Yankees 2017 Definitive Predictions: Team Batting Leaders


The Yankees are coming, and so are my predictions of Team Batting Leaders for 2017. No, change that. These are the definitive predictions.

Yankees fans are joining the fun with predictions of all kinds sprouting up everywhere as the team prepares to open its season again the Rays in Tampa this afternoon. No surprise, I have mine too.

And just to be a good sport about it, I’m going to print and post this one just above my desk to remind myself how smart I was in April and how dumb I turned out to be in September. No matter, though, these will be the Definitive Batting Leaders for the Yankees in 2017.

Batting Average

I picked the toughest one first to get it out of the way. But, Matt Holliday, if he stays healthy, will live up to his billing and history as a perennial .300 hitter in the major leagues. (And by the way, from here on in that “if he’s healthy” proviso applies to all.)

Holliday wakes up in the morning with hits spraying off his bat, and there’s no reason to think he left his best days behind in St. Louis. He’s got some pop too, and he should be able to capitalize on the short porch at the Stadium.

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Jacoby Ellsbury could surprise and return to form as a formidable major league hitter again. And if he does, he would likely pass Holliday to win the batting title on the team. But, that’s a big if so I’ll go with the percentages.

In the .280-.290 range, we can expect Greg Bird and Gary Sanchez and in the .260-.280 range, Didi Gregorius, Starlin Castro, Aaron Judge, and Brett Gardner. Ronald Torreyes is in the “unknown” category.

Home Runs

Greg Bird is the walk-away winner, and I’ll eat my hat (if I had one) if he doesn’t hit at least 35 dingers this season. He’s got that sweet right field porch swing and the power behind it to reach the upper deck consistently. And with Holliday hitting behind him, he’ll be pitched to.

Bird will need to make adjustments, though, as the season moves on as pitchers will be making changes to him as they seek to find holes to get to the point where he gets himself out.


Challengers to Bird are limited mainly to Aaron Judge and, to a lesser extent, Gary Sanchez. With Judge, it’s a matter of keeping those strikeouts down by drawing walks, so pitchers learn fast that he’s not swinging wildly at the plate anymore.

With Sanchez, Girardi’s moving him to second in the order makes him a different kind of hitter. Or at least, that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Sanchez’s job this season will be like Derek Jeter adding accelerant to the fire by moving things along any which way he can.

Next season, however, everything changes and Gleyber Torres will take over the number two spot in the order with everyone moving down a notch leaving a 3-4-5 combo of Sanchez, Bird, and Judge – or possibly Clint Frazier.

Runs Scored

This one should go by default to Brett Gardner who hits from the top of the order with all that power and explosiveness coming up behind him. But I’m not sure that Gardner has that much left in the tank.

Gardner knows, though, and he can hear the footsteps coming up behind him, that this is a turning point in his career, at least with the Yankees. And if he can’t produce, he’s ticketed out of town, possibly as soon as July at the deadline.

So, bottom line, he’s motivated, and that counts for something. Greg Bird seems the most logical one to pick up the slack if Gardner falters and he’ll collect 90-100 runs scored with or without Gardner in the picture.

From his spot in the order, Sanchez should also score a ton of runs. But I’m not sure of his speed on the basepaths (yet).

Runs Batted In

In the coming years, Greg Bird has everything it takes to challenge the league for a Triple-Crown. And he’ll most certainly lead the team in RBI this season and for many years to come. His swing is sweet and not susceptible to prolonged slumps. And more importantly, he’s not taken in by the “New York Thing.”

If Gary Sanchez played any position other than catcher, he would likely challenge Bird. But catching has too many rigors to allow for a full concentration on hitting. Sanchez could turn into Johnny Bench or Mike Piazza, of course, and that would certainly be a welcome surprise for the Yankees.

But more than likely, and even after his superhuman accomplishments last season, the team will be happy with 80-85 RBI from Sanchez on a regular basis.


This is another area where the Yankees faltered last year, and they must improve on significantly this season if they are going to seriously contend for a spot in the playoffs.

And as you look up and down their lineup, there is (still) no one who pops out at you as a base on balls type of hitter. Sanchez could win this title by default simply by pitchers not pitching to him. But with Bird behind him, that possibility is lessened.

Gardner’s the man who should assume the role as the hitter with the good eye who’s willing to get on base setting the table for the others to follow. He’s capable, but will he produce.

I’m not picking anyone in this category because the team sucks in this department and I’d be surprised if anyone can surmount a walk total of more than 60.


Greg Bird will be the hitting star of the New York Yankees in 2017. Strong contributions will come from Matt Holliday, and Gary Sanchez and similar contributions are needed from the likes of Gardner, Ellsbury, and Headley for the team to score runs at a pace to equal the Red Sox, and probably Toronto as well.

And each of the latter players mentioned holding the keys to the Yankees season this year – up or down.