Analysis

Yankees’ 2019 Opening Day Roster Prediction: Position Players

Heading into the 2019 season, the Yankees have a few questions regarding their roster, especially looking at their position players.

Spring Training is getting closer and closer by the day and though there are a significant amount of free agents still out there, we have a solid idea of how the Yankees will shape up entering the season. Here’s a look at how the starting lineup and bench could look when we hit Opening Day.

Lineup:

1. Aaron Hicks, CF

Hicks followed up 2017’s strong second half with a breakout 2018, setting career highs in games, plate appearances, home runs, RBI’s, hits and walks, while also being one of the best defensive center fielders in the league.

Unless his nagging injuries return, he will enter the season as the team’s starting center fielder. We could potentially see his bat moved lower in the lineup if the team thinks he would be better off protecting a slugger instead of setting the table for them at the top of the order.

2. Aaron Judge, RF

Judge burst onto the scene with a historically incredible rookie season in 2017 and solidified himself as one of baseball’s most feared sluggers in 2018 even though he missed nearly two months with a fractured wrist. Judge enters 2019 as the team’s undisputed best hitter and the driving force behind the lineup, plugging in perfectly in the number two hole.

3. Gary Sanchez, C

After an impressive first two years in the majors, Sanchez endured a horrific 2018, going on the DL twice and posting an ugly sub-.200 batting average. His first two years, however, suggest that 2018 was a fluke and we should expect to see the power-hitting catcher return to form in 2019. While we could see him a bit lower in the lineup, he’s not a bad option to hit 3rd and split up Judge and Stanton.

4. Giancarlo Stanton, DH

Stanton hit 38 home runs and recorded 100 RBI’s in 2018, his first season as a Yankee after being brought over in a trade from the Marlins. While these numbers look impressive on paper, some fans expected more of the 2017 NL MVP. Although he had a number of bad slumps (including in the ALDS), Stanton carried the team for two months while Judge was out.

Now that he’s used to the New York pressure, he’s poised for a monster 2019. It would be nice to see him play in the outfield more than he did last year, but there’s a solid chance we again see him as the primary DH.

5. Miguel Andujar, 3B

For years, all we heard about Andujar was that he was a prospect whose bat was more than ready for the majors but whose glove could use some work. That’s a solid way to sum up his rookie year. While he put up a .297 batting average and seemed to hit a double every at-bat, his defense was highly suspect at 3rd.

With Manny Machado looking unlikely to come to the Yankees, fans should brace for another year of Andujar’s gut-wrenching double-clutches at 3rd and learn to take the pros (his tremendous offensive skills) with the cons (his subpar defense).

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6. Gleyber Torres, SS

Torres enjoyed a solid rookie season, compiling multiple walk-offs and double-digit home runs within his first few weeks in the majors. Other than a bit of a slump in parts of the Summer after going on the DL in early July, he was one of the team’s more reliable bats over the course of the season.

He’s a solid hitter to all fields who can do more than just hit the long ball, and he should continue to be just that in 2019. We’ll likely see him play a good amount of shortstop until Didi Gregorius returns, though he looked shaky at short when he played there briefly last season, even though he came up through the minors as a shortstop.

7. Luke Voit, 1B

Acquired at the trade deadline for relievers Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos, Voit went from seldom-used backup first baseman to fan favorite home run slugger in a matter of weeks. Though the Shane Spencer and Shelley Duncan comparisons will get thrown around, Voit deserves every shot to prove that he wasn’t a fluke and that he deserves the first base job this season.

8. DJ LeMahieu, 2B

Brought over on a two-year deal in free agency, LeMahieu said upon signing with the Yankees that he was told to “bring a lot of gloves” to Spring Training, implying that he’ll play all over the diamond this season. While we could see him play basically anywhere in the infield, he’s a spectacular defensive second baseman and if Torres adjusts well to shortstop, there’s no reason LeMahieu should start anywhere other than 2nd.

Like Torres, he’s got a bit of power in his bat but also can slap singles all over the field and be productive without having to hit a home run every at-bat.

