One of the more pressing questions for the New York Yankees is who their lead-off hitter will be in 2023. The obvious choice is DJ LeMahieu, but coming off a serious toe injury that ended his 2022 campaign prematurely, the Yankees must have alternative options at the ready.
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Here are the Yankees’ three lead-off options for the 2023 season:
1.) DJ LeMahieu
As stated above, LeMahieu will likely start the season as the team’s lead-off man, hitting .261 with a .357 OBP last season across 125 games. He hit 12 homers with 46 RBIs, a 13.1% strikeout rate, and a career-high 12.4% walk rate. Despite playing injured for a sizable chunk of the season, he still managed a 116 wRC+.
However, specifically as a lead-off man, he hit .256 with a .358 OBP, nine homers, and 38 RBIs. The majority of his at-bats came in that role, but he did enjoy 61 at-bats batting 5th in the order.
If DJ is healthy, he’s locked into the lead-off spot, but expecting him to play a full season is optimistic at this point in time.
2.) Aaron Judge
Aaron Judge served as a lethal lead-off hitter in 2022, mainly because it forced opposing pitchers to attack him. The 2022 MVP hit .366 with a .481 OBP last season, batting first. He recorded 13 homers, 39 strikeouts, and 29 walks.
Judge predominantly fills the Yankees’ number two spot, slashing .295/.406/.680 across 419 at-bats. If DJ can’t fill the role, I wouldn’t be surprised if Judge took over, despite the team wanting a high on-base percentage guy batting first before the slugger steps up to the plate.
3.) Gleyber Torres
We did see Gleyber Torres take the lead-off role on several occasions last season, notably in the playoffs. Losing Andrew Benintendi puts the Yankees in a bit of a rut if DJ is forced to miss significant time, but Gleyber could step in and help fill the role if need be.
However, Torres did bat third over 105 at-bats, recording a .412 OBP. The majority of his reps came in the 5th and 6th spot, in which he saw a .315 and .234 OBP, respectively. His numbers toward the bottom of the order dragged him down, but he hit far better toward the top of the order, which is an interesting observation.
If not for Gleyber, who’s to say that one of the team’s youngsters doesn’t rise to the occasion and take over the spot when DJ isn’t available? I would keep a close eye on Oswald Peraza, Anthony Volpe, once he’s called up, and even Oswaldo Cabrera if hits a hot streak.