The New York Yankees offense is virtually set after the acquisition of three starting-caliber outfielders in Juan Soto, Trent Grisham, and Alex Verdugo. The exact lineup, however, is yet to be determined.
That raises the question: who will be the Yankees’ leadoff hitter? A modern table-setter needs to have a solid OBP, first and foremost. Then, other traits come into play in the analysis: contact, discipline (not chasing balls out of the strike zone), athleticism, speed, barrel control, power, and whether the hypothetical hitter is better suited at a specific position in the order different than the first.
Considering those attributes, let’s take a look at the current options to lead off for the 2024 Yankees.
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Options to lead off for the Yankees
Gleyber has a career .334 OBP and was at .347 last season. The latter number is encouraging, as is the 123 wRC+ he posted in 2023. Ideally, Torres would hit right behind Aaron Judge and Juan Soto, taking advantage of their on-base prowess, but if the Yankees don’t want to have one of their top sluggers leading off, the middle infielder makes for a solid choice.
2019-2020 LeMahieu would have been, by far, the best leadoff option on the Yankees roster heading into 2024. That player was a force to be reckoned with, with contact, on-base ability, and even some power.
This version of LeMahieu, the one that hit .243/.327/.390 with a 101 OPS, is probably best suited for the bottom half of the lineup. Still, manager Aaron Boone could feel persuaded to hit him first, given his experience and bat-to-ball skills.
As Estevao Maximo of Pinstripe Alley writes, having Volpe earn the leadoff gig would be an “ideal scenario.” Why? Torres would hit behind Judge and Soto, and LeMahieu would hit in the second half of the lineup where he belongs.
However, the Yankees shouldn’t just place Volpe at the top of the order just for the sake of it. He needs to show he can be the hitter he was in the minors in 2021 and 2022.
Last season, Volpe had a decent 8.7 percent walk rate, but his struggles with making consistent contact and learning MLB pitching resulted in a .283 OBP. You just can’t have a .283-OBP hitter leading off.
Volpe has decent power and speed, and he just won a Gold Glove. To take a step forward, however, he needs to learn how to make consistent contact.
In a perfect world, Soto would be the Yankees leadoff hitter. The idea, however, might be too unconventional for the organization to sell to fans and media.
Soto has a career .421 OBP, and that would set the tone for the offense. He is not fast and has plenty of power, which is why he makes sense as the second or third hitter, but having him lead off is not a bad idea by any means.
Just like it happens with Soto, Judge is too powerful for the Yankees to seriously consider hitting first, but it would make plenty of sense. His .406 OBP last season would guarantee that the team will have him on base in four out of ten plate appearances, and that’s excellent.
However, just like it happens with Soto, Judge is too powerful for the team to seriously consider in any other role that is not second or third hitter.
The thing with Soto and Judge batting first is that it makes perfect sense to have your very best hitters taking the most possible at-bats. Having one of them lead off, and the other one following him would guarantee that.