It’s only a surprise if you haven’t been tracking spring training, of course. Since you’re all good little Yankees fans, surely you’ve been eating, sleeping and breathing this stuff after such a disastrous layoff.
In a lineup full of boppers, it’s difficult to find a natural leadoff hitter, though — at least, it’s difficult to find the kind of leadoff hitter you’re probably envisioning when you close your eyes.
These days, for the Yankees, it’s all about finding the perfect combination of OBP and pop, while being cautious to stick someone who’ll clog up the bases atop the order (sorry, Anthony Rizzo).
While your outsider, analytically-inclined lineup crafters might be tempted to slot, say, Aaron Judge in there, he’s too good a run producer to guarantee one at-bat per game with the bases empty.
Perhaps … a newcomer can fill that role?
But is Josh Donaldson in the leadoff spot more of a March experiment, or could it actually happen on Opening Day?
Yankees projected lineup for Opening Day 2022
Let’s see … it’s against the Boston Red Sox, and their ace is … no one. Huh.
Their starter, with Chris Sale out, will likely be right-handed flamethrower Nathan Eovaldi, who either eats the Yankees’ lunch or gets knocked around spectacularly whenever he toes the rubber against the Bombers. Real mixed bag, but things have been trending in Eovaldi’s direction lately (and he just won the last-ever AL Wild Card Game).
As of this moment, here’s the lineup that makes the most sense:
- Josh Donaldson, 3B
- Aaron Judge, RF
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B
- Giancarlo Stanton, DH
- Joey Gallo, LF
- Gleyber Torres, 2B
- Aaron Hicks, CF
- Isiah Kiner-Falefa, SS
- Kyle Higashioka (and his four dingers), C
Why not? The Yankees slotted him in there against a tough right-hander in Aaron Nola on Tuesday after trying it against left-hander Jose Quintana over the weekend, then went back to the well Wednesday against Toronto. Either they’re hinting for hinting’s sake, or there’s a real chance this could happen.
Donaldson has just 32 PAs career from the leadoff spot, it’d certainly be an unconventional choice. Thing is … there aren’t really conventional choices here. DJ LeMahieu’s a high-average, low-OBP guy. Brett Gardner’s not walking through that door. Rizzo feels about two degrees too cute.
Aaron Boone explained the reasons he’d consider him for the honor a few days back, and opted to make a compelling case.
Donaldson strikes balls hard (thanks, Dillon Lawson), and he remains athletic at 36 years old (not IKF athletic, but still agile).
Perhaps there’s an alternate universe where prime Rickey Henderson is beamed down into the modern day Yankees order. Until Aaron Hicks can prove he’s “back,” though, Donaldson atop the lineup might be the best call. It’s certainly the coolest.