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Preparing for the ALDS: The Yankees lineup

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A deep dive into the Yankees hitters

Wild Card Game - Oakland Athletics v New York Yankees Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

For the second consecutive year, the Red Sox’ ALDS opponent will be the last team they faced in the regular season. This time around, it’s a division rival we all know and one they faced 19 times already in 2018. Still, it’s worth taking a deep dive into just who all of these guys are and what they bring to the table. On Friday, we’ll take a deeper look at both the starting pitching and relief pitching for the Yankees, but today we focus on the offense. It’s...a scary group, and one that finished with the most home runs from a team in a single season ever. So, yeah.

Catcher

Starter: Gary Sanchez (374 PAs, .186/.291/.406 89 wRC+, 18 homers, 1.4 fWAR)

For the last few years Sanchez has been the most intimidating catcher with a bat in his hands, and was one of the faces of the Yankees lineup. This year, however, he’s battled injuries and just general ineffectiveness when he’s played. The power is still there, with a .220 Isolated Power that is still 30 points lower than it was a year ago, but he’s struggling with contact. His strikeout rate is up to 25 percent this year, a career-high, and his batting average on balls in play is an almost-unbelievable .197. Some of that is surely bad luck, but he’s also making consistently worse contact than he has in the past. One important note with Sanchez is that, despite how poorly his season has gone, he’s still posting a 136 wRC+ against lefties this season. The Red Sox, of course, will start a pair of southpaws in Chris Sale and David Price to start this series. Defensively, Sanchez has received a lot of flack for his propensity to allow passed balls, and for good reason. However, it does overshadow the fact that he has a good throwing arm and is an above-average pitch framer.

Depth: Austin Romine (265 PAs, .244/.295/.417 91 wRC+, 10 homers, 0.8 fWAR)

Romine has been surprisingly solid for the Yankees this year, particularly in Sanchez’ absences, but he is a backup through and through. His bat isn’t as good as the numbers this year would indicate, and while he’s a more solid defender than Sanchez he also doesn’t excel in some of the areas Sanchez does. He’s a solid backup, but Sanchez is the better player.

Wild Card Game - Oakland Athletics v New York Yankees Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

First Base

Starter: Luke Voit (161 PAs, .322/.398/.671 187 wRC+, 15 homers, 1.9 fWAR)

Voit has been one of the biggest surprises in baseball over the second half of the season, and has been a big reason New York’s lineup was able to survive long stretches without Sanchez and Aaron Judge. The former Cardinal was a little-known trade deadline acquisition, but he’s become known of late. The standout skill here is clearly power, as his regular-season pace would give him 56 homers in 600 plate appearances. The .350 Isolated Power certainly isn’t a true-talent level — at least, as a Red Sox fan I hope it’s not — but he’s clearly a very good power hitter and will be a threat to go deep every time he comes up during this series. Like Sanchez, the righty has been better against lefties with an impressive 212 wRC+ against southpaws, although it’s also only 54 plate appearances. If the Red Sox are successful against Voit this year, they’ll have to keep him off balance and induce whiffs. He’s struck out over 26 percent of the time in 2018.

Depth: Neil Walker (398 PAs, .219/.309/.354 81 wRC+, 11 homers, 0.1 fWAR)

Walker was a late addition via free agency this past offseason, and it’s been a largely disappointing season for the switch hitter. He’s turned into a utility man for the Yankees, playing all over the infield. He’s also gotten much better at the plate as the year has gone on, so don’t be too fooled by those overall season numbers. Walker is a switch-hitter, but he is much better against right-handed pitching.

Second Base

Starter: Gleyber Torres (484 PAs, .271/.340/.480 120 wRC+, 24 homers, 1.9 fWAR)

One of the favorites for Rookie of the Year heading into the year, Torres isn’t going to win that award but he’s looked very good in his first taste of major-league ball. There’s been some inconsistency, which we’ll get to, but overall he’s hit for power with solid patience at the plate. He does strike out a bit more than you’d like, which is likely something to improve with age. That doesn’t matter for this series, though, and the Red Sox will be looking to make him chase in this series. As I said, there were some inconsistency issues and specifically his play went downhill in the second half. After posting a 141 wRC+ in the first half that mark fell to 99 after the break, with most of those struggles coming in September. Mostly, it’s the power that has dropped off as the year has gone on. As will become a theme in this lineup, Torres is another right-handed bat who hits better against lefties, with a 139 wRC+ vs. left-handed pitching. He has the tools to be a very good defensive second baseman, though the young infielder has shown inconsistencies there as well.

Depth: Walker

Shortstop

Starter: Didi Gregorius (569 PAs, .268/.335/.494 121 wRC+, 27 homers, 4.6 fWAR)

Gregorius is one of the more underrated Yankees and is in the second tier of shortstops in this league. He’s an outstanding all-around player who has improved with each season he’s spent in New York. He did miss some time with injury this year, but when he played he showed off his normal skillset all year. That is to say Gregorius flashed tremendous plate discipline with a low strikeout rate (12 percent) and doubled his walk rate to about eight percent. His power is often written off as a result of Yankee Stadium, and while that certainly plays a role it’s not everything. He can hit, plain and simple. Additionally, Gregorius flashes a well above-average glove at shortstop. He is one of the few lefties in the Yankees lineup, and while he hits better against righties he still posted a 107 wRC+ against southpaws this year.

