Who Should The New York Yankees’ Leadoff Hitter Be In 2019?

Alexander Wilson
New York Yankees, Brett Gardner
Aug 28, 2018; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner (11) hits a triple in the sixth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees have a variety of different decisions they will need to make in 2019, one of which is – who will be the leadoff hitter?

Options include Brett Garnder, who led off in 107 games last season, or Aaron Hicks, who earned 31. Why would Hicks be a good option moving forward? Because he’s a switch hitter, and getting on base for the core of the order — Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and potentially Manny Machado — would allow the Yankees to be more efficient.

Additionally, it’s appropriate to factor in the No.2 hitter, which will undoubtedly be Judge, who recorded 108 games at the spot. He smacked 27 home runs in 2018, despite missing nearly 9 weeks with a fractured wrist. The difference in hitting a solo or two-run homer can ultimately come down to the on-base-percentage of the leadoff hitter in Judge’s case.

Hicks’ OBP was .366 while Gardner’s was .322 last season. This would indicate that Hicks get on base more often and therefore would make the better option to be the leadoff hitter. Another beneficial factor is that he’s a switch hitter, which will give him the advantage over opposing pitchers trying to expose the righty-favored Yankees lineup.

Who else could the New York Yankees use?

Another interesting option could be Clint Frazier, if they choose to utilize him in the starting lineup as an outfielder. He hit leadoff in just one game but had an OBP of .390 with New York in 2018. The sample size for his stats are small – 34 at-bats, yet he seems to attract a solid amount of walks – 5 walks in 34 at-bats. That’s a 15% walk-rate, which is another attractive number when talking about a leadoff hitter.

Gardner, who is arguably one of the most disciplined hitters I’ve ever seen, has had tremendous success making pitchers work and racking up a high pitch-count. Over a larger sample-size, Gardner earned 530 at-bats last season with 65 walks. That’s about a 12.5% walk-rate.

Another factor that must be mentioned is speed. Gardner has the ability to hit a little infield blooper and beat out the throw at third-base. He can also turn a single into a double, etc.

While Hicks offers a higher OBP and switch-hitting ability, I’m convinced Gardner will remain the primary leadoff hitter, with a sprinkle of Hicks. It’s possible manager Aaron Boone chooses to utilize the hot-hand on any given day.