Yankees’ offensive arsenal: A relook at the power of 19 bats

Aaron Judge with Austin Wells at Yankee Stadium in September, 2023.
Michael Bennington
Monday October 9, 2023

Table of Contents

After leading the league in runs scored and witnessing Aaron Judge‘s record-breaking 62 homers in the 2022 season, the Yankees underwent a stark transformation, ranking 19th in the 2023 season. Their performance was marred by a dismal .227 batting average, the second-worst in the league, and a lackluster .304 on-base percentage, ranking a lowly 27th.

The Yankees managed to scrape together an 82-80 record, narrowly preserving their streak of 31 consecutive winning seasons. But this provides little solace. A staggering 45.7 percent of their games concluded with the Yankees scoring three runs or fewer, a disheartening outcome in 74 out of their 162 games. Sean Casey replaced Dillon Lawson as the hitting coach, but unfortunately, the change didn’t yield the desired results. Post All-Star break, the Yankees’ performance worsened, with a .221 batting average and a .688 OPS compared to .231 and .711 OPS in the first half of the season.

Let’s review how each of the Yankees played their part in 2023 and where they fell flat.

The Yankees veterans

Aaron Judge

Aaron Judge compiled a .267 batting average over 106 games, amassing 367 at-bats. He scored 79 runs, recorded 98 hits (including 16 doubles and an impressive 37 home runs), and drove in 75 RBIs. Judge showcased excellent plate discipline with 88 walks but also struck out 130 times. He managed to steal three bases out of four attempts and posted an exceptional OPS of 1.019.

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AP Photo

Judge’s toe injury significantly impacted the Yankees’ performance, contributing to their failure to make the playoffs. The team was 10 games over .500 before he got hurt on June 2 but went just 19-23 during his 42-game absence. Although Judge remained productive upon returning for the final two months of the season, it was evident that his toe was still bothering him. He encountered difficulties running the bases, his fielding performance in right field dipped, and his batting average fell compared to last season’s career-best .311. Nonetheless, Judge’s achievement of hitting 37 home runs in just 458 plate appearances is remarkable and has only been matched by two other players: Hank Aaron, who hit 40 homers in 465 PA in 1970, and Mark McGwire, who notched 39 homers in 422 PA in 1995.

DJ LeMahieu

DJ LeMahieu recorded a .243 batting average in 136 games, amassing 497 at-bats. He scored 55 runs, tallied 121 hits (including 22 doubles, 3 triples, and 15 home runs), and contributed 44 RBIs. LeMahieu demonstrated solid plate discipline with 60 walks while striking out 125 times. He was moderately successful on the basepaths with 2 steals in 4 attempts, resulting in a .718 OPS.

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LeMahieu’s disappointing season was quite surprising and could raise concerns for the Yankees due to his age and contractual obligations. At 35 years old, LeMahieu still has three years remaining on his contract, with an annual salary of $15 million. While the Yankees may point to the improvement LeMahieu showed after the All-Star break under hitting coach Sean Casey, his performance was inconsistent, with a .220 batting average in the first half and a .273 average in the second half. This transformation turned the two-time batting champion from a subpar hitter to an average one. The Yankees will be looking for more from LeMahieu in the upcoming season.

Anthony Rizzo

Anthony Rizzo maintained a .244 batting average over 373 at-bats, scoring 45 runs and accumulating 91 hits, including 14 doubles and 12 home runs. He contributed 41 RBIs, accompanied by 35 walks and 97 strikeouts. Rizzo attempted 3 stolen bases but was unsuccessful, resulting in a .706 OPS over 99 games.

Yankees Anthony Rizzo celebrates after a home run vs. the Royals at Yankee Stadium on July 23, 2023.
Twitter-NYY

Rizzo started the season strong, performing at an All-Star level until a collision with the Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr. on May 28. Following the incident, Rizzo suffered a sore neck and experienced the worst two-month stretch of his career, hitting just .172 with one home run and a .496 OPS in 46 games. It was later revealed that he had concussion symptoms, and questions were raised about the handling of his injury, particularly the decision to let him play in two more games after reporting fogginess to the training staff. Rizzo missed the Yankees’ final 55 games in the hopes of returning to full health next season, but the return of concussion symptoms remains a concern. Only time will tell if he can make a complete recovery by next year.

