Yankees: Predicting the Opening Day lineup
Now that the Yankees 25-man roster is set the next decision for manager Aaron Boone to make is constructing his lineup for Opening Day against the Orioles. On Wednesday Boone announced his starting nine, but we still don’t know what the batting order is going to look like.
The Yankees will be without key contributors Didi Gregorius and Aaron Hicks to start the season, but the lineup we’ll see on Thursday will still feature plenty of heavy hitters who can put up runs in bunches. Now that we know Hicks will be out of the lineup indefinitely the most logical option to replace him as the leadoff hitter is Brett Gardner.
As much as Gardy struggled down the stretch last season he still gets on base at a decent rate and he always makes opposing starters throw a ton of pitches during his at-bats. He also had an outstanding spring, so if he can carry that success over early on in the season he should stay at the top of the order until Hicks returns.
Behind Gardner, it’s safe to assume that we’ll see Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton back to back in the two and three hole. Both sluggers are primed for huge seasons and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they combined for over 100 home runs and each posted the second 50 home run season of their respective careers.
As for the rest of the lineup that we’ll see support SP Masahiro Tanaka and face off against O’s right-hander Andrew Cashner here’s my prediction:
- Brett Gardner CF
- Aaron Judge RF
- Giancarlo Stanton LF
- Luke Voit DH
- Miguel Andujar 3B
- Gary Sanchez C
- Greg Bird 1B
- Gleyber Torres 2B
- Troy Tulowitzki SS
Based off of the lineup we saw in Monday’s spring training finale against the Nationals I think Luke Voit will be the Yankees cleanup hitter to start the season. That’s crazy to think about when you look at where Voit was in his career this time a year ago.
He wasn’t even on a big league roster but ever since he joined the Yanks last August he’s done nothing but hit. He carried that success over this spring and has given the coaching staff no reason to put him anywhere but in the top half of the order.
Behind Voit will be Miguel Andujar who is looking to build off his outstanding rookie season in 2018. Miggy is an extra-base hit machine and this year more of those 47 doubles he hit last season are going to turn into home runs as he continues to get stronger and improve his plate discipline. Out of all the Yankee hitters in the lineup, Andujar has the best chance to hit over .300 in addition to potentially hitting over 30 home runs with 50 doubles.
Gary Sanchez in the six hole is a good spot for him to start the season after the down year he had in 2018. Sanchez enters this year 100% healthy after offseason shoulder surgery and should be more motivated than ever to put up monster numbers similar to the one he put up during his first season and a half in the big leagues.
The Yankees need Sanchez to bounce back more than any other player on the team because if he can regain his All-Star form this offense goes from being great to unstoppable. I know a lot of fans are down on EL Gary after his performance a year ago, but I think he’s in a great place entering this season both physically and mentally. As long as he can stay healthy he’s going to have a huge year and I predict him to win AL Comeback Player of the Year.
Without Hicks and Didi the Yankees are desperate for some left-handed power in their lineup and the next best option to deliver some is Greg Bird. Bird had another injury-plagued and incredibly inconsistent season at the plate last year but once again this spring he put up huge numbers.
Yankee fans have been fooled before expecting Bird to carry his success from the spring into the regular season, but something about this year seems different. Bird is legitimately healthy entering Opening Day for the first time in his Yankees career and has his legs back under him. He’s getting that front foot down early again which has enabled him to catch up to fastballs up in the zone and drive the ball to all parts of the field.
Boone announced Bird will start at first base on Thursday according to Boone and will continue to battle with Luke Voit for that starting job early on in the season. He knows that once Hicks comes back there’s a chance he’ll be sent to Triple-A but since there’s still no timetable for Hicks’ return he’ll get plenty of opportunities in April to prove that he belongs on the big league roster for the long haul.
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Gleyber Torres is a better hitter than Greg Bird but Boone likes to flip flop lefties and righties so I think we’ll see Bird ahead of Torres. That way he can also provide Bird some protection which will lead to him getting better pitches to hit because opposing pitchers won’t want to face a hitter as dangerous as Torres waiting on deck with runners on.
Someday soon Torres will hit in the top third of the lineup and will do so for years to come, but in this stacked Yankee lineup he’ll start off near the bottom as he did during his rookie season. It’s always a plus to have guys who can hit for a high average and for power in the bottom half of the order let alone a future MVP candidate like Gleyber.
Rounding things out will be Troy Tulowitzki. Tulo has a ton to prove this season with the Yanks and based on how he looked during the spring he should have a nice comeback season filling in for Didi Gregorius. Health is obviously the key for the former All-Star after missing all of last season, but if he can stay on the field he’s going to make a nice impact.
At this point in his career he’s not going to put up the numbers he used to nor is he going to play every day. However, he’s going to bring some pop to the bottom of the lineup and a professional approach every time he steps into the box.