9. Brett Gardner, LF

Despite a rocky 2018, the Yankees brought Gardner back on a one year deal for 2019. While he wasn’t paid starting outfielder money, he figures to enter the year as the starting left fielder unless Clint Frazier blows him out of the water in Spring Training. At worst, Gardner is as good a fourth outfielder as they come and can be vital as a pinch-runner late in games while being a great veteran clubhouse presence.

Bench:

Austin Romine, C

Romine, who has always been better defensively than offensively, put together a nice little offensive season in 2018, recording a career-high 10 home runs and 42 RBI’s while holding the fort down as Sanchez spent his fair share of time on the DL.

Although he proved to be a solid backup catcher, fans should hope to see less of him in 2019 as Sanchez stays healthy and puts up the offensive numbers we’ve seen him put up in the past, while also improving his pitch blocking skills to complement his cannon of an arm.

Greg Bird, 1B

Bird has been plagued with injuries on top of injuries since he burst onto the scene in 2015 with a number of key home runs towards the end of his rookie season. Although he’s had a few memorable moments, like his 2017 ALDS Game Three home run off Andrew Miller, he hasn’t put together much to be excited about, especially in an abysmal 2018 when he recorded a sub-.200 batting average in 82 games.

Even with Voit having the leg up on the first base job, Bird can unseat him with a great Spring Training, though he’s running out of time to make his mark as a member of the Yankees’ young core.

Troy Tulowitzki, SS

Tulowitzki was famously linked to the Yankees a number of times when he was one of the league’s best shortstops back when he was on the Rockies. His career took a turn for the worse after the Blue Jays acquired him as he spent almost all of the last two seasons on the DL.

The Yankees brought him in on a league minimum contract this offseason to help play some shortstop until Gregorius returns and to maybe rekindle some of his magic from his Colorado days. While they hope Tulowitzki can provide some depth, his role on the team is rather unclear, especially after they brought in LeMahieu.

Worst case scenario, the team releases him and eats the $555K they paid him.

Clint Frazier, OF

2018 was a mostly lost season for Frazier as he spent much of the year battling a concussion he suffered in Spring Training. His few brief stints in the majors suggested that his bat has lots of potential but his defense is still sloppy. He could easily claim the starting left field job with a strong Spring Training, especially if Gardner struggles.

However, if Gardner is playing well enough to keep his starting job, we could see the team opt to keep Frazier in AAA to get him everyday at-bats rather than keep him on the big league roster and have him play only a few times a week.

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4 comments

  1. A couple of observations about your roster.
    1) I think the Yankees will give Tulo every opportunity to win the starting SS job
    2) I don’t see Torres moving to SS unless Tulo isn’t healthy enough to win the job
    3) Assuming Ellsbury is healthy admittedly that is a big if. But if he is Frazier starts the season in AAA

  2. I had an exchange with someone on Twitter the other day about the Tulo situation. Essentially it comes down to do they want a middle infield of LeMahieu 2B/Gleyber SS or Gleyber 2B/Tulo SS. They spent $24M on LeMahieu and $555K on Tulo so you know which is the bigger investment of those two, and I don’t think Gleyber’s liabilities at SS will be enough to keep them from leaving LeMahieu on the bench. Another possibility that I could see if them going with LeMahieu at 1st, Gleyber at 2nd, and Tulo at SS, then DH’ing Voit and putting Stanton in LF, sending Gardner/Frazier to the bench. Though that is reliant on them trusting Stanton to play LF, which they might shy away from after his hamstring issues last year.

    1. All valid points. Just from everything I’ve read about the Yankees conversations with Tulo before he signed was that it was for him to play SS. I honestly don’t think he would have signed with the Yankees had he not received some assurances that if he was healthy, etc… he wouldn’t be the starting SS. In any case we will find out in less than 2 months who is playing where. For the record Romine, Bird, Tulo and either Frazier OR Ellsbury (if he’s healthy) coming off the bench is pretty weak, in my opinion. Not something a team with a $200M plus payroll should go to war with.

  3. LHP Jordan Montgomery will not be ready to begin serious pitching off a mound until April and team projections are for him to re-enter the starting rotation possibly in June. With King @ AAA Scranton, he will be given a serious look in Tampa this spring. Voit, Tulo, Frazier et all will be given ample opportunities in February and March to earn their starting slots. Ellsbury remains an enigma. He missed the entire 2018 season on the DL.

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