Yankees’ lineup tweaks favoring young talent sideline Harrison Bader

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The youth-centric approach of the New York Yankees has begun to take center stage and Harrison Bader seems to be the first player to feel the heat. As the team embraces a focus on youthful reshaping, the centerfielder is finding it hard to get into a starting spot.

Though Harrison Bader isn’t dealing with another injury, he found himself absent from the Yankees’ lineup in the opening game of their series against the Tigers on Monday night. He was earlier left on the bench last Friday against Tampa Bay.

These recent omissions from the Yankees’ starting lineup seem to signify a change in Harrison Bader’s role for the remaining five and a half weeks of his contract year before he becomes a free agent.

Harrison Bader may turn out to be a part-time player for the remainder of the season. Presumably, this is the message he received on Monday afternoon when the center fielder was summoned to the manager’s office for a discussion about his playing time.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone conveyed that there is clearly a priority in giving playing time to some of the younger players.

Aaron Boone justifies omitting Harrison Bader

On Monday night, Harrison Bader found himself absent from the Yankees’ lineup for the second occasion within four games. Despite his remarkable defensive prowess, the center fielder, poised to venture into free agency during the upcoming offseason, had encountered a challenging slump at the batter’s box. His last 14 games had yielded a mere 5 hits out of 45 at-bats, resulting in a disheartening .300 OPS.

Boone’s decision to bench Harrison Bader was multifaceted. While acknowledging Harrison Bader’s struggles, the Yankees manager also cited the team’s strategic focus on nurturing their younger talents. This choice came against the backdrop of the Yankees’ fading playoff prospects.

Harrison Bader of the New York Yankees.
FourSavages/ Twitter

In this context, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who also finds himself in the final stretch of an expiring contract but has demonstrated greater offensive productivity, assumed the role of center fielder. Meanwhile, rookie Everson Pereira took the position in left field, and Oswaldo Cabrera manned the Yankees’ third base—two spots where Kiner-Falefa could have equally been positioned.

Boone underlined that he engaged in a conversation with Harrison Bader at Comerica Park on Monday to elucidate the rationale behind his decision.

“Again, kind of wanting the priority of getting some younger guys in, too,” Boone said before a 4-1 win over the Tigers. “Kiner’s certainly earned time and deserves to play. So it’s a little bit of that, knowing we have a lefty tomorrow, [Bader] will be back in there. Just picking my spots.”

Oswald Cabrera, displaying his switch-hitting prowess, assumed the role of third baseman, relieving Oswald Peraza. Remarkably, Cabrera found himself starting two consecutive games, a streak that had eluded him for a span exceeding two weeks.

His performance on the field was nothing short of impressive. Cabrera managed a notable 2-for-3 at-bat record, coupled with a patient walk and an RBI single that added to his accomplishments and the Yankees victory. Furthermore, he exhibited exceptional athleticism by executing a remarkable leaping catch on an eighth-inning line drive.

“Just want to get him playing time, too,” Boone said. “Obviously we don’t have a lot of lefties right now, so he’s the one lefty in there tonight for us. But a chance to get him two in a row and try to build some continuity that way. Give Oswald his first day [off] since he’s been up here. Just trying to keep guys engaged, keep guys playing, especially some guys that need to.”

The Yankees are looking for a new lineup

While Harrison Bader remains a strong contender in center field, Kiner-Falefa’s versatility has been notable as he has performed well across both outfield and infield positions this season. Additionally, his impressive .311 batting average with runners in scoring position has solidified his status as the Yankees’ top clutch hitter.

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Harrison Bader’s batting average had dropped to .243 with seven home runs, 37 RBIs, and a .651 OPS in 80 games after a winless 0-for-12 performance over the weekend against the Rays. His recent form has been lackluster, hitting just .132 in the past 16 games with no home runs and only one RBI.

Notably, Harrison Bader hasn’t hit a home run since July 3rd. In contrast, Kiner-Falefa carried a .243 batting average with six home runs and 35 RBIs in 100 games by Monday. For now, the plan involves providing Bader with substantial playing time, including starting him against the Tigers’ left-handed pitcher on Tuesday.

The Yankees manager explained that he’s carefully selecting the situations in which he puts players in the lineup.

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Possibly until Jasson Dominguez gets promoted from Triple-A to take over center field. Dominguez might not be among the two players the Yankees call up as rosters expand to 28 players on Friday, but the 20-year-old switch-hitter is increasingly being considered for a potential recall in September.

After his promotion from Double-A to Triple-A last week, the Yankees prospect has demonstrated impressive performance, batting .478 with 10 home runs in his initial seven games with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Six of these games saw him as a starter, while in the other, he appeared as a pinch-hitter and received an intentional walk.

Whether Dominguez receives his first call-up or not, it’s likely that Harrison Bader’s time with the Yankees is limited, given his slim chances of returning next year on a new contract, whether short or long-term.

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