Who is Willie Calhoun, the left fielder Yankees invited to their spring training?

Willie Calhoun is seen during the Yankees game against the Guardians on April 11, 2023.
Esteban Quiñones
Sunday January 1, 2023

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The New York Yankees signed a non-roster deal with free-agent left-fielder Willie Calhoun, as reported by MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand on December 31, 2022. According to the terms, the agreement was for 2023 and the ex-San Francisco player would get to attend the Yankees spring training MLB camp.

The California-born player began his playing career at the University of Arizona before the Dodgers drafted him in 2015. After a good Triple-A performance, Willie Calhoun was sent to Texas in a trade for Yu Darvish. The Rangers gave him the MLB cap on September 12, 2017, after a highly admired performance in the Pacific Coast League.

When he was acquired by the Rangers in July 2017, Willie Calhoun was a top prospect for the team. His first MLB season saw .265/.324/.353 in 17 games. This included 11 games as a left fielder and one homer and four RBIs. Next season, in 35 MLB games, Willie Calhoun went .222/.269/.333. He played as a left fielder 26 times and was sent as a pinch hitter nine times.

Willie Calhoun once replaced Joey Gallo in Texas. In 82 games in 2019, he hit 21 home runs and had a .848 OPS, but he struggled to maintain that output in the following seasons.

He had a poor Major League season in 2022 while playing for the Rangers, batting .136/.283/.273 with just one home run in 18 games. In June, he was sent to San Francisco in exchange for Steven Duggar.

Willie Calhoun had success with the Triple-A club of San Francisco, hitting .293/.377/.453 with five home runs in 42 games, but his bat sputtered during a four-game trip with the Giants in the Majors, going 1-for-8 with one RBI.

After a rapid deterioration over the previous four years, Willie Calhoun’s six-year employment with Texas came to an end. In 83 games with the Rangers in 2019, the former fourth-round pick hit .269/.323/.524 with 21 home runs and 110 wRC+. The 28-year-old has played 126 games since then with a .221 batting average, .621 OPS, and 59 strikeouts.

Willie Calhoun played only 4 MLB games in 2022

Willie Calhoun was sent to the Giants in exchange for outfielder Steven Duggar in June of this year after being designated for assignment. Just before the regular season finished, he played in just four MLB games for San Francisco before deciding to become a free agent.

Willie Calhoun of the New York Yankees
HalToHell/ Twitter

The offensive numbers are a huge warning sign in this case, but let’s start with the good news. With his pull-side power, Willie Calhoun has the potential to play in pinstripes. He wouldn’t be the first left-handed pitcher to improve his stats by getting a chance to play at Yankee Stadium. Even better would be if he could discover a means to regain his previous level of performance from 2019, which would see an overall improvement.

Short stint with New York Yankees in 2023

Willie Calhoun’s 2023 season with the New York Yankees was marked by a blend of promise, but mainly challenges. After signing a minor league contract with the Yankees on December 31, 2022, Calhoun was invited to spring training as a non-roster invitee. Despite not initially making the roster out of spring training, he was called up to the major league club on April 8, 2023, following an early-season injury to Josh Donaldson. This move allowed Calhoun to step in as the primary designated hitter, especially after Giancarlo Stanton also sustained an injury.

Over the course of 44 games with the Yankees, Calhoun compiled a batting average of .239, an on-base percentage of .309, and a slugging percentage of .403. He hit 5 home runs and contributed 16 RBIs, showing flashes of the talent that once made him a highly-regarded prospect. His performance was particularly notable in May and June, where he posted a slash line of .240/.324/.458 with five homers over 108 plate appearances. This period highlighted Calhoun’s potential to impact the Yankees’ lineup significantly, offering much-needed production amidst injuries to key players.

However, Calhoun’s season faced a significant setback when he was placed on the injured list with a left quad strain on June 22, sidelining him for a month. Following his rehab assignment with the Double–A Somerset Patriots, the Yankees designated him for assignment upon activation on July 28. Calhoun then elected free agency on August 1, concluding his tenure with the organization.

Despite the abrupt end to his season with the Yankees, Calhoun’s time in New York demonstrated his ability. Calhoun’s early-season performance, especially, provided a glimpse into the offensive skill set he possesses. Calhoun’s journey continued as he signed a minor league contract with the Los Angeles Angels organization on December 6, 2023, offering him a fresh start and another opportunity to prove his value in professional baseball.

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

Standard Batting 

7 Yrs30110859881142374153712002801630.240.30.4040.70486399189081
162 Game Avg.1625845326112822320650143880.240.30.4040.70486215105041
Baseball Reference

Career Graph

Futures GamesDouble Plays Turned as LF (s.1901)
20162021 AL 1 (3rd)
Baseball Reference

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