After nearly two months on the IL, Yankees 3B Josh Donaldson came back with a bang. The former AL MVP launched a pair of home runs, but should that return change his fantasy value? While it might be too early to state that Donaldson is “back,” we can’t emphasize enough the positives from his first game back with the Yanks.
A Look at Donaldson
Last season was one to forget for Yankees 3B Josh Donaldson. After a 2021 campaign that saw Donaldson swat 26 home runs for the Twins, the Yankees acquired him, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and Ben Rortvedt in a deal that not only netted the Twins Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela, but also give the Twins more financial flexibility to sign Carlos Correa — a popular free agent target two years ago among fans of the Bronx Bombers.
Across 132 games in New York last season, Donaldson hit just 15 home runs, the lowest of his career in a season in which he played at least 100 games.
Just from looking at his Chase% and Whiff% numbers from 2022 — both which went in the wrong direction — it was obvious that Donaldson was not in a good spot last season. Even when he was making contact, a lot of times he would get under on pitches and just never looked like the hitter he was with the Twins in 2021.
This season, Donaldson’s spent much of the season on the IL. He only played five games in 2023 before his return off the IL on June 2. Donaldson’s return was a strong one, as he cracked two home runs. One was a solo shot off a up-and-in slider from Clayton Kershaw that hung. The other came off a first-pitch inside fastball from Phil Bickford that he drilled out of Dodger Stadium.
Those are the kinds of pitches that Donaldson normally does damage with. To illustrate, take a look at Donaldson’s ISO numbers by zone (via Baseball Savant) in 2021. Notice how the red zones — which illustrate where he was accumulating his extra-base hits — were right in the inside.
Compare that to where he was in 2022:
If Donaldson is to have success over the final four months of the season, he needs to pounce on those mistakes up. The good news for Donaldson is he did just that in his first game back.
2023 Fantasy Outlook
After a brutal 2022 campaign, Donaldson’s two moonshots are proof that the power is still very much there. However, that really wasn’t his problem last season. Donaldson’s issues came poor contact and a increase in the amount of times he chased up at the plate.
Donaldson showed good poise at the plate in his return. We’ll see whether that will stay true moving forward, but his return was a sign in the right direction. And if he can re-gain parts of his old form, he should be a welcome addition to a lineup that includes Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, the latter of whom returned to a bang last night, as well.
Now as far as Donaldson’s value is concerned, one should keep a close eye on the slugger moving forward. The 37-year-old is available in most Yahoo! leagues and his power can be a big boost for teams in need of some offensive pop. However, his campaign last year still needs to be in the back of players’ minds. He still has the tools to be an asset in fantasy, but we need to see more.