The Yankees don't have much time to waste in a division as competitive as the AL East, but if they want to use April as an experimental ground, that's their right. They just have to be prepared to pivot if things don't work as planned.
You can add lead YES Network play-by-play announcer Michael Kay to the chorus of voices who believes Aaron Judge's quip got the team's best lineup wrong, and now the burden's on the Yankees to figure things out on the field.
According to a cheeky Judge response to manager Aaron Boone at this past week's All Rise Gala, No. 99 believes everything will be alright if Soto bats second and Judge stays behind him (with DJ LeMahieu leading off). That might turn out to be true; Judge would certainly represent the best insurance Soto has ever had behind him (and he's a guy who's batted ahead of Fernando Tatis Jr.). Unfortunately for both Judge and the Yankees, Soto is reportedly uncomfortable batting in the two-hole, and his career numbers bear out that discomfort (he hits roughly .250 in an ever-growing sample size in that spot).
As Kay told Foul Territory on Monday, he believes Judge should stay in the No. 2 hole (where he's long been a powerhouse), keep Soto comfortable, and allow the team's new import to protect him rather than the other way around.
Michael Kay: Yankees should bat Aaron Judge second, Juan Soto third
The Yankees' top priority in 2024 should be -- duh -- winning over keeping Soto happy. Those two things seem likely to go hand-in-hand, though, and making sure Soto doesn't feel backed into a lineup corner in his free agent walk year could be crucial for carrying the team through a season in the spotlight.
There's no better introduction to the grand stage of Yankee Stadium than being caught in a lineup controversy from Day 1. Spring training, for Soto and the Yankees, should be all about finding his comfort zone before the bunting goes up on Opening Day.
For us outsiders, though? The proof is in the pudding, and the data declares Soto prefers to bat third. Just think of the potential upside for both parties if Judge can secure the best protection he's ever had and Soto can hit where he's most potent.