It should come down to either the Yankees or Red Sox reigning victorious over the American League East, but who has the better lineup out of the two?
Coming into the season, the talk of the A.L. East was the Yankees acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton. The team that was one game from the World Series, added the reigning NL MVP, a man who slugged 59 home runs in pitcher friendly Miami. Almost every pundit picked the Yankees to win the division, including yours truly, but I gave the Yankees the edge due to their bullpen and depth. After their first clash of the season, it’s clear that the Red Sox are for real and we can’t just hand the Yankees the division. In fact, the Red Sox lineup was better than the Yankees on paper to begin the season and is better now that the season has started. Let’s take a closer look.
Yankees: Gary Sanchez – wRC+ 73
Red Sox: Christian Vazquez – wRC+ 40
Gary Sanchez is the best offensive catcher in baseball, but he hasn’t had a great start. He’s currently slashing .185/.214/.426, but his first week was absolutely dismal. As long as he stays healthy, Sanchez should be good for 30 home runs. Christian Vazquez is a fine player, but he’s not going to turn any heads offensively.
Yankees: Tyler Austin – wRC+ 163 (Greg Bird Injured)
Red Sox: Hanley Ramirez – wRC+ 162
The Greg Bird injury really put a damper on the beginning of the season for the Yankees, but Tyler Austin has performed valiantly in Bird’s stead. Austin’s .289/.386/.553 line, however, has been matched by HanRam’s .333/.386/.569 triple slash. If I were to wager who’s more likely to continue hitting well, it’s the 34-year-old Ramirez. When Greg Bird comes back, he’ll have a shot at hitting 30 home runs, but he’s unlikely to outperform Hanley. Both have a lengthy injury history, however, so we might be seeing backups at first base for both teams at certain points this season.
Edge: Red Sox
Yankees: Neil Walker – wRC+ 31
Red Sox: Eduardo Nunez – wRC+ 123 (Dustin Pedroia injured)
It looks like the Tyler Wade experiment is coming to an end, and the Gleyber Torres experiment is about to begin. Right now, though, Neil Walker is manning second base for the Yankees, and he’s been terrible. Walker is too good to continue batting below the Mendoza Line, but he may not have regular at-bats if the Yankees decide to call up Gleyber. Walker’s counterpart, former Yankee Eduardo Nunez, is also a placeholder, but he’s hit very well, with a slash line of .271/.314/.500. He’ll continue to do an adequate job for the Red Sox until their captain, Dustin Pedroia returns.
Edge: Red Sox
Yankees: Didi Gregorius – wRC+ 223
Red Sox: Brock Holt – wRC+ 56 (Xander Bogaerts injured)
Wow. Both of these teams have fantastic young shortstops, reminiscent of the late 90s. Didi seems to have elevated his game once again and is actually doing a great job filling in the enormous hole left by Derek Jeter’s retirement. Sir Didi is currently batting an otherworldly .327/.446./796. For the Red Sox, Xander Bogaerts looked to be having a breakout year as well, but that’s been put on hold as he was recently sent to the disabled list. Bogaerts was nearly matching Didi before he went down, with a triple slash of .368/.400/.711. With Brock Holt now getting significant at-bats, it looks like the Yankees will have the edge here, at least until Bogaerts returns
Yankees: Miguel Andujar – wRC+ 50 (Brandon Drury injured)
Red Sox: Rafael Devers – wRC+ 92
Miguel Andujar needed more seasoning in Triple-A. His bat might be ready for the majors, but his glove surely isn’t. Newly acquired Brandon Drury, however, is dealing with severe migraines, so Andujar has been forced to learn on the fly. He hasn’t performed well thus far, but Andujar did hit his first home run of the year on Tuesday, so perhaps he will start to heat up. Rafael Devers has put up a mediocre .250/.328/.393, however, his peripherals suggest he’s seeing the ball well. He owns a 10.9% walk rate and a 21.9% K rate. In this his first full season, Devers has a great pedigree and should put up numbers similar to his minor league stats, especially in Fenway.
Edge: Red Sox
Yankees: Aaron Judge – wRC+ 205
Red Sox: Mookie Betts – wRC+ 189
Wow again. Both teams have potential MVPs manning right field. Judge is following up his rookie of the year campaign with a .351/.479/.614 triple slash. He’s laid to rest the questions about his offseason shoulder surgery, and it doesn’t look like he’s going to have a sophomore slump. If anything, his 18.3% walk rate suggests and even more advanced approach. Judge really could bat .300 and slug 50 home runs this year. His counterpart, Mookie Betts is an exciting player as well. Mookie is walking more than he’s striking out and he’s slashing .353/.452/.608. He won’t show as much power as Judge, but he could put up a 30/30 season, or better. That power and speed combination is deadly, and his defensive skill will surely put him in the conversation for MVP once again.
Edge: Yankees (slightly)
Yankees: Aaron Hicks – wRC+ 239
Red Sox: Jackie Bradley Jr. – wRC+ 60
After a brief hiccup to begin the season, Aaron Hicks is back and he seems to be picking up right where he left off. The 28-year-old has power and speed, and it looks like his approach from last season is carrying over this year, albeit in a very small sample size. If Hicks can put up a slash line close to last year’s .266/.372/.475, he could be an all-star. He needs to stay on the field though. After 2016, a year in which Jackie Bradley Jr. hit 26 home runs, it looked like the Red Sox had a two-way superstar. While no one is questioning his glove, Bradley’s bat seems to have fallen off. He was below average last year, and he’s not off to a good start this year.
Yankees: Brett Gardner – wRC+ 125
Red Sox: Andrew Benintendi – wRC+ 132
Gardner 2017: .264/.350/.428
Benintendi 2017: .271/.352/.428
These players were almost identical last season. This season, however, I expect Benintendi to outperform Gardy. Why though? Well, Gardner is 11 years older than Benintendi, and last year was the Red Sox left fielder’s rookie season. If there’s anyone who could surprise, it’s Brett Garder, but I just can’t expect him to reproduce career-high power numbers.
Edge: Red Sox
Yankees: Giancarlo Stanton – wRC+ 109
Red Sox: J.D. Martinez – wRC+ 120
Reigning NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton looks lost at the plate. After hitting a home run in his first at-bat as a Yankee, Stanton is striking out almost 40% of the time. While he’s too good to continue doing this poorly, he is pressing. Will he turn it around and quiet the boobirds at the Stadium? The Red Sox big free agent acquisition, J.D. Martinez, like Stanton, isn’t performing as well as he did in his historic stretch run for Arizona last year. That being said, J.D. seems to be acclimating to his new home a little better. Even with the slow starts, however, neither of these men should be expected to repeat their power numbers from last year, as they were truly historic. While Stanton hit 59 home runs, Martinez slugged 29 home runs in just 62 games for the Dbacks. Look for these big bats to right the ship sooner rather than later and begin to really mash.
Edge: Red Sox (Slightly)
If not for the youth and injury questions, I might have given the Yankees a slight edge. The Red Sox have their own injuries to deal with too though, as their middle infielders are both on the DL. That being said, at full strength, both lineups are formidable. I like the Yankees depth, but we’ve already seen that tested. Xander Bogaerts is truly the X-Factor for the Red Sox, if his breakout is real, the Yankees edge at shortstop could move to a push. For the Yankees, their lineup is a somewhat fluid situation. Will Andujar and Torres stick around and perform? Will the Yankees acquire a bat at the deadline? Anything could happen, but right now, the Red Sox have the edge offensively.