The Yankees have an enviable problem as they head towards the March 29th opener in Toronto. How does Mgr, Aaron Boone line up this impressive array of Yankee hitters, particularly with the first inning in mind.
After Brett Gardner leads off, the Yankees have, arguably, four more hitters who deserve to be guaranteed an at-bat in the first inning. How Boone will employ those hitters and the rest of the lineup could go a long ways towards determining just how productive the offense will be, despite those who discount the impact of the batting order.
Aaron Judge hit second last season and posted a .465 on base percentage in that spot. The AL Rookie of the Year put up record setting numbers but he was a near disaster hitting second in the post season. Even when Gardner got on in front of Judge, he never ran and many times, Judge would stymie a potential rally with a strikeout. Teams down play strikeouts nowadays but an untimely strikeout can help kill a post season run. Remember, in last year’s ALCS loss to Houston, the offense was more culpable than the pitching, especially when the venue was Minute Maid Park.
My lineup would have Gardner leading off, followed by Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird and Judge. Stanton would fill the second spot better than Judge because he is simply a better pure hitter. Both players can utilize the short right field dimensions at Yankee Stadium, but Stanton’s superior hitting ability over Judge would translate better on the road. This is not to downgrade Judge’s talents. At five, Judge could have some protection with Didi Gregorius hitting behind him. Sanchez should hit third because he is the Yanks’ best hitter. Yes, I’m of that school that feels a team’s best hitter should bat third in order to maximize production in the first inning. What people fail to remember is that the manager controls who bats in the first inning. From there, it’s a matter of chance.
While Miguel Andujar is surging this spring, Gleytber Torres is struggling at a .077 clip. If Torres continues along this path, it gives the Yankees an alibi to start him off in the minors and save service time. If Torres begins the season in the minors, barring an injury, he will not be back by April 14th. I would expect him to stay down for at least the first month.
Going into spring camp, Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares figured to be sharing time in center field until Michael Conforto can get back in the lineup. Lagares, who has been plagued by injuries throughout his career, was injured again early on while Nimmo has thrived with a .417 batting average. It’s only spring but Lagares could be seeing his last chance to stick go by the wayside.
Sending out thoughts and prayers for Rusty Staub. The former Met is in a West Palm Beach hospital dealing with kidney failure. It’s not looking good as friend have reportedly asked fans for prayers for the 73-year old. In October 2015, Staub was aboard an airplane when he went into cardiac arrest.
Phillies Mgr. Gabe Kapler has come up with an outfield shift that will be based on data that indicates where a hitter tends to put the ball in play in the outfield. Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams and Aaron Altherr will likely be the trip that’s affected by this movement. Williams and Altherr are better glove men than Hoskins so those players will be involved in moving around.
Kapler is employing this in spring training to get the players used to it. Will it work? Of course, that remains to be seen but it could also develop into a thing where a team shoots itself in the foot trying to out-think the game.
What if a left hand hitter has a tendency to hit to the opposite field. Kapler would play the “better defender” in left field and move the inferior defender to right field. What if there is a man on first and you move your better arm to left field rather than right field. Left handed hitter pulls a base hit to right and the runner on first takes third because there is an inferior arm at that spot. Just saying.