With position players now in camp, I thought it would be worthwhile to take an early look at a projected starting lineup the Yankees could roll out in 2017. This should be an interesting year for Joe Girardi and lineup tweaking because for the first time in his Yankees career, he has a fairly flexible lineup without any major contracts or retiring legends to deal with. Gone are the days of being forced to bat Derek Jeter second or A-Rod in the 3-5 spots.
This should make for some interesting experimentation throughout the season, and I hope Girardi continues to tweak and tinker with his lineup in the coming months. My immediate fear is that Binder Joe refuses to break up the 1-2 punch of Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury, which last season contributed significantly to the poor offense the Yankees displayed. As I’ll explain later, I think it’s time to move Ellsbury to the bottom of the lineup.
The players involved in the lineup are for the most part fixed. The only real interchangeable players, barring injuries, are Greg Bird or Matt Holliday with Chris Carter or one of the outfielders (probably Aaron Judge) with Aaron Hicks. My guess and hope is that Judge wins the starting RF job and Carter remains mostly in a platoon with Bird against lefties, while also occasionally sliding in the DH spot depending on how well he’s hitting.
Initially, I expected to have two fairly varied lineups vs. right-handed or left-handed pitching, but currently I don’t see much of a difference. So without further ado, let’s take a look at the 2017 projected lineup.
2017 Opening Day Projected Lineup
1. Brett Gardner (L)
I gave a lot of thought about which of the speedy outfielders belonged at the top of the lineup, but Gardner had the best on-base percentage last season at .351, plus he sees a lot of pitches per at-bat. Gardner is exactly the type of guy you want at the top of a lineup.
I’m over the Ellsbury/Gardner combo at the top of the lineup and so with Gardner batting leadoff, I put Didi in the two-hole. Didi makes a lot of contact, showed fairly significant power last season, and is continuing to improve as a hitter. He was also much more consistent than some of the options I put lower in the lineup.
Sanchez and Holliday bat third and fourth respectively. I don’t think that should be a surprise to anyone, and it’s probably the closest thing to a given we have for the Opening Day lineup.
5. Greg Bird (L)
The five-hole is interesting on this team. I chose Bird because of his past track record, power, and because he’s left-handed in an otherwise right-handed heavy middle of the lineup. I could see Judge moving up and taking this spot in the lineup but we all know how much Girardi likes breaking up lefties and righties, so this makes sense.
Castro could also potentially fit into the five-spot, but I placed him behind Bird almost exclusively because he’s right-handed. He has great power, hitting 21 HR last season, and has shown the ability to hit for average in the past. For now though, let’s put him here.
Headley, the man everyone loved to hate last season even though he quietly turned it around, is batting seventh. The third baseman doesn’t do anything particularly great, but he’s fairly solid all around. Headley is more proven than Judge, who I have in the eight-spot for now, but he doesn’t have enough power to be placed higher, and doesn’t have enough speed to be placed lower. Just an unexciting player in a fairly unexciting lineup spot.
8. Aaron Judge (R)
Putting Judge in the eight-hole might be the most contentious choice of my projected lineup. Judge has power, we all know that, but until he starts hitting for contact he’s a major liability in the lineup. My hope is he starts to work his way up the lineup throughout the season. Until he proves himself, however, he should stay at the bottom. I would say that against left-handed pitching Hicks would sub into this spot in the lineup, but Hicks was horrendous against lefties last year, so who knows where he ends up when he gets to play.
9. Jacoby Ellsbury (L)
Ellsbury batting ninth might be my biggest hope that’s the least likely to happen. Ellsbury is the sole remaining hitter on this roster reeling in big money and because of that, Girardi might feel pressure to hit him towards the top. I pray that doesn’t happen and he realizes Ellsbury best serves the team at the bottom. He has good speed that works well in front of Gardner but not well enough to convince me to put him at the top of the lineup.
As far as Chris Carter goes, I could see him starting against lefties somewhere in the middle of the lineup for his power, either spelling Bird or Holliday.
As stated earlier this could continue to shift around as certain youngsters start to hit or drift into slumps. It should be an exciting season to watch a number of young players fight for lineup spots.