Maybe the Yankees don’t need a left-handed power hitter

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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:

Urshela:

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.

All of Ford’s 2019 homers with a Yankee Stadium overlay. (Baseball Savant)

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.

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1 Comment

  1. DJ Lemeddardhieu

    Of course we don’t, Derek, and I’ve been saying this for months as you guys have been saying we should pick up all of these mediocre lefty bats. The era of big left handed hairy monsters is over. From 2013-2016 that all anybody was obsessed with. From Brian McCann to Stephen Drew we just had to have these left handed bats even though they weren’t any good. I’d rather have DJ, Judge, Gleyber, Gio, Stanton, Gary, Voit even though they all hit RH. DJ, Judge, Gleyber, Gary and Stanton should be hitting 1-2-3-4-5.

    You don’t need a lefty to break them up but I just know Boone will bat Gardy 3rd like he did in the postseason. Signing a mediocre lefty bat would just mean more at bats for that guy and less for our premier hitters. The only guy I’d consider putting up high in the lineup is Mike Ford, who is the Cecil Fielder of our generation and has proven time and time again that he can hit. Our best hitters can hit both righties and lefties and can go the other way to hit the short porch. And Ford, Gardy and Tauchman will hit 75+ HR’s themselves. That’s more than enough power from the left side. We only hit 300 HR’s last year. I guess that isn’t good enough for some folks.

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