The Yankees Opening Day Lineup set to face the Tampa Bay Rays Sunday afternoon is a mix of the old and new. Maybe not as much of the new as we would like, but still, it’s not too shabby at all, is it?
The Yankees will take the field tomorrow with the following lineup in place:
The only player missing, of course, is Didi Gregorius, who the team will need to do without for at least the first six weeks of the season. And while the Baby Bombers certainly have a presence with the power trio of Greg Bird, Gary Sanchez, and Aaron Judge, other names like Gleyber Torres and Clint Frazier are missing. But, they are coming.
This lineup seems to be built around Greg Bird, and the Yankees will be counting on him to produce.
In stark contrast from last year, we also find Jacoby Ellsbury dropped from number two down to fifth in the lineup with Sanchez taking his regular spot by following Brett Gardner in the order. Ellsbury was philosophical about the switch telling Dan Martin of the New York Post:
"“I talked to him about it before,” Ellsbury said at George M. Steinbrenner Field. “He asked me what I thought. [I said] whatever’s best for the team.”“That’s the good things about it,” Ellsbury said. “It doesn’t really affect anything as far as [what I do].”“You look at my homers, my numbers are right on par with my career,” Ellsbury said. “I’ll keep the same approach. No one’s asked me to do anything more.”"
The impact on Sanchez, though, is likely to be more profound. The young catcher will get more at-bats this way, but it remains to be seen how his RBI total is affected. Again, it’s a situation as to what’s better for the team.
Matt Holiday offers Bird the protection he’ll need to prevent pitchers from skirting around him with no one on base. Bird is provided the same protection too by having Sanchez hitting ahead of him.
Girardi Succeeded In “Shortening” His Lineup
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In that way, this lineup seems to be built around Greg Bird, and the Yankees will be counting on him to produce. The third spot in a team’s lineup is usually reserved for the best hitter. And while Bird has yet to prove he’s that, his eight home runs this spring speak loudly of what he’s capable regarding run production.
Joe Girardi also “shortened” his lineup by placing Aaron Judge eighth instead of sixth behind Ellsbury. Disregarding the usual bunching of your power, Girardi adds a menacing threat to the bottom of the order.
This is bound to work better when Gregorius returns and, for now, Ronald Torreyes will need to step up to ensure that Judge is pitched to and not circumvented.
Aaron Judge Excited To Be Named A Starter (Video)http://media.yesnetwork.com/yes/2017/04/01/yes_1253332583_1200K.mp4
Yankees Veterans Must Carry Team Forward
Girardi pulled no punches, though, boldly (for him) stating that the pressure is on the veterans to produce and the team will go only as far as Chase Headley, Ellsbury, and Gardner can take them. Again, from the New York Post:
"“I think we’re going to be really good if the veterans do their job,” Girardi said. “There’s a lot of talk always [focused] on the young kids. The veterans have to do their job. If they do, we’re going to have a really good year.”"
So, there you have it. The revamped New York Yankees of 2017. The pitching, of course, is a whole other story and the team will need to deal with that separately. But for a team that that was in the bottom third of all teams in runs scored last season, this year promises to be more explosive, as well as consistent.
The Yankees cannot afford to lose April and win September as they did last season when they went 8-14 in April. In this league, catch-up doesn't work.
And from the outside looking in, Girardi has done an admirable job of filling in the pieces correctly with the lineup taking the field tomorrow night.