Heading into 2015, the Yankees’ lineup looks a lot like what it did at the end of 2014, with the exception of the return of Alex Rodriguez, and the replacement of Derek Jeter with Didi Gregorius at shortstop.
Now that the pieces are officially in place, how will Joe Girardi arrange them come Opening Day? Here’s how he should:
- Brett Gardner, LF: For years, Gardner has been the only logical choice to bat leadoff for this team, and that holds true this year. Gardner is team’s fastest runner (sorry, Jacoby Ellsbury), and has the best on-base skills of anyone else in the lineup. Gardner will be the choice to bat leadoff for this team come opening day.
- Jacoby Ellsbury, CF: Studies have shown that a team’s #2 hitter should be its best hitter, and in this case, that means the Yanks’ $153 million man should be hitting right behind Brett Gardner. Ellsbury has the team’s best hit tool, and has solid on-base skills, to boot. He isn’t going to put on a power display like he did in 2011, when he mashed 32 homers, but a number like the 16 he hit last year is reasonable. I think he’ll be a .280/.340/.420 hitter this year, perfect for a #2 spot in the lineup.
- Chase Headley, 3B: This was a toss-up between Headley and Brian McCann, but ultimately, I opted for Headley here to try achieve some lineup balance: Putting McCann here would have meant batting three lefties in a row. The switch-hitting Headley should help off-set that slightly. It still remains to be seen what kind of production he’ll put up in a full season in pinstripes, after last year’s .262/.371/.398 line.
- Brian McCann, C: McCann is officially the team’s most dependable power hitter. Last season was a major disappointment for McCann, but as I’ve written before, his spray charts from last season indicate that he was pulling the ball much more than he had in prior seasons. It seems like he was trying too hard to take advantage of Yankee Stadium’s short right field porch. If he can refocus his approach to what it was in Atlanta, McCann can be an effective cleanup man.
- Alex Rodriguez, DH: Remember, this is the lineup Joe Girardi should march out on Opening Day. This lineup spot is subject to change. There is no bigger question mark in baseball right now than Alex Rodriguez. He could play like an All-Star, or like a AAA call-up. We don’t know. What we do know is that the guys behind him have done little to prove that they are worthy of batting in this spot. “A-Rod” should get a chance to prove himself here, regardless of his tarnished reputation. Against tough righties, it would make sense to give Garrett Jones a chance to get some at-bats.
- Mark Teixeira, 1B: Teixeira is a prime example of giving out mega-contracts to players in their early thirties. Texeira came to New York in 2009 and put up an incredible season: a .292/.383/.565 line with 39 homers. As the years went on, his batting average and OBP dropped, followed by his slugging numbers. Last year, he posted a .216/.313/.398 line, posting a career low isolated power of .182. Maybe he can recover some of his hold hitting abilities, but there isn’t a lot to feel encouraged about right now.
- Carlos Beltran, RF: I wasn’t a fan of the three-year, $45 million deal the Yankees gave Beltran last offseason, and I’m even less of a fan now. He was as bad as I predicted he would be in pinstripes, posting a .233/.301/.402 line, with plate discipline peripherals that suggest he should have been even worse. I expect a drop-off in 2015.
- Stephen Drew, 2B: Clearly, all of Brian Cashman’s options must have been exhausted when he re-signed Drew. He put up a .150/.219/.271 line in half a season in pinstripes– barely worse than what he did in a Red Sox uniform. He was a .273/.333/.454 hitter with Arizona from 2008 to 2011, and he’ll still be just 32 for most of this season; perhaps he can get back to what he once was, or at least hit above the Mendoza Line this year.
- Didi Gregorius, SS: New York brought Gregorius in for his glove, not his bat. That being said, he’ll be just 25 for most of 2015, so there might be an opportunity for some growth. For now, though, the Yankees will just hold their breath every time he steps up to bat.