Giancarlo Stanton

Giancarlo Stanton struggled during the season with a .191 batting average over 371 at-bats. He managed 43 runs, and 71 hits, including 13 doubles and 24 home runs, resulting in 60 RBIs. Stanton drew 41 walks but struck out 124 times, posting a .695 OPS in 101 games.

giancarlo-stanton-new-york-yankees
Twitter-NYY

Stanton’s performance in the 2023 season raised questions about whether he has transitioned from being an injury-prone star to an injury-prone player past his prime. At 33 years old, he often looked considerably older in his at-bats and on the basepaths. While Stanton still possesses incredible power when he makes contact, his high strikeout rate, and sub-.200 batting averages were glaring issues. His lack of speed was also a concern. The Yankees are hoping Stanton can make significant changes to his swing and approach in the offseason, but he has been using his all-arms swing for most of his career. Whether he can successfully adapt remains uncertain. The challenge is magnified by the fact that Stanton has four years remaining on his $315-million contract, of which the Yankees are responsible for $98 million (after subtracting the $30 million the Marlins will pay). This financial commitment, along with Stanton’s full no-trade clause, makes it a complex situation for the Yankees to address in the upcoming offseason.

Gleyber Torres

In the 2023 season, Gleyber Torres had a .273 batting average with 596 at-bats. He contributed 90 runs, and 163 hits, including 28 doubles and 2 triples, and hit 25 home runs, resulting in 68 RBIs. Torres displayed good plate discipline with 67 walks and 98 strikeouts. On the basepaths, he went 13-for-19 in stolen base attempts, posting an OPS of .800 over 158 games.

Yankees Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres celebrate after beating the Pirates 7-5 at PNC Park on Sept 15, 2023.

While Gleyber Torres occasionally made baffling defensive and baserunning errors, he stood out as the Yankees’ most reliable offensive contributor, particularly when Aaron Judge was healthy. The Yankees explored the possibility of trading Torres in the past two offseasons but ultimately decided against it due to his diminished trade value. With Torres’ stock on the rise again, this offseason presents a favorable opportunity to pursue a trade if the team doesn’t plan to retain him beyond his 2024 contract year, which leads to free agency.

The Yankees middle

Isiah Kiner-Falefa

Isiah Kiner-Falefa posted a .242 batting average in 113 games, accumulating 326 at-bats. He scored 39 runs, recorded 79 hits (comprising 12 doubles, 1 triple, and 6 home runs), and contributed 37 RBIs. Kiner-Falefa displayed solid plate discipline with 28 walks while striking out 70 times. On the basepaths, he successfully stole 14 bases out of 19 attempts and produced a .646 OPS.

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AP

Isiah Kiner-Falefa deserves commendation for his adaptability and willingness to transition to the outfield during spring training, as the Yankees explored options at his former shortstop position with the emergence of rookies Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza. Kiner-Falefa provided valuable versatility throughout the season, starting 88 games at four different positions. His performance as a reliever in four mop-up relief appearances, where he recorded a 2.25 ERA, was noteworthy. However, his batting average ultimately fell 25 to 30 points below expectations for a contact hitter. Kiner-Falefa is set to become a free agent, and the Yankees may be interested in retaining him if the financial terms align with their expectations.

Jose Trevino

In the 2023 season, Jose Trevino had a .210 batting average with 157 at-bats. He contributed 15 runs, including 4 doubles and 4 home runs, resulting in 15 RBIs. Trevino displayed good plate discipline with 8 walks and 22 strikeouts, posting an OPS of .570 over 55 games.

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Getty Images

Despite being an All-Star in his breakout 2022 season, Jose Trevino couldn’t replicate his success in 2023, primarily due to a season-ending wrist injury he suffered in July. It was later revealed that the wrist injury had bothered him throughout the year, impacting both his hitting and receiving abilities. The Yankees are hopeful that Trevino can make a full recovery and return as a two-way force in the 2024 season.

Kyle Higashioka

Kyle Higashioka had a .236 batting average over 92 games, accumulating 242 at-bats. He scored 24 runs, recorded 57 hits (including 13 doubles and 10 home runs), and drove in 34 RBIs. Higashioka displayed some plate discipline with 14 walks but also struck out 74 times. He had an OPS of .687.

Kyle Higashioka is greeted with ice bucket after helping Yankees notch up an astonishing win over the Brewers on Sept 10, 2023, at Yankee Stadium.
NYY

There have been rumblings within the Yankees’ organization that some pitchers were not comfortable with Higashioka’s game-calling, especially Gerrit Cole and Carlos Rodon, who seemed to prefer other catchers. While Higashioka excelled in framing pitches, he struggled with throwing out base stealers during the season. Due to these concerns, it’s likely that the Yankees will explore trading or non-tendering Higashioka, especially considering he has just one year remaining before free agency. If Higashioka departs, the Yankees will lose a source of right-handed power and a well-liked clubhouse presence.

Ben Rortvedt

Ben Rortvedt struggled at the plate with a .118 batting average over 68 at-bats. He scored 6 runs and managed 8 hits, including 1 double and 2 home runs, resulting in 4 RBIs. Rortvedt drew 11 walks but struck out 19 times, posting a .461 OPS in 32 games.

