The Yankees had the same outfield of Giancarlo Stanton, Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge for both Opening Day and ALDS Game 1. In between, there was pure chaos.
Mike Tauchman and Cameron Maybin thrived off that uncertainty to give a backbone to the Yankees’ everchanging outfield and lineup. Though neither was in the organization as recently as mid-March, they both became emblematic of the team’s Next Man Up mentality and the unending depth built in the Bronx.
Mike Tauchman: 87 games, 296 PA, 18 2B, 13 HR, 47 RBI, .277/.361/.504 (128 wRC+, 112 DRC+), 3.6 bWAR
Cameron Maybin: 82 games, 269 PA, 17 2B, 11 HR, 32 RBI, 9-for-15 stolen bases, .285/.364/.494 (127 wRC+, 106 DRC+), 1.5 bWAR
Tauchman, the Sock Man!
With less than a week before Opening Day, the Yankees traded MiLB reliever Phillip Diehl to the Rockies for Tauchman. The Colorado outfielder had only 52 games of MLB experience. While he’d mashed in the high-octane Pacific Coast League, his numbers hadn’t translated to the Major League level.
But with Aaron Hicks nursing a back injury, the Yankees needed insurance in center field. That gave Tauchman the room to make the Opening Day roster. He played sparingly at first before he was cast into action with injuries to Stanton and Judge.
Tauchman earned a signature moment early on with an RBI double against Chris Sale followed by a three-run homer to put away a meeting with the Red Sox. He homered in two of the next three games and got into a groove, particularly in the field.
After a fine first 1.5 months, Tauchman went back and forth between Triple-A and the Majors until late June. With Stanton again on the shelf, he began to get regular playing time in July. This time, he wouldn’t let go of the opportunity.
In July, Tauchman hit an absurd .423/.474/.750 (221 wRC+) over 57 plate appearances and carried that into a torrid August as well. In the second half of the season, he posted a .977 OPS with nine home runs after just four homers before the break.
If he hadn’t been torching the ball offensively, his defense would have sufficed. In just 694 1/3 innings, he posted 16 Defensive Runs Saved, as well as a 7.1 UZR, primarily working in left field with double-digit starts at all three outfield positions. Tauchman’s sliding grab in San Francisco impressed fans early, but his home-run robbery in August was a season web gem.
Tauchman was in line for a postseason roster spot, but he came up lame while fielding a ball at Fenway Park on Sept. 8, shortly after hitting his final homer of the season. It turned out he’d suffered a Grade II left calf strain and it kept him out through the ALCS. He may have been able to return for the World Series, but Jose Altuve rendered that moot.
Let’s Hug it Out
Maybin had a rough winter and early spring. He was charged with a DUI, cut by the Giants in Spring Training and had to settle for a job in Triple-A with Cleveland when the regular season began. The decimation of the Yankees’ outfield was the opportunity he needed.
The Bombers acquired Maybin for cash considerations on April 25 after Clint Frazier joined Judge, Hicks and Stanton on the shelf. He was thrown into action in San Francisco and immediately singled in a run. In fact, he singled in each of his first seven games.
Maybin mostly filled a bench role once Hicks returned a week later. He scored the winning run on a DJ LeMahieu walk-off single in May. Still, the 32-year-old outfielder faded into the background outside of his signature hugs in the dugout.
Then came June. With the returns of Stanton and Judge on the horizon, Maybin kicked his game into a new gear. Over his 12 games from June 5-21, he went 17-for-41 with four homers, three doubles and a .415/.442/.780 line. The four homers came in four consecutive games, helping New York propel past the White Sox and Rays.
Maybin credited Marcus Thames and the Yankees’ hitting staff with helping him at the plate. The results were clear: Maybin’s 11 home runs were a career-high despite having his fewest PAs since 2012.
Maybin’s surge staved off competition from Frazier and Tauchman for the final roster spot. Like Tauchman months later, he suffered a calf strain of his own and went to the IL for just over a month. Once back, he got hot again with a .405 average over his first 10 games.
Another injury, this time the wrist, felled Maybin as his playing time dwindled in the last month of the season. He was able to fight through the wrist discomfort and became the fourth outfielder on the postseason roster.
Once there, he served as the defensive replacement for Giancarlo Stanton and homered off the bench in ALDS clinching game. He’d go on to start for Stanton in ALCS Game 2, his final appearance of the year.
Though he may not return next season, Maybin left an indelible impression on the Yankees. His positive energy was apparent as he gave a hug to every home run hitter, and he clearly had fun on the field. He did all of that while his mother battled cancer during the year, though she thankfully is in remission. That he was able to find focus and peace on teh field is a credit to the Yankee outfielder.
For Maybin, he’s back in a free-agent market that hasn’t been kind to veteran corner outfielders in recent seasons. Despite a career-year in many ways, he’ll likely have to wait until 2020 to sign, and he’ll probably have to settle for a low-money one-year deal or even MiLB offer. A reunion with the Yankees seems unlikely.
Tauchman is part of why. The Yankees have the outfield depth to get by if the 28-year-old southpaw is healthy. He provides a baseline of impeccable defense in the corners and can play center in a pinch. Even if his bat proves to be a juiced ball-fueled mirage, his defense will play off the bench.