FanPost

Ideal Opening Day Lineup

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

We are less than 3 weeks away from Opening Day and the big question in Yankees' camp is how new manager Aaron Boone will set the lineup. The Yankees are in an interesting position, with position battles in the infield and an embarrassment of riches in terms of their lineup options. The Yankee hitters are all great and, regardless of what order they hit in, this will be an extremely difficult lineup to navigate.

Here is how I would set the lineup if I were Aaron Boone:

1. Brett Gardner LF

2. Aaron Judge RF

3. Giancarlo Stanton DH

4. Didi Gregorius SS

5. Gary Sanchez C

6. Greg Bird 1B

7. Aaron Hicks CF

8. Brandon Drury 2B

9. Miguel Andújar 3B

This lineup is extremely balanced and there are really no easy outs at any point. Starting at the top, I think Gardner is an ideal leadoff man. We all know that Gardner sees a lot of pitches and can work the count. An interesting stat however is that Judge led the league in pitches per plate appearances (4.41), but Gardner was number 7 on that list (4.23). Although Gardner can be streaky at times, he gets on base and his .264/.350/.428 line from last year is right in line with his career numbers (.264/.347/.393), so you know what you are going to get out of him.

Gardner hitting leadoff is a no-brainer, but the rest of the lineup is interesting. I think putting Judge at number 2 is ideal, especially now that he will have the reigning NL MVP protecting him from the three-spot. Last year, Judge had a historic rookie season hitting .284/422/.627 with an OPS+ of 171 (which was second only to Mike Trout) en route to a second-place finish in the MVP voting and unanimous Rookie of the Year. With Stanton protecting him in the lineup, Judge should see more pitches to hit while continuing to work walks and get on base.

Stanton hitting third is not something that needs much discussion, he gets on base (.376 OBP in 2017), drives in runs (led the NL with 132 RBI last year), and can hit for average (.281 in 2017, .268 career). The real question here is how he will split time in the crowded outfield, particularly with Judge. If I'm the Yankees, I would try to DH Stanton as much as possible in order to keep him healthy and to keep his bat in the lineup. Judge is a great fielder as we saw all throughout last year and figures to get some time at DH as well to keep himself fresh.

Perhaps the most important consideration in this lineup is where Greg Bird and Didi will hit. I think Didi would be the ideal 4-hitter in this lineup. Although I am extremely high on Greg Bird, and I do think that he can force his way up the lineup as the year progresses, Didi should be the cleanup hitter on Opening Day. He has continued to improve every year since joining the Yankees and can balance out this power-heavy portion of the lineup. Although he hit 25 homeruns in 2017, Didi has a more contact-oriented approach at the plate than some of the other Yankee sluggers. I think batting cleanup could easily make Didi a 100 RBI guy, especially with Gardner, Judge, and Stanton getting on base ahead of him.

Batting Sanchez, Bird, and Hicks 5, 6, and 7 respectively balances out the lineup in terms of righties and lefties. All of them are great hitters who can work the count, get on base, and hit homeruns. If Hicks can build on his .266/.372/.475 batting line from last year, the Yankees will have one the better number 7 hitters in baseball.

With so much competition for the second and third base jobs, it will be interesting to see how things shake out. I definitely do not see Gleyber Torres making the Opening Day roster. Torres is a great player, but he is coming off Tommy John surgery that forced him to miss almost the entire 2017 season and the Yankees will likely want him to start the year in Triple-A to get some more development (he only played 23 games and had 96 plate appearances there a year ago). Furthermore, keeping him in the minors for a few weeks to start the season will allow the Yankees to gain an extra year of control over the top prospect in their system (although Brian Cashman has said publicly that this is not a concern). With that being said, I think that Miguel Andújar wins the third base job out of spring and Brandon Drury will be the starting second baseman. Andújar has done nothing but rake in the minors, hitting .315/.352/.498 with 16 homeruns last year. He has had a great start to Spring Training and despite questions about his defense, it will be tough to keep his bat out of the lineup.

With Andújar as the number nine hitter, this lineup is one of the deepest in all of baseball. All of these hitters can get on base, hit for power, and are still young with more room for improvement. The Yankees had the second-best offense in the entire league in terms of runs scored in 2017 (858) and led the league with 241 homeruns. Adding Stanton, Drury, and Andújar makes this lineup even better and they should have no issue topping their performance from a year ago. Opposing pitchers will not be looking forward to navigating this lineup, regardless of how Aaron Boone decides to set it.

How would you set the Opening Day lineup? Could Torres impress so much in spring that he makes the roster? Does it matter if the righties and lefties are split up? Let me know in the comments below!

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