Depth: Adeiny Hechavarria (321 PAs, .247/.279/.345 67 wRC+, 6 homers, 0.4 fWAR)

Hechavarria is the only other shortstop on the roster, and he really will only factor into things if Gregorius gets hurt. He’s not a good hitter, but he flashes a good glove at shortstop.

New York Yankees v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Third Base

Starter: Miguel Andújar (606 PAs, .297/.328/.527 128 wRC+, 27 homers, 2.7 fWAR)

While Torres isn’t going to win the Rookie of the Year, Andújar is going to be in the running. Shohei Ohtani will likely take the award, but the Yankees third baseman has been really impressive in his own right. The young righty has shown off consistent power all year long and his ability to square up the ball while rarely striking out helped stabilize the lineup while they were dealing with injury. He’s not a perfect player — he rarely walks, he can expand the zone and his defense is clearly below-average — but he’s going to be a threat for this entire series. Andújar actually has reverse splits, hitting better against righties but still posting a 117 wRC+ against lefties in 2018.

Depth: Walker

Left Field

Starter: Andrew McCutchen (682 PAs, .255/.368/.424 120 wRC+, 20 homers, 2.6 fWAR)

These numbers are a bit misleading, as they mostly cover his time in San Francisco. The former MVP was acquired by New York in an August trade and has raked since coming over, posting a 149 wRC+ after putting on pinstripes. His power certainly increased, which was to be expected given the most extreme possible change in ballparks, but he also started drawing a lot more walks in this Yankees lineup. Red Sox pitchers are going to want to attack McCutchen and make them beat him with his bat. That’s a lot easier said than done — there’s plenty of life left in the veteran’s bat — but you don’t want to put him on for free as the leadoff hitter in this Yankees lineup. That’s been a lot easier said than done, however. McCutchen prefers hitting against lefties, with a 126 wRC+ on the year.

Depth: Brett Gardner (609 PAs, .236/.322/.368 90 wRC+, 12 homers, 2.5 fWAR)

Gardner had a starter’s workload in the regular season, but he’ll be relegated to a depth role in the postseason. The outfielder is going to cover all three outfield spots and will likely be the top pinch running option off the bench as well.

Center Field

Starter: Aaron Hicks (581 PAs, .248/.366/.467 127 wRC+, 27 homers, 4.9 fWAR)

Hicks, like Gregorius, is lost in the shuffle a bit in this Yankees lineup but he’s also an outstanding all-around player. The former Twins prospect broke out in 2017, and he’s proven this year that it was no fluke. He won’t hit for a high average, largely due to BABIP problems that have plagued him over his career, but he gets on base at a high clip. Hicks is going to draw a ton of walks to the point that it’s almost unavoidable. What makes it more complicated is that you can’t just pound the zone, because he also hits for above-average power. Oh, and on top of all that he is a very good defensive center fielder, though he does have some mental lapses out there from time to time. Still, he is a plus out there much more often than not. Hicks is a switch-hitter, and while he’s better against righties he still posted a 116 wRC+ against lefties.

Depth: Gardner

Wild Card Game - Oakland Athletics v New York Yankees Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Right Field

Starter: Aaron Judge (498 PAs, .278/.392/.528 149 wRC+, 27 homers, 5.0 fWAR)

Judge is a bonafide superstar and has clearly ascended to being the face of the Yankees. He’s an absolute monster, both in terms of size and baseball ability, and is terrifying every time he comes to the plate. He got the Wildcard Game going with a two-run homer in the first, and the Red Sox will be looking to avoid that in this series. He did miss some time with injury, and the strikeout issues that plagued him in his rookie year continue to do so. It doesn’t matter, though, because he draws a ton of walks, hits for tremendous power and makes hard contact in general that helps bring his average up despite the strikeouts. Judge hits well against both righties and lefties, but he does prefer going up against southpaws. On top of all of this, he is also an underrated defensive player in right field.

Depth: Gardner

Designated Hitter

Starter: Giancarlo Stanton (705 PAs, .266/.343/.509 127 wRC+, 38 homers, 4.2 fWAR)

Stanton was, of course, the big acquisition for the Yankees this past winter and the guy many wanted the Red Sox to trade for. Boston clearly made the right choice opting for J.D. Martinez, but Stanton is still a very good hitter. He didn’t quite play up to his full potential this year, drawing fewer walks, striking out more and hitting for less power than his MVP 2017 campaign. He was mostly consistent all year, too, though he struggled to a 97 wRC+ in September. Despite the relative struggles, he’s obviously a threat to go deep every time he comes up in this series.

Depth: Walker