Yankees: Aaron Hicks is the front-runner to lead off according to Aaron Boone


The Yankees have a couple of hitters who in their lineup who could lead off next season, but Aaron Hicks would be the best option to fill that role. Manager Aaron Boone agrees after he announced on Sunday that Hicks is the front runner to start the season hitting at the top of the order.

Last year the Yankees began the season with Brett Gardner as their main leadoff man, especially against right-handed pitchers. Gardner stuck in that spot for most of the first half but after he really struggled out of the All-Star break he was replaced by Hicks and moved to the bottom of the order.

Prior to that Hicks had spent time leading off against left-handers but for the most part, he batted anywhere from third to sixth in the order. Once he took over for Gardner he did a really solid job, but when Aaron Judge went down with an injury in late July he was moved to third in the lineup and eventually the newly acquired Andrew McCutchen took his spot batting first.

This season Hicks is expected to take back his spot as the table setter according to Boone. Judge should be back in his customary two-hole spot and Giancarlo Stanton figures to bat third since Didi Gregorius is out due to injury.

Even though the Yankees lack a power left-handed hitter in the middle of their order with Didi down it makes the most sense for Hicks to bat first. With his speed, his ability to work deep counts, get on base at a high rate and switch hit for power Hicks fits the mold of what you want out of your leadoff hitter.

He can get on base by getting a hit or working a walk and even when he doesn’t he always seems to make opposing pitchers waste about four to six pitches. He can also give his team a quick 1-0 lead with just one swing which is something we’ve seen become a lot more prevalent with leadoff hitters throughout the game today.

Last season Hicks had 123 at-bats hitting first and batted .276 with an outstanding .585 SLG% and a .957 OPS. He hit 11 home runs with 21 RBI and was a perfect 4 for 4 stealing bases. It was another career year for Hicks as he continued to progress into one of the better all-around center fielders in the game today.

Boone mentioned that he might bat Judge lead off against lefties on certain days, but he said the same thing last spring and then he didn’t bat first once the entire season. If Boone is worried about the lack of left-handed pop throughout the lineup he could bat Gardner leadoff sometimes but I don’t see that happening much unless an injury occurs.

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At this point in his career, I’m not sure Gardner can be relied upon as an everyday player so he should probably stay near the bottom of the order when he’s in the lineup. Gardner will likely start the season as the primary left-fielder but I think there’s a good chance he could lose some playing time to Clint Frazier pretty quickly if his second-half struggles carry over into 2019.

Offseason addition D.J. LeMahieu is another option who could lead off at times because of his prior experience doing so with the Colorado Rockies. Last season he split most of his at-bats batting first or second and is a solid option to hit near the top of the order because of his ability to put the ball in play at a very high rate.

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Still, however, I think based on how productive Hicks was batting first for the Yanks a season ago he should continue to hit in that spot on just about an everyday basis. As I said there a couple of other options who could do a good job filling the role but if this Yankee lineup is going to reach its full potential there’s not a better option than Hicks.