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bvmsports.com

While Gerrit Cole expressed his preference for Rortvedt catching his starts, there were moments when the pitcher appeared frustrated with the game-calling. Rortvedt’s strong suit has always been his receiving skills and arm strength. However, unless he significantly improves his hitting, he’s unlikely to secure more than a reserve role or sporadic appearances in the majors. Next season, Rortvedt may find himself back in Triple-A, especially if the Yankees opt for Jose Trevino and Austin Wells as their primary catchers, especially if Kyle Higashioka departs from the organization.

The Triple-A callups

Billy McKinney

Billy McKinney compiled a .227 batting average across 48 games with 128 at-bats. He scored 19 runs, gathered 29 hits (including 3 doubles, 1 triple, and 6 home runs), and contributed 14 RBIs. McKinney displayed good plate discipline with 17 walks while striking out 39 times. He also had 1 successful stolen base in 1 attempt, resulting in a .726 OPS.

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After his call-up on June 8, McKinney seized the opportunity by starting in 38 games and posting an OPS that ranked the third best among 17 Yankees with over 100 plate appearances, trailing only Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres. The Yankees were also impressed with McKinney’s outfield performance until he was sidelined for the final 38 games due to a back injury. Depending on the Yankees’ offseason moves, McKinney could be a contender for a roster spot as a backup outfielder at the start of the next season.

Jake Bauers

Jake Bauers had a challenging season, ending with a .202 batting average after 242 at-bats. He managed to score 28 runs and accumulated 49 hits, including 15 doubles and 12 home runs while driving in 30 runs. On the plate discipline side, he drew 27 walks but also struck out 95 times. He made a few attempts at stealing bases, going 3-for-5 in stolen base attempts, and compiled a .693 OPS throughout his 84 games.

Jake Bauers hit two home runs against the Dodgers helping the Yankees win 6-3 on June 3, 2023, in Los Angeles.

Jake Bauers initially caught the Yankees’ attention with an impressive performance during spring training, earning his spot on the roster as a non-roster player. His strong showing in 24 Triple-A games further solidified his place, and he received a call-up in late April when Franchy Cordero was demoted. Bauers provided valuable left-handed power for a significant portion of the season, but he struggled during the final six weeks. In his last 25 games, he batted just .125 with one home run and 34 strikeouts in 72 at-bats. However, during his initial 59 games, he posted a .235 average with 11 home runs and 61 strikeouts in 170 at-bats.

Franchy Cordero

Franchy Cordero’s season was marked by struggles at the plate, as he finished with a disappointing .188 batting average after 69 at-bats. During this time, he managed to score 9 runs and collect 13 hits, including 2 doubles and 6 home runs, while driving in 13 runs. His plate discipline was lacking, with only 2 walks and 25 strikeouts. Cordero posted a .690 OPS throughout his 24 games.

franchy-Cordero-Yankees

Franchy Cordero made waves in the first two weeks of the season after being signed as a free agent just before Opening Day. During that period, he hit .280 with four homers and nine RBI in seven games. However, his performance quickly regressed, and he became known for his high strikeout rate. Before May, he was optioned to Triple-A. Although Cordero had some strong showings with Scranton that led to his return to the Yankees, his performance with the team was inconsistent, and he struggled to maintain his early success, ultimately finishing the season with underwhelming numbers.

The Yankees rookies

Oswaldo Cabrera

Cabrera struggled during the season, finishing with a .211 batting average after 298 at-bats. He managed to score 35 runs and collected 63 hits, including 11 doubles and 5 home runs while driving in 29 runs. On the plate discipline side, he drew 25 walks but also struck out 72 times. Cabrera made a positive impact on the basepaths, going 8-for-8 in stolen base attempts, and compiled a .574 OPS throughout his 115 games.

Oswald Cabrera, player of the Yankees
Robert Sabo / NY Post

Cabrera was one of several major disappointments for the Yankees during the season. The team had hoped for similar production to what he demonstrated in his first call-up last year, but he only had one notable hot streak late in the year, followed by more slumps. While the Yankees appreciate his versatility, energy, and potential as a switch-hitter, he cannot be relied upon heading into the next season.

Jasson Dominguez

Jasson Dominguez had a strong showing in his limited appearances during the season, posting a .258 batting average with 8 hits, including 1 double and 4 home runs, in 31 at-bats. He scored 6 runs, drove in 7 RBIs, and had 2 walks along with 8 strikeouts. Dominguez also displayed his speed by stealing a base in his 1-for-1 attempt, resulting in a .980 OPS over 8 games.

Jasson Dominguez hits a home run against the Brewers at Yankee Stadium on September 09, 2023.
NYY

Dominguez lived up to the hype when he received his first call-up to the majors as a 20-year-old on August 1. He made an immediate impact, hitting a home run in the first inning of his debut game. His performance in his first week was remarkable, but his season came to a premature end due to a UCL tear that required Tommy John surgery. Despite this setback, Dominguez’s future in the Yankees’ center field position will be an interesting storyline to follow once he makes a full recovery, likely in June or July of the next season.

