Projecting the Yankees’ lineup with Stanton and Judge

Judge is coming, folks (Screenshot)

The Yankees’ recent losing has been frustrating, yet it’s hard not to get excited about what’s on the horizon.

Just think: In less than a fortnight, the Yankees could have a lineup that features both Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge for the first time since March. Two batters who combined for 111 home runs in 2017 (112 for real Kabak heads out there).

We may be getting ahead of ourselves; Stanton has had setbacks already while Judge may not get fully right after his significant oblique strain.

Still, it’s time to start thinking about what the Yankees’ lineup will look with Stanton and Judge back. A lot has changed since they last started together: In the 47 games since Judge got hurt, the Yankees have used a unique lineup in every game. The Bombers have 66 unique lineups in 67 games this season.

Meanwhile, DJ LeMahieu and Gio Urshela have broken out while Aaron Hicks and Didi Gregorius have returned from injuries. Clint Frazier has made himself a force in the everyday lineup.

First up, who leaves the 25-man roster when these two come back? It was going to be an obvious DFA for Kendrys Morales, but he’s now on the IL. If he is slated to return after both Stanton and Judge, then I doubt he plays another game in pinstripes.

Mike Tauchman, called up in his spot, would be quickly sent down while the Yankees would then have to choose between Clint Frazier and Cameron Maybin. Maybin doesn’t have an option and Frazier does, so that may decide the thing unfairly. Despite his defensive shortcomings, Frazier has hit like a Major League player and could platoon with Gardner in left.

Assuming Maybin stays, he would act as the fifth outfielder. Ahead of him, the Yankees would have four outfielders for three spots to go with their five infielders for four spots. This is the problem Yankees fans hoped they’d have before the season, one that was pertinent in conversation in February but not since.

First, here’s an optimal lineup with the current roster:

  1. LeMahieu
  2. Voit
  3. Hicks
  4. Sanchez
  5. Didi
  6. Torres
  7. Frazier
  8. Urshela
  9. Gardner

That lineup involves one of the infielders, likely Didi or Voit, DH’ing while Frazier plays the field.

Now, what it could look like as soon as Tuesday with Stanton in the mix:

  1. LeMahieu
  2. Stanton
  3. Hicks
  4. Sanchez
  5. Voit
  6. Didi
  7. Torres
  8. Urshela
  9. Gardner

Even this was hard to put together. You want to keep Aaron Hicks’ patient approach near the top of the lineup and not put all your top power righties in a row. However, this means moving Voit down to No. 5. That doesn’t feel right.

No matter what, unlike preseason machinations, LeMahieu has to stay at the top. He’s been the team’s most valuable player by WAR and has the ideal approach at the top of the lineup. Hicks can work there, too, but he’s been slumping and should stay further down until he forces his way there.

Aaron Boone’s job gets trickier (and more fun) when Judge returns. Here’s my best guess as the lineup:

  1. LeMahieu
  2. Judge
  3. Stanton
  4. Sanchez
  5. Hicks
  6. Voit
  7. Didi
  8. Torres
  9. Gardner

I couldn’t figure out how to break up Judge/Stanton/Sanchez without moving Sanchez out of the top four in the lineup. You can’t do that with the way he’s hitting. Stanton could move down, perhaps to the five-hole, but do you want him getting fewer at-bats than Hicks right now? If Stanton is himself, then no. Judge has to stay second.

Again, moving Voit down is painful. He’s been a rock for the Yankees, even if he’s not quite the 2018 goliath. Still, putting Judge, Stanton, Sanchez and Voit in a row is asking for teams to go to tough right-handed relievers. The Rays have Diego Castillo and Emilio Pagan just for that purpose.

I opted to have Voit in between Hicks and Didi, thus keeping the left-handed capabale batters from stacking up. That trio is a blend of patience and power … and all the intangibles Gregorius provides.

What’s even crazier is that this lineup has Torres batting eighth. He hasn’t hit that low in the lineup since March 31, which, not a coincidence, was the last time Stanton was healthy. In addition, Gardner and his 11 home runs would be batting ninth. That’s bonkers.

