Constructing the 2021 Yankees Line Up
by Paul Semendinger
January 30, 2021
While I still hold out brief hope that the Yankees will acquire a solid everyday lefthanded bat to slot into the lineup, I do have to recognize that the 2021 Yankees as constructed possess a pretty potent and talented collection of hitters.
The following will be the Yankees’ positional starters (along with their projected 2021 numbers (AVG, OBP, SLG and homers) from Baseball-Reference):
C – Gary Sanchez – .207/.301/.440 27 HR
1B – Luke Voit – .263/.354/.508 33 HR
2B – D.J. LeMahieu – .297/.352/.475 20 HR
SS – Gleyber Torres – .268/.344/.483 23 HR
3B – Gio Urshela – .283/.342/.478 19 HR
LF – Clint Frazier – .257/.345/..462 19 HR
CF – Aaron Hicks – .235/.349/.429 20 HR
RF – Aaron Judge – .262/.364/.509 22 HR
DH – Giancarlo Stanton – .253/.342/.471 15 HR
A few things jump right out at me at the start:
Baseball-Reference doesn’t project the Yankees having any .300 hitters.
198 homers between the nine players is impressive.
The injuries to Judge and Stanton have drawn down (way down) their expectations. Remember when it was assumed that they’d each hit 50 homers? This assumes that they’ll hit 37 total home runs combined!
In addition to being an all right handed lineup, minus Aaron Hicks as a switch hitter, it’s a lineup of primarily identical batters statistically, especially if one takes away Gary Sanchez’s projections: .264/.349/.476. 8 players, plus Gary Sanchez who all project to have very similar seasons. Not one player with an OPB under .342 or over .364. Not one player with a slugging percentage under .429 or over .509.
The question then, is in what order should these players bat?
What is the perfect batting order?
If it were my decision, the following would be my 2021 Yankees’ lineup:
Aaron Hicks – He has the third highest projected OBP of any player. The other two players with a higher OBP (LeMahieu and Voit) I wouldn’t want as my lead off guys. D.J. LeMahieu could be the perfect guy here as he has the highest OBP, but I am of the old school and I want the team’s best all around hitter batting third. If it were my team, LeMahieu would bat third. Hicks is also the Yankees best player to take a walk (other than Judge who should not bat leadoff). Hicks also is the only guy on the team who has any real base running speed.
Clint Frazier – Ok, now you think I’m nuts. I do not like, at all, Aaron Judge in the #2 spot. He is not a number two batter. I know all about the walks, but the strikeouts don’t help here. And he whiffs far too often. I know all about how Judge would have more at bats the higher he bats, but, his power seems to be sometimes sacrificed in this spot. I want Aaron Judge to just mash and not have to think about situational hitting and a possible stolen base (the Yankees really have no stolen base threats other than Aaron Hicks, who really isn’t much of a threat there either. (Did I mention that this is a one-dimensional offense? ) Other than Hicks are there any guys who can run the bases well?) Clint Frazier, among these players, I believe has the best bat control (other than LeMahieu) and could thrive batting after Hicks and before the team’s best all-around hitter.
D.J. LeMahieu – The team’s best all-round hitter bats third. Period. I have predicted that he won’t be the .350 batter fans think he’ll be. (Baseball-Reference seems to agree with me.) He should be very good in 2021. He is the best hitter the Yankees have. He needs to be the #3 hitter to take advantage of this. He can protect Frazier and hopefully drive home both Frazier and Hicks.
Aaron Judge – If he is healthy, he’ll outperform the numbers above. The Yankees have to hope he’s healthy. They have to hope and pray and then pray some more. Judge should be in this spot to hit bombs (including doubles) and drive in the three guys ahead of him who should be on base enough. He will also walk putting pitchers in a position where they’ll have to pitch to the #5 hitter with men on base.
Gleyber Torres – He is The Guy. If he’s the player he should be, he should be a gaps hitter who also hits the ball over then fence. All these batters project similarly, but Torres’ approach is less like the other big righty sluggers so he offers a little different look here. Pitchers can’t throw the same stuff to get Judge and Torres out (see below). Having Torres here would make pitching to this lineup more difficult and challenging.
Luke Voit – When he’s good, he’s great, but when he’s not, he projects too much like Aaron Judge. They can’t hit back-to-back so he has to bat 6th. If he hits 30+ homers from this spot, that lengthens the lineup. No matter how good he is, he’s not Aaron Judge so he shouldn’t be the #4 hitter, and since and and Judge shouldn’t hit back-to-back at the top of the order, he has to slot in here.
Giancarlo Stanton – Can you imagine getting to the #7 hitter and facing this guy. My message to Giancarlo would be “stay healthy, crush the ball, and force me to bat you higher.” I would never bat him and Aaron Judge back-to-back – ever. I have seen enough of them striking out on the same pitches low and away to ever allow a pitcher to go after them in the same manner time after time. I also wouldn’t allow an opposing manager to bring in a killer righthanded relief pitcher to give him the ease of getting these guys out on looping breaking balls. Adam Ottavino on a great day would have a field day with these guys, unless they change their approach. This is one of the big Yankees’ problems heading into 2021. They will be sending too many very similar batters to the plate consecutively.
Gio Urshela – What a nice #8 hitter. One of the better hitters in the lineup. He certainly doesn’t make easy outs and the pitcher still needs to work.
Gary Sanchez – My message to Gary would be, “Just be you. You have nothing to worry about. Just hit. Don’t think. Just hit.” Batting him 9th takes all the pressure off. He wouldn’t be asked to carry the lineup. He’d just be asked to do what he can do. He also falls into the Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and to a slightly lesser extend Luke Voit syndrome of flailing at pitches low and away and out of the strike zone. As such, he must be separated from them. Ninth is the perfect spot for a player who needs to rebuild his confidence as a hitter. By putting him here, the Yankees would be allowing him to bat with no expectations. That might be how he finds himself.
Closing thoughts –
This lineup could be tremendous, but it can equally be a disaster. If I were an opposing manager, I’d never throw a lefty against the Yankees. Ever. I’d call up hard throwers from the minors to just to face this lineup.
It is readily apparent that the Yankees need some different types of hitters to balance the lineup. This is a one-dimensional offense.
The Yankees have no speed in the lineup. This will be a station-to-station team. There will be no taking the extra base. This will lead to a less enjoyable team to watch and this lack of speed will hurt the Yankees in the post season.
The Yankees need a lefty or two, a slugger type and an on-base type, on the bench, at least, to be able to combat the right handed bullpens that will face these guys.
You know who looks more and more like the perfect fit? Brett Gardner. He adds speed. He is a lefty. His approach is different than these sluggers.
I know that everyone loves Aaron Judge. Yes, we all do. I do. He is, in many regards, the signature Yankee. No doubt. But, how much better would this lineup look with a guy like Bryce Harper in right field batting fourth? With Harper, I’d probably change the lineup to have him batting 3rd. LeMahieu could then lead off and Stanton or Voit would bat 4th. That lineup, to me, would be much more dangerous. Adding Francisco Lindor to this mix would have also provided so much of what seems to be missing.
I think we’ll see a lot of runners left on second and third who don’t score. I think we’ll see a lot of big innings of five or more runs, and also a lot of shutouts against the Yankees. There will be a ton of homers, but many will be solo shots.
The Yankees should win the division with this lineup, but it’s going to be very vulnerable to the best pitchers which is who they’ll see in the playoffs.
Individually, player by player, there is not much to dislike with the players who will be the Yankees’ starters. But, because this lineup is so one-dimensional, the total output is going to be less than the sum of its parts.