Estevan Florial

Estevan Florial produced a .230 batting average in 61 at-bats during the season. He scored 5 runs, collected 14 hits (including 3 doubles and 1 triple), and drove in 8 RBIs. Florial displayed some plate discipline with 7 walks but also struck out 20 times. On the basepaths, he was a perfect 3-for-3 in stolen base attempts, resulting in a .635 OPS over 19 games.

Estevan Florial is in action during the Yankees vs. Pirates game in PNC Park on September 15, 2023.
NYY

Estevan Florial spent most of the season in Triple-A, where he showcased his offensive skills. He was finally called up by the Yankees on September 11 and given the opportunity to play center field. While Florial still struggles with strikeouts and occasionally misjudges flyballs, he brings a combination of power, speed, a respectable bat, and average defensive play. There’s a possibility that the Yankees could consider trading him during the offseason to free up his 40-man roster spot for other prospects. If Florial remains with the team, he will compete for a roster spot in spring training, and his future with the organization may be determined by whether he makes the team or is traded or claimed off waivers.

Oswald Peraza

Oswald Peraza recorded a .191 batting average over 52 games, amassing 173 at-bats. He scored 15 runs, registered 33 hits, which included 8 doubles and 2 home runs, and contributed 14 RBIs. Peraza displayed decent plate discipline with 13 walks but struck out 50 times. He also attempted 7 stolen bases, succeeding in 4 of them, resulting in a .539 OPS.

Oswald Peraza rips an grounder through the left side, scoring Oswaldo Cabrera and extending the Yankees' lead to 2-0 in the 1st inning
MLB.com

The Yankees face significant offseason decisions regarding Oswald Peraza. They must assess whether he can become an effective hitter in the majors, as his performance this year was subpar, even when he played third base in September with less pressure. Additionally, they need to weigh whether his exceptional shortstop skills warrant moving Anthony Volpe to second base. This decision could become more critical if Peraza’s offensive capabilities remain uncertain. The Yankees might explore the possibility of obtaining valuable assets through a trade involving Peraza this winter, so an offseason trade should not be ruled out.

Everson Pereira

Everson Pereira compiled a .151 batting average during 27 games, amassing 93 at-bats. He scored 6 runs, notched 14 hits, including 4 doubles, and contributed 10 RBIs. Pereira displayed patience at the plate with 8 walks but struck out 40 times. He also attempted 4 stolen bases and succeeded in all of them, resulting in a .427 OPS.

Everson-Pereira-new-york-yankees
Twitter-@TalkinYanks

Everson Pereira did not appear ready for the majors during his 26 late-season starts in left field. While his outfield performance was reliable, he failed to demonstrate his right-handed power and often seemed overmatched at the plate, striking out in nearly 39 percent of his plate appearances. Although he possesses the potential to become a regular in the big leagues, the 22-year-old is almost certain to begin next season in Triple-A.

Anthony Volpe

In his rookie season, Anthony Volpe recorded a .209 batting average with 541 at-bats. He contributed 62 runs, including 23 doubles, 4 triples, and 21 home runs, resulting in 60 RBIs. Volpe displayed good plate discipline with 52 walks but had a high strikeout total with 167 strikeouts. He also showcased his speed with 24 stolen bases out of 29 attempts, posting an OPS of .666 over 159 games.

New York Yankees' Anthony Volpe, right, strikes out with the bases loaded to end the eighth inning during a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023, in New York. Diamondbacks catcher Gabriel Moreno, left, looks on.
AP Photo/John Munson

Anthony Volpe’s rookie season showed promise, particularly in his strong defensive play at shortstop. While various analytics provided mixed assessments of his defensive performance, his ability to achieve a 20-20 season was noteworthy. However, moving forward, Volpe should focus on improving his batting average and reducing his strikeout rate. Overall, this season marked a positive beginning to what looks like a career with potential for multiple All-Star Game appearances.

Austin Wells

Austin Wells posted a .229 batting average over 70 at-bats, contributing 8 runs, 6 doubles, 4 home runs, and 13 RBIs. He displayed good plate discipline with only 3 walks and 14 strikeouts, resulting in an OPS of .742 across 19 games.

Austin Wells makes his first hit in the Yankees vs. Astros game in Houston on September 1, 2023.
NYY

Austin Wells’ catching skills are still in development, particularly in terms of his throwing abilities. However, his overall receiving performance exceeded the Yankees’ expectations during his September call-up. Wells’ left-handed bat is his standout attribute, and it proved to be a valuable asset, especially in his final eight games, where he hit .355 with four homers and nine RBIs. Wells’ batting prowess may earn him a roster spot during spring training, making him a significant factor in the Yankees’ search for ways to open up the designated hitter position by moving on from Stanton.

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