Batting Aaron Judge in the leadoff spot is an idea the Yankees should not consider
Earlier this week, Yankees manager Aaron Boone flirted with the idea of trying Aaron Judge in the leadoff spot from time to time during the regular season. Judge, who saw time hitting in the two-hole regularly last season has yet to hit leadoff as a big leaguer, so although this idea may seem a little far-reaching on the surface, the idea is one that should heavily be considered depending on how the season goes.
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Judge, the 2017 AL Rookie of the Year, slugged his way to a rookie-record 52 home runs, and he also hit to a .282/.422/.627 (1.049 OPS!) slash line. Though his entire slash line is impressive, it is his OBP that was well above .400, second in the AL behind MVP Mike Trout that gives this idea some serious merit. Not only did he set a rookie record for home runs, but he also set a rookie record with 127 walks. Hitting leadoff is an idea that Judge is certainly up for, so long as it helps the team.
"It doesn't matter if I'm hitting first or last," Judge told Brandon Kuty of NJ.com.
Despite Judge’s willingness to bat leadoff, this is quite simply not a move the Boone and the Yankees should be willing to make. While Judge gets on base at one of the league’s highest rates, he does not have the type of speed one might expect out of a leadoff guy, and he certainly has more power than one might expect. In fact, we’re talking about one of the league’s most prolific sluggers in Aaron Judge.
With that, the Boone needs to place Judge in a spot where he can hit with runners who are already aboard, while also hitting in front of sluggers behind him such as Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, and others. Judge drove in 114 runners last season, also second in the AL, and that is why he needs to come up in spots with guys that are already on base. Additionally, the strikeouts were an issue, and having a guy who led the league with 208 strikeouts leading off in the first inning does not spell a recipe for success.
Still, the Yankees may run into an issue where they do not have a clear leadoff hitter in the lineup every day. With Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton presumably taking two outfield spots, and Aaron Hicks competing for the every day job in center field, the question of who hits leadoff becomes a tricky situation. However, it is likely that Judge or Stanton will frequently DH, which would open up a spot for Brett Gardner or fifth outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury to fill in at center field. In that case, there would be two more candidates to leadoff at the top of the order, though Ellsbury has regressed to a fringe outfielder with a light bat, so he would be better suited at the bottom of the order.
In an ideal world, the Yankees would have one of Stanton or Judge at the DH spot and the other in right, Hicks in left, and Gardner in center, which would resolve the enigma of who should fill the void at the top of the order. This will likely be the go-to scenario, at least early in the season, though it obviously is not out of the question that Boone would consider batting Judge leadoff.
"I'd say it's possible," Boone said to NJ.com. "I've thought of it. I wouldn't necessarily say it's likely. But something like that I would view as possible. It was considered. Something we've talked about."
Thankfully, Judge batting leadoff does not seem imminent for the New York Yankees, though it was mentioned on today's YES broadcast that Boone considered giving it a trial run in today's spring game. In my judgement, sticking Judge at the top of the order would be a case of Boone overthinking an already complicated Yankee lineup where he has a lot of options. At the end of the day, this Yankee order can be scary, and Boone has many cards he can deal with. Still, he must play the right hand, and Judge at the top would not be the correct play in a stacked Yankee lineup.Follow @chad_rain
Article by: Chad Raines
Article by: Chad Raines