles Wenzelberg/NYP

DJ LeMahieu’s return to form is crucial for the New York Yankees’ hopes in the upcoming season. After signing a lucrative contract in 2019, he established himself as a top-tier hitter, finishing fourth in MVP voting in 2019 (.327 BA, 26 HR) and leading the league in batting average (.364), on-base percentage (.421), and OPS (1.011) in the shortened 2020 season.

However, his form dipped in 2021 and 2023, raising concerns about his long-term consistency. Despite this, LeMahieu remains a vital part of the Yankees’ lineup, and his early commitment to spring training has generated positive feedback from manager Aaron Boone.

Boone expressed his excitement about LeMahieu’s physical condition, stating that the player looked great and he was excited about his current physical state. He remarked that any struggles the third baseman had experienced in recent years were primarily physical in nature, and he believed LeMahieu was currently in the best physical shape he had been in for the past couple of years. He emphasized that a healthy and productive LeMahieu from an offensive perspective would put the team in a strong position.

Boone, Judge express confidence in LeMahieu

New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone and star player Aaron Judge have both voiced their belief in DJ LeMahieu’s ability to bounce back from a challenging 2023 season.

Boone praised LeMahieu’s offseason preparation, stating that he has observed a noticeable strengthening of his “foundation.” This suggests that LeMahieu has been focusing on improving his physical and mental readiness for the upcoming season.

Judge, who is expected to bat behind LeMahieu in the lineup, expressed his confidence in his ability to perform as a leadoff hitter. Judge emphasized the importance of LeMahieu’s ability to get on base consistently, put the ball in play, and work the count, creating scoring opportunities for himself and the team.

These statements highlight the confidence within the Yankees organization that LeMahieu can return to his previous form and be a key contributor to their success in 2024.

Judge expressed his anticipation of a significant year from DJ again, citing the dedication and intense focus he has observed in him.

He mentioned that batting ahead of the most formidable one-two pair in MLB could be enjoyable, but it doesn’t particularly excite him.

He stated that he’s solely focused on hitting, expressing that if he’s placed before them in the lineup, he’ll exert extra effort to get on base and ignite momentum.

LeMahieu unfazed by compliments, focused on performance

LeMahieu with Yankees manager Aaron Boone.
AP

New York Yankees veteran DJ LeMahieu, known for his quiet demeanor and consistent play, remained unfazed by recent praise from manager Aaron Boone and teammate Aaron Judge. This reaction aligns with his established reputation as “LeMachine,” a nickname earned for his dependable performance since joining the team in 2019.

Following Tuesday’s workout, a visibly sweaty LeMahieu spoke to reporters from his locker, downplaying the enthusiasm surrounding his recent performance.

“I haven’t really stopped working since we finished last year,” he said. “I feel ready to go.”

LeMahieu’s statement emphasizes his commitment to continuous improvement and his focus on contributing to the team’s success. While not explicitly stated, his comments suggest a desire to regain his past form and performance, potentially justifying the “machine” moniker.

LeMahieu’s dedication and composure offer encouraging signs for the Yankees. While only time will tell if he reclaims his “LeMachine” form, his unwavering work ethic and leadership within the clubhouse inspire confidence. As spring training progresses and the season approaches, all eyes will be on LeMahieu to see if he can recapture his past magic and become the offensive catalyst the Yankees need to contend for a championship.

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