The lineup for the Yankees has been ever-changing the last few seasons. Most of that is thanks in part to injuries. Judge, Stanton and Hicks have missed extended time during their tenures and it’s made Aaron Boone have to shuffle his lineup more than I’d imagine he’d like. Boone already seems to have a lineup in mind for this season, and it sounds as if he’s planning on Aaron Hicks being the three-hitter.
Aaron Hicks is envisioned as the #Yankees' No. 3 hitter to begin the season, manager Aaron Boone said.
Hitting third is nothing new for Hicks, he did it in 32 of his 49 starts last season and 22 of 56 starts in 2019. To me, it’s felt like that was more out of necessity than want. Boone has mostly kept Judge and Stanton separated in the lineup, with Judge in the two-hole and Stanton clean up. I thought Luke Voit may be given a chance to hit third this year, however, after a great 2020.
In the analytical era of baseball, the second place in the lineup has become the spot for your best hitter, unlike the game of yesteryear. That has left the third spot open for some different solutions. Some teams still place their best hitter there, but others have gone different routes. Some teams will bestow that honor to a pure power hitter like Stanton, others will use a “professional hitter” such as DJ LeMahieu to keep the lineup moving.
The Yankees have a deep lineup and versatile hitters, which leaves for a number of combinations. LeMahieu can hit anywhere, though you’re doing your team an injustice if he’s not in the top three. Judge can be used in the top four spots—Boone flirted with him leading off before last season. Hicks has value throughout the lineup and Torres along with Frazier can be used anywhere besides leadoff. Voit is a perfect 2-5 hitter and filled in more than admirably in Judge’s place last season. Stanton cleaning up is ideal for this team. Urshela fits in with Torres and Frazier, but his bat is valuable in the 5-7 range to help extend the lineup. And now it looks like Sanchez will be moved depending on how he’s hitting, or not hitting.
Here’s a lineup with some of the top hitters included for last night’s game:
Hicks has always been an intriguing leadoff hitter to me. He’s one of the best at fouling pitches off and running counts full, a la Brett Gardner. And he has a.346 OBP as a Yankee, which is in the ideal range for a leadoff hitter. But Hicks has good power and lacks in the average department. But his skill set may justify using him as the third hitter.
The fact Hicks works the count so well will prolong an inning and his propensity to take a walk can either move LeMahieu and Judge along the bases or act as a second leadoff hitter if Judge homers. Hicks can do damage himself or set the table for Voit, Stanton and Torres to follow. Out of the three spot last season, Hicks slashed .261/.320/.500, which isn’t MVP-level stuff but will definitely play in a loaded Yankee lineup.
Even though the lineup will be fluid because of injuries, rest days and slumps, Boone seems to envision Hicks as the third hitter in an ideal world. Could we see a lineup such as: LeMahieu, Judge, Hicks, Voit, Stanton, Torres, Frazier, Urshela, Sanchez? Or do you think it will be something else?