Mike Tauchman is poised to have a big role in 2021. Given the New York Yankees’ incredibly quiet offseason, GM Brian Cashman must believe that his team will be able to contend for the 2021 World Series with the roster as is. On the team remains big names like Gerrit Cole and Giancarlo Stanton, with hidden gems like Luke Voit and Gio Urshela around too. As one of those unexpected finds, Tauchman is ready for a bigger role.
Tauchman’s story is special. After the Rockies called him up for 52 games in ‘17 and ‘18, Cashman made a seemingly minor move, sending P Phil Diehl to Colorado in exchange for Tauchman as outfield depth. Then, in 2019, he proved he had real value. When Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton got injured, Tauchman stepped up, posting a .361/.504/.865 line across 87 games with a few game-saving plays/hits to top it off. He was a key contributor and one of the reasons they were able to make the playoffs that year.
This year, despite a seemingly crowded outfield, Tauchman can provide value in a few key areas:
Assuming the Yankees resign DJ LeMahieu (hopefully), the Yankees will be boasting a heavily right-handed lineup. That could cause problems for the Yankees, especially against dominant AL right-handed pitchers in the postseason. Furthermore, Aaron Hicks is the only currently rostered left-handed bat expected to see consistent time. Thus, Aaron Boone can put Tauchman in comfortably at the back of the lineup to get righties off their game.
Athleticism and Clutch
Two of the main reasons Tauchman is a major leaguer are due to his speed and his defense, both in terms of versatility and general skill. Not only has he played all three outfield spots in the past two years, but he has already flashed leather spectacularly. Yet, the best way to describe his athleticism is with the word “consistency”. His 1.6 dWAR (defensive wins above replacement) in 2019 is very impressive considering his playing time. Aaron Boone also calls on him to pinch-run often, and he never makes mistakes. It is never a bad thing to have someone who will almost always deliver.
This leads to my next point about how clutch he is. Whether it is with his bat, glove, or speed, he always seems to know how to do the right thing at the right time. Given that the Yankees lineup features mostly go-big-or-go-home power hitters, Tauchman is the perfect player to call on to start or continue a rally.
Down three runs at the end of the game, a solo home run from Stanton only helps a bit. On the other hand, a double from the 9-spot with LeMahieu, Judge, and Torres due up gives the reason for optimism. Tauchman has been and can continue to be that guy.
“Next Man Up” Mentality
It is no secret that the Yankees have been through a seemingly endless stream of injuries the last few seasons. Thus, players on the bench and in their farm system have had to provide value similar to those hurt.
This year especially, keeping reliable players on the bench could make or break this team. Yes, losing key pieces like Brett Gardner, James Paxton, and my former favorite Yankee, Tommy Kahnle, hurts. But with COVID-19 still lurking, waiting to strike, you never know when a “nobody” will be forced to step and become a “somebody”. Tauchman will be there to ease the damage when it inevitably comes and can step up when it matters most.
True, Mike Tauchman is not going to be the star of the Bronx Bombers this year. But can he contribute plenty to this team? Absolutely. There are many things Tauchman does well and not much he does poorly. Plus, after this offseason, the Yankees clearly think the key contributors are already on the team. Assuming he gets a reasonable amount of playing time, Tauchman could surprise everyone and be one of those key players.