Now that the offseason is over and spring training is here, it is time to look at what the Opening Day lineup should look like. Last year Girardi had over 140 lineup combinations, but it would be ideal to have one lineup throughout most of the season. There were not many changes to the lineup this year, Didi Gregorius replaces Jeter, and Alex Rodriguez will play DH. It seems this year that Stephen Drew will be the starting 2nd baseman, at least until Refsnyder or Pirela takes over the position.
Here is how the Opening Day lineup should look:
1) Brett Gardner LF
Gardner is your prototypical leadoff hitter. He has good speed, and has great plate discipline. Last year he even developed some power. If he can raise his batting average a bit without it hurting his other numbers than that would be great. The only other person who can leadoff if Gardner is out of the lineup is Jacoby Ellsbury. I also like Gardner in CF, but Granderson and Ellsbury have kept him from getting much playing time at the position over the past few years.
2) Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Jacoby Ellsbury helps provide the Yankees with a solid 1-2 punch at the top of the lineup. Last year Ellsbury struck out less than Gardner and also stole more bases. Not that Jeter has retired, Ellsbury can finally be in the spot in the batting order that best suits him. Jacoby has decent power and I think he might be able to hit around 20 home runs this year. His batting average is higher than Gardner’s and he drives in more runs. Will be interesting to see if the Yankees call many double steals throughout the season, to help get the offense going.
3) Chase Headley 3B
This was actually tough, as the Yankees don’t have many guys that drove in a lot of runs last year. Originally I would have put Prado but he was traded to the Marlins. Headley played well in his stint with the Yankees last season. Chase Headley has solid plate discipline and gets on base often. I expect his power to increase from 13 to about 18-20 now that he is not playing in Petco Park for 81 games a season. The way the offense struggled last year, I think Headley will be one of our more reliable hitters in 2015.
4) Mark Texeira 1B
I was originally going to put Brian McCann in this spot, but decided Texeira was a better fit. I am hoping that being furthered removed from his wrist surgery will allow him to generate more power this year. Expect to see his XBH go up from last year, and even his batting average should improve slightly. He has solid plate discipline, and if he can hit the ball away from the shift more frequently that would definitely improve his stats.
5) Brian McCann C
I was originally going to put Alex Rodriguez in this spot, so he could have better protection in the lineup. I decided against it however, as we don’t know how much production to expect from A-Rod. McCann did struggle a bit at the plate last year, but did have a power surge towards the end of the season. Whether he was working to hard to live up to his contract or was adjusting to life in a new city that is definitely a lot different than Atlanta, I fell Brian McCann will rebound. He had a higher slugging than Texeira last year, so it can be argued that he should be in the #4 spot. Still I don’t think McCann should have to have the pressure of being the biggest power hitter and leading an injury prone rotation. Besides maybe Texeira can recover some power that could have been lost with the wrist surgery
6) Alex Rodriguez 3B
Right not the production the Yankees receive from Alex is a mystery. Will be play at his 2012 level, or compete with Stephen Drew for who could be the worst player on the 25 man roster. Alex is 39 and hasn’t played in 100 games since 2012. He has been struggling to catch up to high velocity fastballs for years, especially up in the zone. I expect his plate discipline will be fairly good, but that won’t be enough to justify having the 6th spot in the lineup.
7) Carlos Beltran RF
The lineup just keeps getting worse from here. Beltran struggled with injuries last year, and was not nearly as effective as the $15M a year the Yankees paid him. Maybe a healthy Beltran can produce similar to how he did with the Cardinals. If not then I think Chris Young deserves the playing time in RF. Chris Young had the highest slugging last year of anyone who is still on the team, aside from Jose Pirela. 55% of his hits were XBH in his stint with the Yankees, and impressive clip regardless the number of ABs he had. Plus he is a better defender than Beltran.
8) Didi Gregorius SS
I was originally going to put Stephen Drew here, so when the lineup rolled around they wouldn’t have an automatic out awaiting them. However being that he hits like a pitcher, and the #9 spot receives the fewest PAs I felt it was only fair to put Drew their instead. This spot is where Derek Jeter should have been hitting last year. Regardless I think Didi hits about the same or better than the 2014 Jeter.
9) Stephen Drew 2B
Like I said above, he is probably more of an automatic out than some pitchers in the National League. Not much hope for him. You can be optimistic and say he can’t hit any worse than last year, and hopefully that would be correct. The Yankees signed him as a placeholder pretty much until they have confidence that Refsnyder can handle 2nd base at the big league level. Only bright side for him is that when the lineup gets this far down he will have Brett Gardner hitting after him, probably won’t affect Drew’s performance though.