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  • Paul Semendinger

Perspectives: Left Field Is Critical

by Paul Semendinger

December 18, 2022

***

I am happy with the Yankees off-season - so far.


Getting Carlos Rodon was HUGE! The Yankees' starting rotation is now extremely strong. Gerrit Cole, Carlos Rodon, Luis Severino, Nestor Cortes, and Frankie Montas make for an extremely talented starting rotation. That rotation is one of the best in the game.


The Yankees' bullpen is still a question mark, but, interestingly, I'm not as concerned about that. The Yankees seem to continually find solid pitchers to pitch out of the bullpen. This has always been one of their strengths. So, although the pen is filled with question marks, I think it'll all, somehow, take care of itself.


As of today, my assessment is that the starting rotation will be great and the bullpen will be fine. All seems good there.


That being said, how the Yankees address left field will, I believe, determine how far they'll go in 2023.


If one looks at the position players, up and down the lineup, there are some concerns there. The lineup, I believe, is too right-handed and the last few spots in the batting order are not especially strong. The Yankees are also going to have to rely on Gleyber Torres and Giancarlo Stanton to be middle-of-the-order hitters that truly compliment Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo. Torres and Stanton have been streaky hitters. They Yankees will need much more consistency from them.


With the lineup being so right-handed, and with the bottom few spots of the lineup being comprised primarily of defense-first players, how the Yankees address left field will be critical. They truly need a top player for that spot. They need a player who hits left-handed, gets on base a lot, and hits for power. That's a lot to ask for and to get that player (whoever it is) will cost a lot in dollars or prospects. But this is the critical piece that, at this point, the rest of the off-season, and the 2023 season will hinge upon.


Here's how I see the Yankees position players as of this moment:


1B - Anthony Rizzo - He checks a lot of boxes, especially as a good defender with plus power who hit left-handed. I am very happy with Rizzo at first base.


2B - Gleyber Torres - He is a frustrating player who alternates between tremendous and terrible. He had a solid 2022, but last winter, off a bad year in 2021, he was all but untradeable. The Yankees need Gleyber Torres to be great in 2023.


If he's healthy, DJ LeMahieu might actually be the better option at second base for 2023 which would allow the Yankees to use Torres as a trade chip - one of the few they really have among their position players. LeMahieu might thrive again playing in just one position as he did throughout most of his career. I also trust LeMahieu's consistency as a hitter more than Torres'. But, LeMahieu doesn't have the power that Torres has and it seems the Yankees are going to need that pop in the lineup.


Oswaldo Cabrera, a switch-hitter (which is a plus) should be a fine back-up for either Torres or LeMahieu.


SS - I am ready for the Yankees to go all-in on either Oswald Peraza or Anthony Volpe. Pick one and roll with it. The hope is that whoever plays shortstop will provide great defense and maybe, just maybe, hit a bit. Whatever offense the Yankees get from shortstop in 2023, I think, will be a bonus. If the Yankees are serious about winning, should not start the year with IKF at shortstop. Which then presents this issue:


If Gleyber Torres is the second baseman, the Yankees do not have a need to carry LeMahieu, Cabrera, and Kiner-Falefa as reserve players. That's one too many infield types, especially with Peraza or Volpe on the farm. These is a log-jam of sorts here.


3B - Josh Donaldson - I'm not a big fan of Donaldson, but I believe on this team, if bats lower in the lineup, and with his solid defense skills, that Donaldson can help them win. Sure, I'd love to see Donaldson traded, but if it doesn't happen, he could be the third baseman on a championship team in 2023. If his bat comes back to previous years, that would also help the bottom of the lineup tremendously.


LF - ??? - Here's the problem. As the roster is constructed, this is the last critical piece. With the rest of the lineup all right handed, except for Anthony Rizzo, a lefty bat makes tremendous sense here.


CF- Harrison Bader - I didn't like the trade for Bader, but what's done is done. Bader sure seemed like the real deal in the playoffs. I'm excited to see him over a full season. I might even become a big fan. He can field, he can run, and he can hit. Ok! Let's roll with it. As the roster currently stands, I'd make him my leadoff hitter.


LF/CF - Aaron Hicks - This is a show that's gone on far too long, but as a reserve player, if the Yankees can't move him, I'm somewhat okay with Aaron Hicks as a player off the bench. He gets on base, can still run a bit, and he is a good defender. Maybe Hicks would thrive in a lesser role. So long as he isn't starting and is never placed in the heart of the batting order, Hicks could actually help the team. My fear is that if he's on the team that he'll play more than he deserves. That will hurt the team. I'd rather not tempt the manager with the option of having Aaron Hicks around. If Hicks is available there will always be the temptation to play him.


RF - Aaron Judge - Nothing needs to be said here. Aaron Judge is the superstar. Judge is the heart and soul of these Yankees. The Yankees have a lot of nice players, but only one great player. That's Aaron Judge. The concern for the Yankees is that if Judge isn't great, superstar level great, the lineup looks a lot weaker. The Yankees need another very big year from Aaron Judge in 2023.


DH - Giancarlo Stanton - When he's good and healthy, he's great. The problem is he hasn't been either of those things for too long and I don't believe he will be either of those things for the most part in 2023. No one knows how he will do, of course, but my concern is that the Yankees are going to need a lot of consistency and power from Stanton. I'm just not sure, at this stage in his career, he can provide that. As good as Giancarlo Stanton might be, or could be, this is the player I'd look to move. He clogs up the DH spot, and he's a right-handed hitter, something the Yankees have too much of. The Yankees need more lineup balance and this is the only place, it seems (in addition to left field), to find that balance.


As a bench player, Matt Carpenter might be fine, but I wouldn't count on him being anything like the player he was last year. I do not think it is likely that he'll perform close to that level again. I worry that if he comes back, the Yankees will expect to see last year's player and he'll get a ton of playing time to demonstrate that he isn't. Just like with Aaron Hicks, I'd rather that option not be available to Aaron Boone.


C- Jose Trevino - We saw the best of Trevino offensively in 2022. He's a great defensive player who can't be counted on to hit all that much. That becomes another weak spot in the batting order.


All told, the Yankees are in good shape. The players I outlined above form a quality team, but not one without weak spots. The offense has questions, no doubt, but defensively, the team is very sound. In fact, this might be (depending on who plays left field) the best defensive team the Yankees have had in a long long time. Every position should be a net positive defensively.


What follows are two interesting possible line-up for 2023. I think this shows why the Yankees need a consistent hitter in left field and why they also still need a left-handed hitter (in addition to the player they get for left field).


1 - Bader - CF

2 - The unknown LF

3 - Judge - RF

4 - Rizzo - 1b* (the only lefty-bat right now)

5 - Stanton - DH

6 - Torres - 2b

7 - Donaldson - 3b

8- Trevino - c

9 - Peraza - ss


OR...


1 - LeMahieu - 2b

2 - Judge - RF

3 - The unknown LF

4 - Rizzo - 1b* (the only lefty-bat right now)

5 - Stanton - DH

6 - Bader - CF

7 - Donaldson - 3b

8- Trevino - c

9 - Peraza - ss

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