Five Yankees lineups we’d like to see this season


We’re just over a week away from the New York Yankees reporting to Tampa, Fla., for spring training. After Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and owner Hal Steinbrenner called the 2023 season a disaster and unacceptable, manager Aaron Boone should have better depth to play with when making out his lineup card each day.

The Yankees no longer have a hole in left field that was left unfilled all last year now that they have Juan Soto and Alex Verdugo. Depending on which projection system you use, Soto and Aaron Judge are projected to be two of the best four hitters in MLB this season. That alone should make the Yankees a more productive offense than in 2023.

If everyone is healthy, here are five lineup combinations the Yankees should deploy in 2024.

Opening Day

1. DJ LeMahieu, 3B
2. Juan Soto, LF
3. Aaron Judge, CF
4. Giancarlo Stanton, DH
5. Gleyber Torres, 2B
6. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
7. Alex Verdugo, RF
8. Jose Trevino, C
9. Anthony Volpe, SS

First off, yes, Soto is in left field even though the plan is to have him play most of his games in right field, especially at home. But the Yankees start their season on the road in Houston, where left field is one of the easier positions to play in any outfield because of the dimensions. That’s why it makes sense to have the better defender in Verdugo in right field.

If the Yankees truly wanted to make a statement about their belief in Stanton, having him play left field in Game 1 would be a way to do that, too. He started Game 1 of the 2022 American League Championship Series in left field, and he’s already the odds-on favorite to be the recipient of the Josh Donaldson Memorial Trophy where the Yankees will spend spring training saying the slugger is primed for a bounce back.

As for the lineup, let’s assume Justin Verlander will be the Astros’ Opening Day starter. The Yankees beat Verlander twice last season. Before that, Verlander hadn’t lost a regular-season matchup against the Yankees since June 2015. Two Yankees have crushed the future Hall of Fame pitcher in their careers: LeMahieu (.956 OPS) and Stanton (1.033 OPS) — he’s definitely winning the Donaldson Trophy by the end of Game 1. 

Verlander is one of the best right-handed pitchers of his generation, but righties tend to fare better against him than lefties. That’s why having four righties in the top five makes sense. Last season, righties had a .708 OPS against Verlander as opposed to a .584 OPS for lefties. Rizzo is also 0-for-7 against Verlander in his career. Trevino is in the Opening Day lineup because he’s Gerrit Cole’s personal catcher. Volpe should hit ninth until he shows more consistency at the plate, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing to have some speed on the bases in front of LeMahieu, Soto and Judge.

Versus LHP

1. DJ LeMahieu, 3B
2. Juan Soto, LF
3. Aaron Judge, RF
4. Giancarlo Stanton, DH
5. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
6. Gleyber Torres, 2B
7. Trent Grisham, CF
8. Jose Trevino, C
9. Anthony Volpe, SS

The main difference with this lineup compared to the first is Grisham replaces Verdugo. Even though both are left-handed hitters, Grisham has reverse splits and is better against left-handed pitching. Verdugo has struggled hitting lefties in his career, posting a .665 OPS, so it makes sense on days the Yankees are facing a left-handed starter to play Grisham.

While Stanton has been brutal at the plate since the 2022 All-Star Game, the one area where he’s still excelling is against left-handed pitching. Last season, Stanton had a .942 OPS against lefties. He should be the obvious cleanup hitter on these days. Rizzo also excels against left-handed pitching. For the past three seasons, Rizzo has actually hit lefties much better than he has righties.

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Anthony Rizzo batted .333/.402/.423 in 87 plate appearances against left-handed pitching in 2023. (Wendell Cruz / USA Today)

Versus RHP

1. Alex Verdugo, LF
2. Juan Soto, RF
3. Aaron Judge, CF
4. Gleyber Torres, 2B
5. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
6. Giancarlo Stanton, DH
7. DJ LeMahieu, 3B
8. Austin Wells, C
9. Anthony Volpe, SS

The Yankees finished tied for 26th in wRC+ last season against right-handed pitching. Only the Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox and Colorado Rockies had a worse wRC+ against righties. Not exactly the company a championship-caliber club should associate with in any category.

All winter, Boone and Cashman have expressed how important lineup balance is to them. Having more viable options from the left side of the plate this season should help them perform much better against righties. This lineup gets three lefties in the top half, and the Yankees could also have Austin Wells toward the bottom of the order, though Wells’ playing time may be based on who the team wants him to catch.

Stanton is sixth in this lineup after posting a .640 OPS against righties last season. Until he can prove again that he’s capable of mashing righties, there’s no reason for him to be in the top half of the order when there are better options ahead of him. LeMahieu is seventh as it has the chance to lengthen the Yankees’ lineup while moving Verdugo, who has experience leading off, to the top, where he’s excelled versus righties throughout his career.

When Volpe figures it out

1. Anthony Volpe, SS
2. Juan Soto, RF
3. Aaron Judge, CF
4. Giancarlo Stanton, DH
5. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
6. Gleyber Torres, 2B
7. Alex Verdugo, LF
8. DJ LeMahieu, 3B
9. Jose Trevino, C

Volpe is the Yankees’ ideal leadoff hitter, but as of today, he’s not ready for that role. Boone has said on multiple occasions how he views the leadoff hitter as someone who has an on-base percentage around .350. Volpe’s OBP last season was .283, the second lowest in MLB for all qualified hitters. Raising his ability to get on base and perhaps sacrifice some power if needed should be Volpe’s focus going into his second season.

“I think just taking some of the strengths of my game and trying to make those more consistent,” Volpe said Saturday when asked what he’s been working on this offseason. “With that, ironing out some of the things that can set me up for as much success as I expect.”

Volpe leading off would be the best outcome possible for the Yankees. Just look at their top eight in this order. If Stanton can bounce back, that top eight could be one of the best groups in MLB.

1. Anthony Volpe, SS
2. Juan Soto, RF
3. Aaron Judge, CF
4. Jasson Domínguez, LF
5. Giancarlo Stanton, DH
6. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
7. Gleyber Torres, 2B
8. DJ LeMahieu, 3B
9. Austin Wells, C

How exciting would it be when Domínguez returns from Tommy John surgery this summer to see this top four? Those four are the guys the Yankees hope form the foundation for the next decade. Domínguez was electric in the eight games he played before tearing his UCL, hitting four home runs in 31 at-bats, and he showed at just 20 years old that the moment wasn’t too big for him.

It might be too aggressive to project him as the team’s cleanup hitter; we still don’t know how Domínguez fits in when he’s back. But as we’ve come to learn over the past several years watching the Yankees, someone will get hurt and the roster logjam will sort itself out.

(Top photo of Aaron Judge congratulating Giancarlo Stanton after Stanton hit a home run Sept. 1: Erik Williams / USA Today)





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