DJ LeMahieu: 2020 Yankees year in review

Art or Photo Credit: USA Today

The top five leaders on the 2020 New York Yankees in wins above replacement (WAR) were DJ LeMahieu (2.9), Gerrit Cole (2.2), Gio Urshela (1.9), Clint Frazier (1.5) and Luke Voit (1.5). Each player entered the year with high expectations and finished with impressive performances during the pandemic-shortened season, and here now we’ll take a look at some of their standout 2020 accomplishments.

It’s easy to argue that DJ LeMahieu, signed for two years and $24 million prior to the start of the 2019, has been one of Brian Cashman’s most valuable acquisitions of his distinguished career as Yankees general manager.

The veteran infielder came to the Bronx with questions about whether his prolific hitting success was a result of playing seven years at Coors Field in Colorado. LeMahieu quickly put that notion to bed.

This past season, LeMahieu made modern era history by becoming the first player to earn a batting title in both the National League and American League after he hit .348 with the Colorado Rockies in 2016.

“He can hit. He can hit every pitch, he can do everything,” Paul O’Neill said recently of LeMahieu. “This guy is a player that could play in any generation, there’s no doubt about it.”

LeMahieu followed in the footsteps of Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle as he became the fourth Yankee in history to lead the Majors in batting average with a .364 clip.

He even equaled that same .364 mark with runners in scoring position, earning him the rightful nickname of “The Machine” for his dependability in the clutch. That .364 average with RISP was good for fourth among all American League hitters.

DJ’s five leadoff homers were the most by anyone in baseball this season, and his .423 batting average at home also ranked first in the league. In 24 home games played this year, LeMahieu reached base safely in 22, including each of his last 16.

From Sept. 14-20, LeMahieu was at his very best, slashing .423/.516/.1.038 with nine runs, four doubles, four home runs and 10 RBI to earn AL Player of the Week honors, the second time he’d done so in pinstripes (June 24-30, 2019).

On Sept. 18 against the rival Boston Red Sox, LeMahieu delivered the decisive game-winning RBI double to seal the Yankees’ ninth straight win after a grueling 12-inning battle at Fenway Park. It was his 11th straight game with a hit and helped the Yankees to their 11th straight head-to-head win against the Red Sox.

“I had absolute confidence we were going to find a way back in this game,” LeMahieu told reporters after the extra-inning affair. “It’s just a really good lineup, it’s a lot of fun to be part of. When everyone’s swinging it, it makes it a lot of fun.”

DJ’s tenacity and determination to win no matter the odds cemented him as one of the most vital components of the Yankees lineup in 2020, and all the accolades and achievements he collected along the way further prove that to be true.

Now as the offseason is set to get underway for the Yankees, LeMahieu will be one of the most intriguing focal points going forward as his two-year contract expires. Not only has he been an MVP candidate in back-to-back seasons thanks to his elite bat (he finished fourth in AL voting in 2019), he can play first, second and third base at a Gold Glove level. Every team sees the value that the trusty veteran LeMahieu brings to the table, and his list of suitors in free agency is sure to be lengthy.

Few players have found such instant and sustained success upon arriving to the Bronx as “The Machine” has over these last two seasons. Now the only question is whether his career in pinstripes will extend beyond 2020.

“I think if you take a snapshot of the last two years, you can probably count on one hand how many players have been as good as DJ LeMahieu and how important they’ve been to their team,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said of his outstanding second baseman.

“He’s been a pleasure to be able to manage and to watch him go out and prepare the way he does, perform the way he does, and, in his way, lead the way that he does. He’s a special player, a special person, and of course we’d love to have him back.”

Stay tuned to YES Network for all the latest news and developments on the Yankees offseason as the winter months approach.