The previous lineup would work against right-handed and left-handed pitchers, but here’s a lefty-specific one that could work, again assuming Frazier is in Triple-A:

  1. LeMahieu
  2. Judge
  3. Stanton
  4. Sanchez
  5. Voit
  6. Torres
  7. Hicks
  8. Didi
  9. Urshela

Oh yeah, Urshela, just the guy second on the team in batting average. This lineup pushes one of the infielders to DH and Stanton into left field. The top four is the same as above, but I chose to stack the right-handed batters. I know, I said I couldn’t do that, but just imagine the power!

With Voit and Torres moving up, Didi moves down and could even hit ninth if you want. I’d keep him ahead of Urshela considering Gregorius’ ability to handle southpaws in the past.

Of course, the Yankees won’t have this full compliment available many days. Judge and Stanton are going to require off-days. Particularly Judge with his oblique injury that may not fully heal until the offseason. Furthermore, Austin Romine is going to get regular backup starts.

The extra players allows Gardner to get regular days off, something the Yankees have been talking about doing for years but haven’t been able to give him thanks to a parade of injuries.

But it’s not just Gardner. The Yankees should have enough depth that there won’t need to be someone carrying the load and playing every day like Stanton in 2018. Sure, the Yankees could put out an All-Star team most games, but they need to keep those talents healthy.

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9 Comments

  1. Joseph

    Best players play. If u want to win forget the control part with Frazier. Morales has been a dud. Maybin can still be an asset. Unless he accepts a demotion to AAA. Wait and c

  2. kreesg1

    I believe this would lengthen the line-up

    LeMahieu
    Judge
    Hicks (breakup the righties)
    Stanton
    Sanchez
    Torres (Torres will rise to this challenge and excel)
    Didi
    Voit (I think Voit would excel here. More relax position)
    Urshela

  3. I see Hicks batting third, breaking up Judge and Stanton. The analytics guys/Cashman love breaking up the righties.

    I think Voit hits in front of Gary too. OBP will make the quants do so.

    They love batting Didi up higher as well.

    What I am pretty sure of is whatever lineup they put together won’t make sense to a lot of us. The lineups the last few years seem machine generated. Not saying that’s bad, just seems odd most nights to those of us who started watching before the analytic evolution.

    • Wire Fan

      Yeah, I think what you laid out is more likely.

      Unless DJ’s bat cools off and then Hicks would likely lead-off and Didi would move up to break up the righty mashers (4th or 5th?)

      • Yep, Hicks leading off is something very possible, 31 games last year 276/372/585.

        I hope DJ doesn’t cool off. He’s been incredible.

        I was happy when the Yanks got him, because our infield defense was looking awfully bleak. I never thought he would be this good offensively.

  4. Rich

    Tauchman should and will go gown when Stanton returns. When Judge returns Maybin should be released instead of sending Frazier down. Frazier is proving to be an offensive force and it will be a waste for him to hit in AAA. In fact Frazier should be in the lineup mostly everyday between DH and leftfield. At this point he is a far superior hitter than Gardner. Giving an infielder and Judge and Stanton regular rest would leave plenty of AB’s for Frazier. Gardner should be the one to have his AB’s curtailed!

    • Dan

      There’s another potential factor in sending Clint down that Steven didn’t mention but may be a serious factor: service time manipulation. I’m terrible at doing the calculations, but if NYY can get another year of control by sending Clint down for, let’s say, the month of July, is that worth the potential difference in value between Gardner/Maybin and Gardner/Frazier? I don’t think it’ll be dispositive, but it’ll be a factor. Let Clint go down for a month to get everyday at bats and work on his defense, keep the depth in case of another injury, and reevaluate in another month. (To be clear, I’m not endorsing this; just suggesting it as something NYY might do.)

  5. Big Fsn

    I’m not sure why Gardner needs to play at all

    • kreesg1

      Gardy will be much better coming off the bench along with clint.

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