Baseball and the Yankees are back. No more projections, no more guessing, everything is real beginning tomorrow afternoon in Toronto. Here’s the official lineup we’ll see on Thursday along with some notes and updates on Baseball Eve.
Following is the New York Yankees Opening Day lineup we will see facing the Toronto Blue tomorrow:
2. Aaron Judge RF – Again a re-mix in the line-up minus Bird. Initially, Judge was being given serious consideration as the Yankees leadoff hitter due to his high on-base percentage and the desire to start the game off with the pitcher sweating from the get-go.
3. Giancarlo Stanton DH – We’ll see a lot of Stanton in the DH role as the season moves along, mostly due to Judge being a better outfielder. That will be modified, though, when Judge or Sanchez needs a blow.
4. Gary Sanchez C – Sanchez is receiving plaudits from everywhere as the best all-around hitter on the Yankees. With or without Bird, this was his spot in the lineup and a prodigious season could be upcoming for Sanchez, who is still in the refining stages of his career.
5. Aaron Hicks CF – Hicks, has the advantage of being a switch-hitter and against right-handers is positioned to break up the three righties that precede him in the order. Center field is his to own and keep. When healthy, Jacoby Ellsbury will be looking up at both Hicks and Gardner, waiting for a chance to squeeze into a game.
6. Didi Gregorius SS – As a shortstop, Didi faces severe competition to make the All-Star team on his own, but this year at the age of 28, he is officially in the middle of his prime years and one way or another he will be recognized as a premier player in the league. His spot ends the power and Reign of Terror on pitchers facing the Yankees
Brandon Drury 3B – Drury is a darling of Brian Cashman, who reportedly pursued him for years. At only 25, Drury, like Tyler Wade, plays much older. The Yankees look just for his steadiness in the field and offensively, a la Chase Headley last year. If he comes through with more, so much the better.
8. Neil Walker 2B – Walker, has been a baseball vagabond in recent years, traveling from team to team as a veteran who has a feel for the game of baseball. He won’t hurt you, it’s a matter of how much he can contribute and if that balky back of his holds up. His late preseason signing came when Gleyber Torres, the heir apparent at second base faltered in the Spring and was sent down. Walker will be playing while looking over his shoulder at his eventual successor playing in Triple-A. That’s what veterans do, though, and don’t be surprised if Walker holds Torres off for a whole season.
9. Tyler Austin 1B – Herein lies the real mystery in the Yankees lineup. Projected to be a backup first baseman for Bird and all-around utility player, Austin is now thrust into the spotlight as the replacement for Bird. Chances like this don’t come around too often, especially with a contending team like the Yankees. Brian Cashman, with the exception of re-signing Adam Lind to a minor-league contract as insurance, has not pushed the panic button, instead okaying the decision by Boone to go with Austin. If Austin responds, things could get a bit sticky when Bird is ready to play again.
Starting Pitcher: Luis Severino – To their credit, the Yankees did not play games and quickly announced that Severino would be their Opening Day starter, thereby making him the de facto Ace of their staff. It’s a gutsy move for someone as young as Severino (24), but all indications point to a man and pitcher who is ready-made for the role.
Yankees Lineup: Summing Up
No question, this is the best team the Yankees have fielded since 2009, and not coincidentally the last season that produced a World Championship. They are balanced and brutal, offering a string of hitters who will give opposing pitchers no room for error.
Big ball, not small ball will be the Yankees trademark this season. Crooked numbers will be commonplace during a game, with a bullpen poised to protect leads of 8-6 and 7-4 on a routine basis.
Yes, Brian Cashman will be in the market to acquire another front-line starting pitcher in July. Why shouldn’t he, especially if the Yankees payroll is still well under the luxury tax threshold. After all, CC Sabathia is not going to pitch forever, and with an eye to 2019 as well as this year, Cashman could do worse.
The only mystery about the 2018 Yankees, and it is not one making them unique, centers around the overall health of the team. There will be injuries and Cashman, and Boone will be held accountable to fill the voids created when they occur.
But even if the Yankees become the New York Mets of 2017 and it seems like the whole team is missing, the Yankees will be able to come charging with replacements sitting only three hours away in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Yankees Magical Mystery Tour
Tomorrow, it becomes real and the long march over six months and 162 games begin. This is gonna be a real barn-burner of a season, starting with the Red Sox and the battle for the AL East title. Destined only to be a prelude to baseball’s second season beginning in October, Yankees fans will be taken on a ride this year they’ll never forget. I’m convinced this is the season I’ve been waiting for….