What to watch for this weekend: Paxton’s velo, DJLM’s return, Andújar’s debut

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It’s a bit of a bummer that there’s no Yankees game to watch tonight. Such is the league’s traditional scheduling at the start of the regular season, but at least the Yankees got off too a good start last night. Plus, there’s a full slate of other teams getting started late this afternoon. The Yanks will return to action tomorrow for the beginning of 16 games in 16 days, but let’s stick to the short-term for now. Here’s what the watch for over the weekend.

Velo watch: James Paxton edition

Ever since James Paxton’s final intrasquad game in Summer Camp, there’s been some minor concern about the lefty’s fastball velocity. He himself volunteered that it’s not quite where he wants it to be. Via Newsday’s Erik Boland:

“I’m still looking for the last few ticks [of velocity], trying to get that really comfortable feeling out there with my rhythm and everything,” said Paxton, slated to start the second game of the season on Saturday. “I’m working toward it. I feel like I’m ready to go.”

Last year, Paxton threw his fastball nearly 60 percent of the time. His heater clocked in at 95.4 miles per hour on average, though he can max out in the upper 90s. That sort of velocity allows him to blow it by hitters without much regard to command. Take a look:

via Baseball Savant

It’s not too difficult to live in the heart of the zone with a blazing fastball like Paxton’s. However, if he’s sitting at 93 in his season debut tomorrow, he could run into some trouble. We’ve seen what’s happened to JA Happ with similar fastball location and diminished velocity.

I’m not trying to sound an alarm off here or anything like that. There’s no indication that Paxton has any arm trouble so I think it’s pretty safe to assume that his velocity will return at some point. Sooner would be better of course, but Paxton’s had a challenging year already which has thrown a wrench into things. Remember, he had back surgery at the beginning of the year.

Hopefully this is much ado about nothing. Maybe the adrenaline from pitching in a game that counts is the difference Paxton needs to regain that extra tick or two he feels he’s missing. Paxton at full bore tomorrow would be an awesome thing to see, especially after his strong finish to 2019.

When will DJ LeMahieu debut?

Tyler Wade got the nod last night at second base and delivered. He’s obviously not the team’s regular at the keystone — that belongs to DJ LeMahieu. But as we know, LeMahieu was questionable for Opening Day due to his late camp arrival after testing positive for COVID-19. Even though he seemed to get up to speed pretty quickly late in summer camp upon his return, the Yankees were in no rush to start him yesterday.

LeMahieu was available to pinch hit and play a portion of the game last night. He very well may have entered had the game not been called early. Either way, the Yankees don’t need to rush LeMahieu at this point, especially now that the playoffs have been expanded to eight teams per league. I suspect we’ll see a lot more load management now even in this 60-game campaign.

I imagine we’ll see LeMahieu in the starting lineup come Saturday. With a day off today, I can’t imagine the Yankees want to keep him sitting idle too much longer. But if they do decide to start Wade over DJLM against Stephen Strasburg, so be it. Should that occur, I can’t imagine that LeMahieu will sit again on Sunday vs. Patrick Corbin. Those two have seen plenty of each other from their days in the NL West. LeMahieu’s had the upper hand in that matchup: .375/.412/.750 with four homers in 48 at-bats.

Will Miguel Andújar get a start in the outfield?

The Yankees have been committed to getting Miguel Andújar experience in the outfield during Spring Training and Summer Camp. Now that the regular season is here, we’ll get a sense of how comfortable the organization is with him out there. His bat is too potent to gather cobwebs on the bench, but Gio Urshela (3B) and Giancarlo Stanton (DH) are currently blocking Miggy. So unless one of those two sits, it’s left field or bust.

I do expect to see Miggy out there at least once this weekend. It’ll almost certainly against the southpaw Corbin in the final game of the series. That’ll allow Boone to sit Brett Gardner, who really struggles against lefties.

Now, I don’t expect Miggy to ever play a full nine innings in the outfield especially with expanded rosters for the first few weeks. We’ll almost certainly see Andújar yanked for a defensive replacement in the late innings.

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3 Comments

  1. Mungo

    Paxton’s health and readiness is definitely worth watching. While the recovery rate from his type of surgery is very high, there is also evidence that pitchers are still impacted for a month or two after their return, with both their command and velocity impacted. Plus, unlike the other pitchers, he didn’t have Spring Training 1.0 to prep. Wouldn’t surprise me at all if he is sub-optimal for the first month of the season.

  2. Gerreddardit Cole

    Paxton worries me, Derek. Back injuries never truly heal, just ask Steve Kerr or Larry Bird or Kevin Youkilis. I just think it’s going to flare up again and he won’t be able to pitch. The reduced velocity is just the beginning.

    DJ needs to be out there. He could hit .300 blindfolded so I’m not worried about him hitting. Wade was the MVP last night and does need more playing time but DJ needs to play.

    Miguel needs playing time too. He should play a few times a week, some at 3rd and some in LF. If Stanton is just going to DH he won’t need many days off. Someone will eventually get injured or get the virus and this problem will take care of itself.

    • Mungo

      Nonsense. Don Mattingly proved to us that you don’t even need a back to play MLB.

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