Yankees’ left field remains a ‘mixed bag’ and area of concern

Everyone knew the Yankees needed a left fielder over the offseason, but the team rolled into spring training with Oswaldo Cabrera and Aaron Hicks as the best options on the roster.

Since then, Cabrera, Hicks, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Jake Bauers, Billy McKinney, Franchy Cordero, Willie Calhoun, Greg Allen and Giancarlo Stanton have all played the position this season. Bauers went on the injured list Friday, while Calhoun and Allen were already on it. Hicks now plays for the Orioles.

The collective group had given the Yankees mixed results offensively entering Friday’s series opener against the Cubs.

According to FanGraphs, Yankees left fielders are 28th in on-base percentage (.285), 27th in WAR (0.1), 26th in wRC+ (84) and 24th in average (.227). The position has found ways to score, though, as the group ranks sixth in runs (92), eighth in home runs (22) and ninth in RBI (74).

Isiah Kiner-Falefa is amongst the carousel of left fielders for the Bombers.

As for the defense, Yankees left fielders rank 28th in defensive runs saved (-12) and ultimate zone rating (-5.9). They’re 21st in outs above average (-4).

A spotlight shined on the Yankees’ defensive shortcomings in left during their recent four-game series against the Orioles, as there was at least one play that hurt them in each game. Kiner-Falefa, Bauers and Cabrera shared the starts.

In Thursday’s 14-1 loss, Kiner-Falefa, new to the outfield this season, couldn’t come up with two balls.

Once the series wrapped, Aaron Boone was asked about the team’s overall defense in left this year.

“When McKinney’s out there, he’s done a nice job,” Boone said. “Oswaldo, I think, plays a really good left field. [Kiner-Falefa’s] gone out there and played well. Hicks, when he was out there.

“We’ve also had some mistakes out there. It’s probably been a little mixed bag overall. It’s probably been alright.”

McKinney is the only Yankee with a positive DRS (2) in left this season. Everyone else has either posted a zero or a negative number.

All of the left fielders’ UZRs have been average or worse, and their OAAs are all zero or negative one.

The Yankees failed to address the position during the winter, but they could get another crack at it before the trade deadline. When asked about possibly making a move in left, Boone didn’t want to speculate and offered support for the guys already in place.

“We’ll see what happens over the next few weeks,” he said. “But we absolutely feel like we have capable guys to throw out there. It’s been a lot of people out there, obviously, but I feel like a handful of them are able to play average to plus defense out there.”

Trade options will become clearer as the deadline nears, but the Yankees will get a look at one potential option this weekend in the Bronx.

Chicago’s Cody Bellinger has been mentioned in plenty of trade rumors. The impending free agent has only played center and first base in his first year with the Cubs, but Bellinger has experience in left and hits from the same side of the plate.

The Yankees made a handful of roster moves before Friday’s game, most notably reinstating Carlos Rodón for his first start in pinstripes.

Bauers, meanwhile, went on the 10-day IL (retroactive to July 6) with a left rotator cuff contusion after diving on a play during the Baltimore series. Cordero was recalled in his place.

Finally, the Yankees transferred Nestor Cortes (rotator cuff strain) to the 60-day IL. Boone told the Daily News that the transfer was “a paper move” and that Cortes was still scheduled to throw to live hitters this Sunday following a few bullpens.

Boone did not have a timeline on Bauers yet, but he was feeling “significantly better” Friday after receiving a cortisone shot the day before.

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Allen (hip flexor) has been running. He did defensive work and took BP on Friday. He’ll continue doing baseball activities in Tampa during the break.

Calhoun (quad) is “probably a little bit behind” Allen, according to Boone.

Finally, the manager believes Aaron Judge (right big toe) will stay in New York during the All-Star break to continue getting treatment and doing some baseball activities.

With the Yankees’ outfield defense getting attention for the wrong reasons, a lot of fans have wondered why centerfield prospect Estevan Florial hasn’t gotten a shot. A strong defender, the former top prospect is hitting .295/.391/.601 with 21 homers, 50 RBI and 18 stolen bases this season at Triple-A.

But he’s only appeared in one MLB inning this season after falling off the Yankees’ 40-man roster earlier this year. Boone said that factor is working against the 25-year-old. Boone also said “role plays a factor, too.”

Still, the skipper praised Florial’s 2023 campaign.

“Flo has done a really nice job down there of putting together a really strong season,” Boone said. “Certainly, he keeps pushing himself into the conversation anytime we do have a need.”

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