Pinstripe Preview: Matt Holliday
Coming into the offseason, the DH role was a major question mark heading into 2017. The Yankees had been linked to big free agents like Edwin Encarnacion, but they ended up singing veteran Matt Holliday to a one-year, $13-million deal. Holliday, 37, fit into the Yankees plans to compete now, while also rebuilding. While Holliday has battled injuries over the past couple of seasons, he appears to man the designated hitter role this season, and I expect him to hit cleanup providing young star Gary Sanchez some valuable protection in the lineup.
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Holliday was limited to just 110 games in 2016 after missing an extended amount of time due to a thumb fracture. His lingering injury held him down to a career low .246 batting average, but his .461 slugging percentage was encouraging as it was his highest since 2013. He hit 20 home runs and also hit 20 doubles, driving in 62 runs at the dish.
The Cardinals decided to not exercise his option for the 2017 season, making him a free agent where he would sign with the Yankees. Joining a club that is beginning a youth movement, Holliday was brought in to be a major contributor offensively, while also providing veteran leadership to a team that may face growing pains this season.
Off to a hot start this spring going 7-14 (.500 BA) with one home run, three doubles, and three RBI, Holliday is already looking like that middle of the order hitter the Yankees are counting on him to be this season. Holliday will not play in the field much, as his primary role is likely to be at the DH position. When he does play in the field, it could come in left or right field, or at first base. One positive note about this year’s Yankee team is that they are fairly deep despite their youth, so his contribution in the field may not be necessary that often this year.
The aging outfielder at 37-years-old is the oldest player on the Yankees. With plenty of experience in the big leagues and on a diverse number of teams (from those in pennant races to those rebuilding), Holliday is one of the most important players on the team this year. We won’t see his league leading hitting stats of five-plus seasons ago, but his power numbers should increase as he naturally hits the ball to right-center field. If he can hit about 25 homers while also hitting in the .260+ range with 70 or more RBIs, the Yankees will be very happy with the one year deal they gave to this aging veteran.