What Should the New York Yankees’ Lineup Be For Opening Day?

New York Yankees, Jacoby Ellsbury
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The New York Yankees have a lot of possibilities and ways to interchange their lineup. It’s well known that the Yankees have one of baseball’s best benches, but who will be the ones starting? There are a lot of question marks about who’s better to start and who could’ve been a fluke and what they project like. These are good decisions to have to make but are still decisions that have to be made.

Starting Pitcher: Gerrit Cole

This is the clear pick, the Yankees only other possible option was Luis Severino, but he’s hurt. Even if he wasn’t this is pretty easy, the pitcher who should’ve won the AL Cy Young and the best pitcher in 2019 statistically by most important metrics. I won’t go too in-depth with this pick because this one’s a given, but he’s still the best pitcher by far on this roster.

Projections: 2.95 ERA/2.75 FIP/2.70 xFIP/12.3 SO per 9

Catcher: Gary Sanchez

This is again a pretty easy pick, but let’s remember that Gary Sanchez is elite. Over the last three years, he’s had the most home runs for a catcher, 4th in fWAR, tied for 2nd in wRC+, and this is all while only having the 12th most games played by a catcher. We also have a catcher that has the 23rd best Defensive Rating among 99 qualifying catchers since 2017. Another easy pick, and someone I’m so glad we have, if you’re not, go root for another team hater, you aren’t objective.

Projections: .330 OBP/.520 SLG/125 wRC+

First Base: Luke Voit

Oh Luke, how people forget how great of a slugger you are. Since 2018 you’re 4th in wRC+ among first basemen minimum 300 Plate Appearances, 8th in slugging %, and 4th in OBP. The main issue is that Luke Voit defensively isn’t great, but the Yankee’s defensive situation at first isn’t great anyway, so I think his offensive prowess makes up for that. He’s a great righty and going to be a force in the lineup.

Projections: .375 OBP/.475 SLG/120 wRC+

Second Base: DJ LeMahieu

The New York Yankees signing fan-favorite DJ LeMahieu is one of this team’s best signings in recent memory as they are going to pay less than $15 million a year for a player who’s a top 3 2B in baseball right now. He’s been nothing short of great defensively, and his offensive numbers are just as good. 7th in Home Runs, 4th in SLG%, 3rd in OBP, and 2nd in fWAR among 2B minimum 300 Plate Appearances, he’s an absolute unit with the bat. He was 6th in DRS and 4th in UZR despite not nearly as many innings played as those above him.

Projections: .370 OBP/.495 SLG/125 wRC+

Third Base: Gio Urshela

While Miguel Andujar is the younger option and people feel like he is the better option, Urshela statistically improves on most things Andujar does. He’s the better defender and hitter, but a worse baserunner in terms of speed. Urshela is the New York Yankees’ option at 3rd right now until Andujar proves otherwise. Gio is a really good slugger and his xStats show that how his stats are more sustainable than Andujar’s offensively.

Projections: .340 OBP/.510 SLG/ 125 wRC+

Shortstop: Gleyber Torres

This is a lock at SS, with Gleyber being the shortstop of the future for the New York Yankees. With his defense being the only real question mark here, Gleyber seems to be the middle infield lock for our future and the true successor to Derek Jeter. Look for Gleyber to look better against teams that aren’t the Orioles, and I think his stats will experience a noticeable rise as his stats against fastballs and offspeed pitches are great in terms of SLG% and xSLG% and that projects him to do really well as those accounted for 65.3% of the pitches he saw in 2019. Look for Gleyber to establish himself as a true top 10 SS in a stacked position.

Projections: .350 OBP/.550 SLG/ 130 wRC+

Left Field: Giancarlo Stanton

I know this is a weird take seeing as we have Brett Gardner and Mike Tauchman, but for the Yankees, the best possible lineup in terms of both offensive and defensive prowess involves Stanton at Left where in his short stint of 386 innings there, he has 3 DRS and a 19.8 UZR/150 which is really flipping good. His offense doesn’t need mention, as people should know he’s an absolute stud. His ability to slug at a high rate gives protection for younger guys in this lineup like the aforementioned Gleyber Torres who are still growing. He’s a staple in this lineup, and a damn good glove too

Projections: .360 OBP/.570 SLG/145 wRC+

Center Field: Aaron Hicks

The New York Yankees have top 5 players at each position in the outfield, with Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton, and Aaron Judge. This outfield is anchored down defensively in the corners allowing for Hicks to continue to flourish defensively and hit really well. His ability to get on base and hit for power will always be his bread and butter offensively, and he’s going to be able to be really good if healthy in 2020. There’s no denying that this is a guy that you’d want on most rosters.

Projections: .360 OBP/.470 SLG/ 125 wRC+

Right Field: Aaron Judge

Easily the game’s 3rd best Right Fielder and in terms of overall production even though he’s missed significant time, since 2017 he is still the 6th most valuable player according to Fangraphs, 3rd best hitter according wRC+, 3rd best defender according to UZR/150, and 5th in DRS (a stat that gets better with more games played). There is no denying a guy as a top 5 player in all of baseball when he’s at the top in counting stats even with injury and in averages is at the top.  He’s going to be the anchor of this lineup and will be the best player on this team.

Projections: .380 OBP/.560 SLG/ 155 wRC+

Designated Hitter: Mike Ford/Miguel Andujar

Mike Ford may not be the guy most people would pick, but think about what he brings offensively. He had a 134 wRC+ in 50 games, with a SLG% of .559 with a .497 xSLG. He may seem like a downgrade because you could have Andujar all the time or Gardy/Tauchman at LF and Stanton here but Mike Ford is the best lefty bat out of those three. A 45.6 Hard Hit percentage is elite, and if he can keep his 10.4 BB% and lower than normal for a power hitter K% of 17.2, he could be a sneaky good player in this lineup, and add a desperately needed left-handed power bat to the lineup.

Miguel Andujar would be for lefties as while Ford crushed lefties, it was in a short stretch and so you could put them wherever they’re more successful but to me this a platoon type of role. He has some low expected stats and I honestly see him playing fewer games than most would have him play but he’s still a really good hitter. He had some of the best stats with RISP and so in a DH role with guys ahead of him that get on base, he could develop a lot.

Projections: .360 OBP/.490 SLG/ 120 wRC+ (Ford)
Projections: .330 OBP/.520 SLG/ 120 wRC+ (Andujar)

How Would the Lineup Be Built?

In my opinion, the best Yankee lineup looks like this:

  1. DJ LeMahieu
  2. Aaron Judge
  3. Giancarlo Stanton
  4. Gleyber Torres
  5. Aaron Hicks
  6. Gary Sanchez
  7. Luke Voit
  8. Mike Ford/ Miguel Andujar
  9. Gio Urshela

Tauchman and Garder could be used to take the load off of the guys at DH or in the outfield as they are good defensive players and they’ve had solid bats, but for starters, these are the guys I’d role within 2020.

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