Yankees: Tinkering With 2017 Batting Order Possibilities

Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /
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Sep 6, 2016; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees first baseman Tyler Austin (26) flips his bat after hitting a two-run home run against the Toronto Blue Jays during the seventh inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

Vs. LHPs

  1. Brett Gardner, LF
  2. Didi Gregorius, SS
  3. Gary Sanchez, C
  4. Matt Holliday, DH
  5. Starlin Castro, 2B
  6. Chase Headley, 3B
  7. Aaron Judge, RF
  8. Tyler Austin, 1B
  9. Aaron Hicks, CF

The presence of either Gardner or Ellsbury against southpaws is interchangeable. Here’s how they fared against them in 2016:

  • Ellsbury: 196 PA, .247 AVG, .618 OPS, 32 SO, 11 BB
  • Gardner: 202 PA, .247 AVG, .645 OPS, 37 SO, 15 BB

Which one Girardi uses will be determined by whoever needs a day of rest.

In my eyes, Gregorius’ success against lefties last season earned him a promotion. Remember when the Yankees wanted to platoon him with Brendan Ryan? Me neither.

Didi has made tremendous progress at the plate, even developing into sort of a line-drive power threat. The 26-year-old slashed an impressive .320/.357/.469 against left-handers over 160 plate appearances. The Yankees aren’t afraid to bat two left-handed hitters in a row, so if Gregorius can sustain those numbers and refine his plate approach — he only drew 19 walks in 579 plate appearances last year — he’d make for a solid No. 2 hitter.

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Despite everlasting contempt from fans after an abysmal start to the season, the switch-hitting Headley managed a respectable .272 average and .692 OPS versus lefties. Fun fact: although he hit lefties for a better average, Headley displayed more power against right-handers, averaging an extra-base hit per 11.8 at-bats, compared to one per 22.6 against southpaws.

It’s realistic for the Yankees to use Bird and Austin in a platoon to begin the season. Doing so would allow them to see what each player has to offer while they keep Bird well-rested. In this scenario, Austin receives playing time when tough left-handers are on the mound.

The full-time job at first base, however, is Bird’s to lose after bursting onto the scene with his stellar rookie campaign in 2015, when he slashed .261/.343/.529 with 11 homers in 46 games. Coming off his injury, though, it would be wise for the Yankees to ease him into an everyday role.

Hicks, the Yanks’ other switch-hitter, did poorly against left-handed pitching during his first year with New York, mustering a weak .484 OPS. Oddly, it went against his career norms and the main reason GM Brian Cashman traded for him in the first place. The organization is banking on Hicks’ relatively young age (27) and late-season improvements with consistent playing time to lead to a better campaign in 2017.

When playing at a National League park against a lefty, the Yankees have Holliday as a first base option. Bird can come off the bench in a pinch-hitting scenario or as a late-inning defensive replacement.