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Mapping out the Yankees’ potential lineups

Instead of using one traditional DH, the Yankees would be best served by using a rotation.

Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Yankees have a lot of offensive firepower at their disposal for the 2020 season, but figuring out how to deploy it is a bit of a challenge. Of course, injuries and streakiness will likely cast these plans astray, but what fun is an offseason without lineup speculation?

Most of the Yankees’ lineup questions center around how to use the designated hitter position and the bench. Instead of dedicating space to one pure DH, a la David Ortiz or Hideki Matsui, the Yankees (and most of MLB) have shifted to a DH-by-committee approach. The position is useful to provide “half-days off” for star players as an alternative to completely taking them out of the lineup.

MLB rosters have also expanded by one player for 2020, likely leaving most teams with 13 pitchers and hitters. Having the extra hitter on the roster obviously gives the team more options, but it can be difficult to feed all the necessary mouths while also keeping players fresh.

Enter the January 4th Hypothetical Yankees Lineup Plan (trademark). Yes, it is only the fourth day of the New Year, but real live spring training baseball is less than two months away now. We’ve speculated all offseason long on how the Yankees can fill the extra roster spot, and how it might provide opportunities for Clint Frazier, Tyler Wade, Miguel Andujar and Mike Tauchman (at least until Aaron Hicks returns from injury around the All-Star Break). Now, let’s actually map it out and see how Aaron Boone can divide playing time up among 13 worthy players when there’s only nine spots on any given day.

A few things to know before we get to the forecast: for the sake of this exercise, we’re looking at an interval of six days. This works because due to days off, a team usually plays around six out of seven days for much of the MLB season. Keeping that in mind, I penciled the Yankees’ “big five” on offense (DJ LeMahieu, Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, Giancarlo Stanton and Luke Voit) in for each of the six days, fully knowing that over the course of a full week, they should each expect a day off or two.

Without further ado, let’s take a stab at the lineups:

Potential 6-Day Lineups for 2020 Yankees

Lineup Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6
Lineup Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6
1 LeMahieu 2B LeMahieu 2B LeMahieu 2B LeMahieu 2B LeMahieu 2B LeMahieu 2B
2 Judge RF Judge RF Judge RF Judge RF Judge RF Judge RF
3 Torres SS Torres SS Torres SS Torres SS Torres SS Torres SS
4 Stanton LF Stanton LF Stanton LF Stanton DH Stanton DH Stanton DH
5 Sanchez C Sanchez C Sanchez DH Sanchez C Sanchez C Andujar 3B
6 Andujar DH Andujar DH Voit 1B Voit 1B Andujar 3B Voit 1B
7 Voit 1B Voit 1B Urshela 3B Urshela 3B Voit 1B Tauchman CF
8 Urshela 3B Urshela 3B Gardner CF Gardner CF Frazier LF Frazier LF
9 Gardner CF Tauchman CF Higashioka C Tauchman LF Gardner CF Higashioka C
Bench Bench Bench Bench Bench Bench Bench
Tauchman Gardner Andujar Andujar Urshela Gardner
Frazier Frazier Frazier Frazier Tauchman Urshela
Wade Wade Tauchman Wade Wade Wade
Higashioka Higashioka Wade Higashioka Higashioka Sanchez

Now, there’s a lot to take in there. Here’s the big takeaway though:

Lineup Totals

Player Days in Lineup (out of 6) Player Days in Lineup (out of 6) Player Days in Lineup (out of 6)
Player Days in Lineup (out of 6) Player Days in Lineup (out of 6) Player Days in Lineup (out of 6)
LeMahieu 6 Sanchez 5 (1@DH) Frazier 2
Judge 6 Andujar 4 (2@DH) Higashioka 2
Torres 6 Urshela 4 Wade As needed
Stanton 6 (3@DH) Gardner 4
Voit 6 Tauchman 3

Again, this is assuming full health, but it proves there is a concrete way to give everyone in the lineup opportunities, as well as ample rest. This table offers a plausible answer for some of the Yankees’ pressing lineup questions: How much time should Stanton spend in the outfield vs. at DH? What about Andujar? Is there room for both Tauchman and Frazier to play?

Let’s break it down. Based on the Yankees’ current structure, Stanton will have to play a good deal of time in the outfield in 2020. Here, he is splitting his time 50-50 between the outfield and at DH. This isn’t a huge problem, though, because contrary to some fan sentiment, Stanton is not incapable of playing the outfield. He’s not a true asset like Judge or Gardner, but he’s also not a negative. Don’t forget, he played the outfield every day for eight years with the Marlins in the NL. He’s certainly capable of playing the outfield for the Yankees, which is what will have to happen if the team wants to give at-bats to some other players with less positional versatility.

The third base “platoon” is also an interesting area. Both Urshela and Andujar are qualified in some ways, but not in others. In this scenario, each player plays four games out of six, with Andujar spending some time at DH. If Andujar is hitting, he’ll need to be in the lineup more, but his defense is a serious drawback. In this projection, Mike Ford isn’t on the roster. If Andujar can learn how to play some first base, it could be another way to keep his bat in the lineup and provide him more chances to succeed.

I’ve also allotted fairly even playing time between Tauchman and Frazier, which is, in all likelihood, a spot that will go to whoever is hot at the time. Although Gardner was far better than expected last year, the Yankees should probably bank on some age-related regression and hope that Tauchman and Frazier can steal more playing time from him, particularly against lefties.

Part of what makes baseball great is that a team’s players play every day. Fans don’t have to worry too much about “load management.” However, assuming a roster at full health, the Yankees might benefit from exploring mild forms of proactive rest.

Making an effort to use all 13 position players, as opposed to riding nine starters and one bench guy with the last two spots rarely used, might be the best way for the Yankees to keep their players healthy, as well as allow various players the chance to get at-bats. In the same way that the Yankees have redefined bullpen strategy by mapping out each pitcher’s workload and ensuring no one is overused, using a full cadre of hitters could be the Yankees’ latest trick to fully utilize the deepest lineup in MLB.