Yankees Fans: Who Should Bat Leadoff in 2017?


Should the New York Yankees consider alternatives to veterans Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury in the lead-off spot in 2017?

One of the Yankees biggest struggles last season was their inability to get the lead-off man on base, thus limiting their ability to score runs early. During the 162 game season, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner split the lead-off duties, with Aaron Hicks making a guest appearance for a game in May, but that was it.

With Ellsbury and Gardner having their best playing days behind them, who should lead off for the Bronx Bombers in 2017?

The lead-off hitter is supposed to be the best contact hitter on a ball club, with some speed and the ability to get on base frequently. They’re supposed to set the pace of the game for the rest of the lineup, and try and get on base in order to score an early run and help their starting pitcher out.

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The .262 combined average posted by Ellsbury and Gardner in 2016 is not going to get it done. Many can argue that Gary Sanchez was the best hitter on the club during his time at the big league level, but throughout the course of the season, shortstop Didi Gregorius was the most consistent player and had one of the underrated season in pinstripes during the 2016 season.

Acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks during the December of 2014, Gregorius was given the daunting task of replacing longtime shortstop and future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter after his retirement in 2014. His first season in pinstripes was solid, but fans wanted more.

He fulfilled expectations by having a career year in 2016. The 26-year-old set new career highs in batting average (.276) slugging (.477) hits (155) doubles (32) runs (68) home runs (20) and RBI (70). He led the Yankees in average, RBI, doubles, and games played last season. Gregorius was able to put up these monster numbers while hitting out of the sixth, seventh, or eight spot in the order, which he spent 104 of his 153 games played.

The only red flag about Gregorious being in the leadoff spot is the fact that he is a free swinger. In 153 games, he walked only 19 times, thus explaining his seemingly low .304 OBP. Despite his live bat, Gregorius’ strikeout numbers were low, recording only 82.

For comparison, Ellsbury walked 54 times and posted a .330 OBP, and struck out 84 times. Gardner walked 70 times and held a .351 OBP, nearly .100 points higher than his batting average, but went down on strikes an alarming 104 times. But Gregorius’ numbers have been getting better as his career has progressed, while Ellsbury and Gardner have seen most of their numbers decline.

The raises the question: who should lead off for the Yankees in 2017? While all signs point to either Gardner or Ellsbury again, Joe Girardi should look at Didi Gregorius as an alternative and give him a shot in to leadoff for the Bombers.

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Gregorius offers a little more pop in his bat that the veterans, and a leadoff double would be a better start to a game than a walk with the far chance of a steal to follow that up. All three of these ballplayer are going to be essential to the Yankees success in 2017, but its who Joe Girardi decides to pencil in to the leadoff that will make a difference.