Spring Training is roughly a month away, and though the offseason isn’t technically over, it feels like the Yankees are just about done. Trading JA Happ seems like the final step this winter, if it even occurs at all. As a result, the Yankees will enter 2020 without a left-handed power hitter, something that’s typically been a bastion of great Yankees teams. Sure, they’ve gotten by without one in recent seasons. But that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be nice to have one again.
When the offseason began, we wrote about the team targeting a left-handed bat. Steven covered it and our offseason plan called for it. But now, many of the options we had in mind are no longer available. Notable names like Corey Dickerson and Eric Thames are off the market, and the remaining left-handed free agents aren’t particularly inspiring. That leaves the Yankees to settle with what they have internally — but perhaps the lack of a traditional lefty household name isn’t such a big deal after all.
The Yankees have righties who take advantage of the short porch
Make no mistake — the Yankees are a right-handed heavy lineup. And yet, a number of the righties in the lineup are capable of replicating lefty pull power. Namely: DJ LeMahieu, Gio Urshela, and Luke Voit. Below are fly ball and line drive spray charts for each hitter:
I know the images are small, but I think it’s pretty clear what each one depicts. LeMahieu, Urshela, and Voit all can sneak one over the 314 foot sign at Yankee Stadium with ease. Take a look for yourself. First, LeMahieu:
And finally, Voit:
So these three are going to have chances to pepper the short porch in the way a lefty bat could, perhaps making the need for one not such a big deal after all.
Mike Ford is a wild card
Wait, the Yankees already have a lefty power hitter! Ford was excellent once he got going late in the summer in the Bronx. In 163 plate appearances, the first baseman hit .259/.350/.559 (134 wRC+) with 12 home runs. It may not be a fluke, either: Bobby brought up his impressive 115 wRC+ Steamer projection just last week.
Funnily enough, Ford hit just two of his 12 dingers at Yankee Stadium in 2019. That’s surely a coincidence, because he’s more than able to pepper the right field seats.
Of course, there’s one big question on everyone’s mind with Ford. Is the 27 year-old for real? Time will tell, but at least we know Steamer likes him. He’s also a Statcast darling who lights up the exit velocity leaderboards. So, maybe the Yankees don’t need a left-handed slugger because they already have one.
Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, and Mike Tauchman will chip in
In addition to Ford, it’s not like the Yankees are devoid of lefty hitters anyway. Now, no one else who can hit from the left side is necessarily a power hitter, but they’re not weak either.
Brett Gardner found the fountain of youth last year and bopped a career high 28 homers. Some of that was the juiced ball for sure, but Gardy also hit 21 dingers back in 2017. He’s no stranger to yanking one into the right field box seats just out of the outfielder’s reach.
Aaron Hicks is a switch-hitter, not a lefty, but he still will take the majority of his plate appearances from the left side once he’s healthy. Now, injuries have frequently hindered Hicks throughout his career. Nonetheless, he’s got plenty of power and hit 10 homers in 171 plate appearances from the left side.
Finally, Mike Tauchman flashed good pop in 2019. The juiced ball may have been his friend, but 13 homers and a .227 isolated power in 296 plate appearances is nothing to sneeze at. Similar to Ford though, he’s going to have to prove himself not to have been a flash in the pan last year.
There’s no need to be picky
Last but certainly not least, the Yankees are already loaded with power hitters. Why fret over which batter’s box said hitters stand in? From Aaron Judge to Giancarlo Stanton to Gary Sánchez, it doesn’t necessarily matter.
The team hit 306 homers in 2019 and could approach that mark again in 2020. And after Gardner’s 28 dingers from the left side, the next two closest lefties were Tauchman and Ford who were part-timers. In other words, the team didn’t really need lefties to drive its offense to success last year.
At the end of the day, the Yankees’ offense will be elite with or without a traditional lefty bat with star-power. And who knows, perhaps someone like Ford or Tauchman will emerge and fill the void. Either way, this lineup is going to score and hit plenty of home runs, lefties or not.