Comparing yourself to other people can be a dangerous game, bringing to the fore all your inner doubt, psychological frailty and self-loathing. Or is that just me?
But comparing other people to each other? Totally fine.
So in that spirit, we’re taking a look at what a bizarro Yankees lineup would look like based on age-related player comparisons for the current crop of Bombers, courtesy of Baseball-Reference.
Consider this a Yankees lineup in an alternate dimension. Warning: some of it’s a bit disturbing.
Catcher: Wilin Rosario
Not the most flattering comp for Gary Sanchez through age-26. Rosario played five seasons for Colorado, hit some homers, but didn’t do all that much else. Considering Sanchez has put up three seasons of 3.0 bWAR or better and Rosario’s career bWAR is 1.6, I think it’s fair to say this comp is well wide of the mark.
First Base: Troy Neel
As a fairly late bloomer, Luke Voit doesn’t have a ton of impressive player comps. Troy Neel is the best we’ve got through age-28, and it’s not exactly flattering. Neel made his debut for the Oakland A’s in 1992 (like Voit, at the age of 26), and let’s at least say this about him – he could hit. For his career, he posted a .362 on-base percentage and a .475 slugging, good for a 128 OPS+. The bad news is his career lasted 230 games spread over three partial seasons. The age-28 year that warranted the Voit comp was Neel’s last in the majors, though he carved out a successful career in Japan and, later, Korea. At least Voit has a job in the majors this season.
Second Base: Howie Kendrick
Kendrick is the best analogue for DJ LeMahieu through “The Machine’s” age-30 season. Kendrick posted a 6.1 bWAR season for the Los Angeles Angels in 2014, slashing .293/.347/.397 (good for a 116 OPS+) and putting up his best defensive season, by dWAR. Like LeMahieu, Kendrick’s age-30 season was the best of his career up to that point. Unfortunately, he faced a steep drop-off in subsequent years, plagued by both injury and a significant diminishment of his defensive value. As anyone who watched last year’s postseason can tell you, Kendrick can still hit, and his 142 OPS+ over 370 regular season plate appearances was, by far, a career high. But his days as a defensively valuable middle infielder appear over. Hopefully LeMahieu can ride his own wave of peak performance for a little while longer.
Shortstop: Cal Ripken Jr.
Now we’re talking! The closest comp for Gleyber Torres through his age-22 season is the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Famer. It’s pretty fitting, considering Torres’ torture of the O’s last season.
It also just underscores how impressive Torres has been in his young career. Now let’s just see how long he can keep up that pace.
Third Base: Yangervis Solarte
“Never Nervous” Yangervis Solarte returns to the Bronx as the player comp for Gio Urshela through age-27. The utility infielder made his Major League debut for the Bombers in 2014 and logged half a season before being traded to San Diego in a package for Chase Headley. Solarte put up a number of productive seasons, though to be fair, never one as good as Urshela’s 2019. If the swing changes Urshela made heading into last season continue to bear fruit, he’ll easily outperform this comp.
Left Field: Coco Crisp
Coming off the year Brett Gardner had at age-35, this doesn’t seem like a great comp. Gardner had a career-best 28 home runs and was worth 4.1 bWAR. At the same age, Crisp managed to play in just 44 games for the Oakland A’s and struggle to the tune of a 35 OPS+. But up to that point, both outfielders had reasonably similar careers. Over 1,499 games, Gardner has hit .260/.342/.401 with 124 homers and 267 stolen bases; in 1.586 career games, Crisp posted a .265/.327/.402 slash line, with 130 homers and 309 stolen bases.
Pretty fair overall.
Center Field: Michael Saunders
This comp, through his age-29 season, probably doesn’t do Aaron Hicks justice, especially considering the years he’s put together as an everyday player in the Bronx. But the two players have one disappointing similarity: trouble staying healthy. In Saunders’ best season, 2014 with Seattle, he was playing at roughly a 5.0 bWAR pace, but managed to be on the field for just 78 games. Similarly, in Hicks’ best year, 2017, he played at around a 7.0 bWAR pace, but logged just 88 games. Peak Hicks is better, but the Yankees need to keep him healthy. Troublingly, Saunders was out of the majors at age-30.
Right Field: Jason Bay
In New York, it’s tough not to remember Bay’s concussion-ridden years with the Mets, but through his age-27 season with the Pirates, Bay was legitimate offensive force. Maybe not Aaron Judge, but close. From age 25 through 27, Bay posted OPS+ markers of 132, 150, 138; during that same age range, Judge’s numbers were 171, 150, 143. Bay’s a cautionary tale on how quickly a promising career can derail because of injury and age. He maintained good numbers through age 30, but fell off dramatically after joining the Mets at age-31. He was out of the majors at 34.
Designated Hitter: Rocky Colavito
Through his age-29 season, Giancarlo Stanton’s closest comp is the slugger Rocky Colavito, who played primarily for Cleveland and Detroit in the 1950s and ‘60s. Though Stanton’s power peak is better, with 59 homers at age 27, Colavito put up three seasons of 40 or more home runs before age 29, compared with Stanton’s one. Colavito’s ability to stay on the field is the biggest reason why. Worryingly, though, as consistent as Colavito was through his 20s, he fell off a cliff in his 30s. With seven more years left on Stanton’s contract after this year, the Yankees will hope that’s where the comp ends.