Yankees’ batting order getting major reinforcements

mlb: game one-new york yankees at boston red sox, alex verdugo
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The New York Yankees had one of the worst batting orders in baseball last season, especially after Aaron Judge went down due to a toe injury. The Bombers hosted the second-to-last batting average with runners in scoring position and had a similar ranking for their on-base percentage at .310.

Overall, after putting together an elite offensive campaign in 2022, the Yankees backed it up with a dud. The perfect storm occurred with injury and inconsistencies, but general manager Brian Cashman made it a priority to reinforce the batting order and add more durable players to the equation.

Right off the bat, Juan Soto brings a Hall of Fame-level swing at 25 years old to the offense. He’s coming off a season where he played all 162 games, hitting .275/.410/.519, including 35 home runs and 109 RBIs. He hosted a 155 wRC+ and has never had a number below 143. He is a true and tried offensive threat, and he should bolster the top half of the order significantly.

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The Yankees’ Lineup Looks A Lot Different

Aaron Boone has already begun putting together some mock batting orders for the 2024 season, but he referenced Alex Verdugo and DJ LeMahieu’s progress as key components.

“Oh yeah, I’ve done that a lot,” Boone said on Thursday afternoon. “I’ve got a handful that I could envision. A lot depends on some other guys, too. I’m certainly excited about the winter that DJ [LeMahieu] is having, and where [Alex] Verdugo slots in. Potentially, for the first time in a while, we have a chance to have three, four, five lefties or righties on a given day. To be able to alternate them is something that would be pretty nice.”

Verdugo, a 27-year-old outfielder from the Boston Red Sox, is coming off of down season, hitting .264/.324/.421, including a career-high of 13 home runs and 54 RBIs. His best season with a minimum of 140 games came back in 2021, hitting .289/.351/.426, including 13 home runs and 63 RBIs, with a 106 wRC+.

Verdugo offers the Yankees a lefty bat in the order and brings versatility. He’s capable of hitting at the top or bottom half of the order, helping Boone come up with more flexible lineups. The Yankees were looking for higher batting average players, and Verdugo fits the bill well, notably since they’ve been keeping tabs on him for the better part of two years. It is important to note that Verdugo is in the final year of arbitration before he becomes a free agent, so this may be the only season he spends in New York — if the Yankees are keen on extending Soto, Verdugo may be pushed to the side given the financial commitment.

LeMahieu is also an intriguing bat that could experience a bounce-back 2024 season. Last year, before the All-Star break, LeMahieu was hitting just .220/.285/.357, but his numbers took a significant turn for the better once Dillon Lawson was let go.

After hiring Sean Casey to fill the role for the rest of the year, DJ put up tremendous post-All-Star numbers, hitting .273/.377/.432. Clearly, Boone believes he’s in line for a big year and he’s already expected to lock down the third base position. Fortunately, LeMahieu has shown signs of rejuvenation, and his toe injury is well behind him.

At this point, it seems as if he’s the best option to lead off for the Bombers unless one of the younger players takes a step forward and offers the ability to steal bases and get into scoring position ahead of Soto and Judge.

At the very least, the team has a far more balanced lineup with a number of lefty bats. Soto, Verdugo, Austin Wells, and Anthony Rizzo represent their primary lefties. Eventually, Jasson Dominguez will deliver them a switch hitter down the line once he recovers from Tommy Jon surgery.

On paper, the Yankees have a better batting order that should instill fear in opposing pitchers, but they still need to reinforce their starting rotation, and the options are dwindling quickly.