The Yankees replacements have done pretty well covering for their injured starters, but what will New York do when their stars return?
Anyone else excited about the recent stretch of baseball being played? Owning Tampa over the course of the past two weeks and claiming the throne of the AL East (No Game of Thrones pun intended) has seemed to put the Yankees in the driver’s seat for the foreseeable future. How about the royal beat down the Yanks have been giving the Orioles in this series so far? Utterly incredible.
It only makes sense that the anticipation of the players on the IL making their way back into the everyday lineup seems to intensify each day as the Yankees win game after game. What the Yankees do with this lineup is frightening, but who can bottle up the excitement of the trio of superstars (Gregorius, Judge, and Stanton) coming back to the Bronx to try and create a spark and reclaim the AL East for the first time since 2012? This season just feels different, whether it be the timely pitching or the outstanding starting pitching, everything seems to be clicking at the right time.
While the chatter around town is exciting, Boone and Cashman have a huge workload to deal with when the core comes back. While each person is slated to come back at a different time, it is not far-fetched to say we can see all three of them coming back before the All-Star break. Hence, there is some lineup and defensive changes that must be put into play in order for this team to really grow over the course of the season.
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Assuming Giancarlo Stanton doesn’t have a calf/knee problem after being hit by a pitch a couple of days ago, he figures to be the first one to return to the lineup. As our primary DH, he wasn’t the MVP we saw in the 2017 season. He chased pitches way out of the zone, it was his first time playing in the AL, and it was his first time playing for a contender. It didn’t seem like he was particularly comfortable in his role last year, and I believe that should change moving forward. I believe until Judge is 100% ready to play, Stanton should take over right field. He has played the position for the majority of his major league career and has produced at a high level. Is he the best defender? Not exactly, but if he can focus on the game as a whole, it seems as if he is better suited playing the field.
Last years splits when Stanton played the field vs. when he was DH gives the upper hand to the DH, but what separates a good team from a championship team is putting the players in spots where they feel they are most effective. What does this mean for Gardy, Frazier, and Maybin? Well, there looks to be a battle for left field if this is the route the Yankees decide to go. Gardy and Maybin have a better glove, giving Gardy the slight edge due to his experience at Yankee Stadium.
However, if Frazier breaks out of this slump and provides us with consistent play, I don’t see why he doesn’t at least play DH then alternate with Stanton occasionally. It will all come down to the analytics departments suggestions as well, but there still has to be some gut decisions and feel for the game right?
Didi Gregorius playing in extended spring training games in May is one of the most underrated stories in baseball. The man tore his UCL on his throwing arm which required Tommy John surgery in the offseason and is now back to playing live baseball games in late May. Sir Didi has been the consistent force in the Yankees lineup for the majority of his tenure here in the Bronx. He is now closing in on a half-decade as the Jeter replacement and some may say they haven’t skipped a beat since The Captain has ridden off into the sunset.
While Didi is still some time away, the organization has to feel good about one of their guys on the IL coming back earlier than the initial target date that was released. With Didi coming back to man short, who is going to be the odd man out? With Urshela and LeMahieu playing like All-Stars, it is going to be a battle for that third base spot. With already a solid defensive infield, Didi will make it that much better, and whoever mans third has a stellar glove as well. For now, the edge should go to LeMahieu because of his consistency over the course of the season and his seasons in Colorado. Urshela will find playing time, but who knows how much.
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There is still no timetable for Judge and having him rushed back is the worst possible thing for this Yankees club. With Stanton on the horizon, Judge should take his time, again it is only May. There have been reports by Brendan Kuty from NJ.com that stated he is “starting to ramp it up a bit.” Knowing he won’t be 100% all season is definitely a cause for concern. An oblique injury is the worst thing that could happen for such a ferocious hitter like Judge. I am almost positive the majority of Yankee fans would rather have an 85% healthy Judge than most of the outfielders in the league currently.
We know what life is like without Judge and while it stinks that he isn’t in the lineup, the fact that the Yankees are winning suppresses the fact that Judge is injured. When Judge comes back healthy enough to play in ball games, I would like to see Stanton shift to left field while Judge assumes right again. That very might well be the recipe for success.
Projected Lineup with everyone healthy:
- D.J. LeMahieu 3B (R)
- Aaron Judge RF (R)
- Didi Gregorius SS (L)
- Gary Sanchez C (R)*
- Giancarlo Stanton LF (R)*
- Aaron Hicks CF (S)
- Luke Voit 1B (R)
- Gleyber Torres 2B (R)
- Clint Frazier DH (R)
- Sanchez and Stanton are interchangeable but with Sanchez being an absolute force, leaving him in the four hole seems appropriate for the time being