Yankees: Aaron Judge should never bat leadoff

BOSTON, MA - JULY 16: Aaron Judge
BOSTON, MA - JULY 16: Aaron Judge /

Despite the fact that Aaron Judge walked a rookie record 127 times for the Yankees in 2017, batting him leadoff is a waste of a run producer.

There’s been much speculation this spring as to how Yankees manager Aaron Boone is going to lay out his batting order come Opening Day in Toronto.

Aside from Brett Gardner, the Yanks do not possess another legitimate leadoff hitter. And no, I’m not going to entertain the idea of plugging in Jacoby Ellsbury until someone gets hurt and the need arises.

So on Tuesday, when Boone was asked about with the possibility of Judge taking first hacks for the Bombers, he spoke optimistically. Per MLB.com:

"“I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s likely, but something like that I would consider,” Boone said. “I’ve thought about it.”"

In response, the reigning American League Rookie of the Year said:

"“They haven’t brought it up yet, but if they did, I’d just roll with it.“For me, I don’t really care who’s in front of me or behind me. Last year I was lucky enough for the majority of the year to have [Brett Gardner] hitting in front of me, and he was on base a lot. So that was always nice.”"

What would you like Judge to say, ‘Nope, not gonna do it, I’m a power hitter!’ That type of bravado isn’t in the kid’s DNA.

The idea of batting the AL MVP runner-up began when word spread that Boone is looking to break up his plethora of right-handed hitters this season. So on the days that the Yankees face a lefty, the batting order could look something like this:

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  1. Judge
  2. Gardner
  3. Stanton
  4. Bird
  5. Sanchez
  6. Gregorius
  7. Drury/Andujar
  8. Hicks
  9. Wade

Breaking up the lineup as so is more of a benefit late in games when the opposition begins to tinker with their bullpen, as matchups become crucial to getting those much-needed outs.

And while that’s fine and dandy, I still believe batting Judge leadoff is a waste of his RBI potential.

I’m fully aware Judge’s outlandish stats in 2017 make him look like an ideal No. 1 hitter: third-highest OBP in baseball at .422, a rookie record 127 walks and 4.41 pitches per plate appearance.

Leadoff hitters typically get 60-70 more at-bats per season than those that hit in the middle of the order — which plays to the notion that you want your best hitters up more often.

However, this argument is way too basic. Leadoff hitters step in the box with no one on base a total of one-fifth the number of times per season than everyone else, two-through-nine.

So unless Boone is pulling a Mickey Mantle, and getting the kid extra AB’s to try and break the single-season home run record, leaving Judge at No. 2 still gets him plenty of at-bats. Albeit with the possibility of a Brett Gardner already being on base.

There’s also the one glaring omission as to why Judge should never leadoff: his 208 strikeouts in 182 games in ’17. That’s a lot of top of the first innings with one out on the board.

Even if Judge were to only strikeout 161 times in ’18, as projected by Baseball Reference, Gardner’s projected 116 K’s are a much more comforting number.

Someone on Twitter said to me, ‘Does it matter where Judge bats after the first inning?’ To which my response was, ‘It does if the No. 8 and No. 9 hitters don’t consistently get on-base.’

I’ll leave you with his. Last season the Astors moved “power hitter” George Springer to the leadoff spot. Springer finished the regular season with 64 walks, 111 strikeouts, 34 homers and 85 RBI — substantial power numbers indeed.

Now take Judge’s 114 RBI (29 more than Springer), which included a horrendous six-week slump. Those 29 extra RBI meant a ton to a Yankees’ team that made the Wild Card play-in game by six games.

Next: Billy McKinney is on fire!

I for one want don’t want Judge on the basepaths, thinking about stealing a bag or two (nine SB in ’17) and god forbid, risking injury. He’a power-hitter and the best way for the Yankees to make it back to the playoffs and beyond, is for Judge to return to his customary No. 2 spot.