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  • Tim Kabel

About Spring Training: And Now, Following the Lead

About Spring Training: And Now, Following the Lead

By Tim Kabel

February 29, 2024

***

Spring Training is underway and actual games have started. One month from yesterday, the Yankees will open the season in Houston against the Astros. Essentially, we have a month of Spring Training before the season starts. That is not a lot of time, and it will fly by. So far, there have been several encouraging signs regarding this team. But there are still questions that need to be answered. 


One of the primary topics of discussion during the off-season, and now in Spring Training, has been where Juan Soto and Aaron Judge will bat in the lineup. It seems likely that Soto will bat second and Judge will hit third. I think the more important question is who should be the leadoff hitter? 


There's a lot of speculation that DJ LeMahieu will be the leadoff hitter. At one point in his Yankees’ career, that would have made perfect sense. I don't know if it does now. He has missed significant portions of the past few seasons due to injuries and in the first half of last season, he was not very good. His overall numbers have been declining as well. He will turn 36 years old this season. His days as an everyday player and a leadoff hitter may be behind him. 


I believe the best chance for a successful season for the Yankees is for Anthony Volpe to show enough progression and improvement to take over the leadoff role. If he can get on base at a significantly higher rate than he did last season, he can use his speed to put himself in scoring position on a regular basis. Is it asking a lot? Yes, it is, but it is also a reasonable expectation for young players to improve. If Volpe starts out the new season as an adequate leadoff hitter, it would be reasonable to believe he would get better throughout the season. Is Volpe the perfect choice? No, he is not. However, he could be the best choice and he could be the player most likely to develop into that role. I'm not saying it should be chiseled in stone today. I'm saying it should be considered and put into practice during Spring Training. That is one of the main purposes of Spring Training. 


Now that I have discussed the leadoff position, let me move past that. I don't think Soto or Judge should bat second. I propose a lineup with Volpe batting first, Alex Verdugo hitting second, Judge hitting third and Soto hitting clean up. Those would be my first four batters against right-handed pitchers. Verdugo gets on base a lot and hits a great number of doubles. Batting Verdugo second will lengthen the lineup and put Judge and Soto in more RBI situations. I know the modern way of looking at things is to put your best hitter second because over the season they will get more at bats. I think the focus should be on scoring as many runs as early as possible. 


The Yankees could flesh out the lineup with Gleyber Torres batting fifth, Anthony Rizzo sixth, Giancarlo Stanton seventh, Austin Wells or Jose Trevino eighth, and LeMahieu or whoever is playing third base batting ninth. I think that would be a very productive and balanced lineup. For the first time in several years, the Yankees have multiple left-handed hitters. In the past, it was a characteristic of Yankees’ lineups that there were several left-handed hitters. Once Jasson Dominguez returns from the IL, the lineup will be even deeper. If Giancarlo Stanton does not produce consistently, his days as a regular, and even as a Yankee may be numbered. 


Spring Training is a forum for experimentation. The Yankees should try multiple combinations and see what is there. My only concern is that Aaron Boone frequently becomes infatuated with certain players and lineups and is unwilling to be flexible or to change. He may decide to go with LeMahieu as the leadoff hitter regardless of the results, simply hoping that eventually he will revert to his old form. 


I honestly believe that if the Yankees are to have a successful season in 2024, Anthony Volpe needs to evolve into an effective leadoff hitter. It may not happen on Opening Day, but at some point this season, he needs to fill that role. If he is not capable of doing it, that would be a problem, but if he is never givien the opportunity, that would be a bigger problem.  

13 comentários


Jeff Korell
Jeff Korell
29 de fev.

I have always been a fan of the 1970's/1980's/1990's style of having the best base stealer (Volpe) leading off, provided he can improve his On Base Percentage, which I think he will this year. The reason I am so optimistic about that is that Volpe changed his swing over the winter. He eliminated that "upper cut" swing that had him "swinging for the fences" (trying to homer) instead of the more level swing that allowed him to have so much success as a minor league player, and allowed him to advance so quickly through the minor league system. He adjusted back to that more level swing, which will mean different and better results this season. It will mean fewer ho…


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Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
29 de fev.

"Verdugo gets on base a lot"


That's simply wrong. There were 135 MLB batting qualifiers in 2023. Verdugo OBP ranks him No. 80. Even if you look at his .329 OBP vs. righties, that only moves him up to No. 64. By contrast, LeMahieu's .370 from July 5 on (i.e., when healthy) would rank 14th. Gleyber Torres is No. 40. Soto was No. 5. Judge didn't have enough PAs to qualify, but his .406 would have been 7th in MLB (just ahead of Bryce Harper). And FWIW, Rizzo had a .376 OBP through his injury on May 28.


Volpe has potential to lead off in the future, but he has to prove first that he's shed his bad hitting habits…


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Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
29 de fev.
Respondendo a

That puts Verdugo in the same boat with Volpe (the Killer V's?). Show me an OBP of .370 over half a season, and I'll be very open to having them lead off. Conversely, if DJ gets off to a first-half start like he did last year, he's not hitting first anymore.


Existing statistics are not fool-proof, but until a guy who has done the job shows he can't, or a guy who hasn't shows he can, that's they way you play it. See also Race to the Swift, Battle to the Strong; correct way to place wagers on same.

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fuster
29 de fev.

DJ is the choice for the nonce.


but, as they say, the future will be in the hands (and legs) of the kids.


the offense's success for the 2024 season rests upon Judge, Soto and Rizzo

but it might be mightily enhanced by Volpe, Dominguez and Wells....

.... assuming Wells is not traded to the Pirates

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Alan B.
Alan B.
29 de fev.

It's laugh outloud funny just how many people still think Boone has choices about the lineup. He virtually doesn't, except for a late scratch, and the new betting/releasing the lineup rules helps with making this statement. I do believe that D.J. is healthy and his post ASB .377 OBP was real. Verdugo hit leadoff about 80 times last year with an OBP of about .360. Last year, Volpe hit leadoff BCP. But the more I saw of him, I don't see him as the successor to D.J. in the leadoff spot, I more see him as taking over for Torres in his spot whenever he leaves. Could he still end up in the #1 spot simply because they really…

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etbkarate
29 de fev.

In a perfect world Volpe evolves into a lead off hitter. Im not saying they they believe he is there yet. But, it will happen at some point, soon.

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