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With Four Outfielders Clicking, Could A Position Change For One Help The Yankees?
- Updated: April 17, 2017
The New York Yankees have completely reversed a sluggish start to rattle off 7 wins in a row. After two straight sweeps against the Tampa Bay Rays and St. Louis Cardinals, the Yankees look to keep the momentum against the Chicago White Sox starting Monday. Since the start of the season, the offense has been mostly clicking for the Bronx Bombers. This is especially true in the outfield. At the moment, two of their outfielders have batting averages above .300. Jacoby Ellsbury and Aaron Hicks are batting over .310, with Ellsbury matching the mark and Hicks at .318. Meanwhile, Brett Gardner has been a strong leadoff hitter with a .347 OBP and Aaron Judge is hitting for power. Judge has 3 home runs so far, with a home run overturned in Sunday night’s game against the Cardinals for fan interference.
To say that the Yankees should be happy with their outfielders right now is an understatement. Heading into the season, the only outfielder who the organization probably had faith in was Gardner. Ellsbury has been about average, but his contract is too massive for average. Judge was (and still is) unproven and his strikeout rate from a short MLB stint was alarming. Hicks seemed to have all of the talent necessary to be a starter, but had yet to piece it together. Right now though, the Yankees’ outfield has been producing. The problem is that there are only 3 outfield starting positions for 4 players. What are the Yankees to do?
Now, my idea is not something that has been rumored or stated by any MLB writer or anybody within the Yankee organization. This is purely an idea that I had while watching one of the games. Despite that, I think that it could be helpful to the Yankees’ offense for the 2017 season.
Move Aaron Judge to First
While it might seem like a brash idea, a position swap for Aaron Judge does make sense. If the fourth outfielder on the team (Hicks) is performing the best (per batting average), then why keep him out of the lineup? Yes, Hicks does get semi-regular playing time by filling in for Gardner, Ellsbury, and Judge on their off days that rotate. However, the current production that Hicks is hitting with right now is starting worthy. Meanwhile, manager Joe Girardi should not take any of the other three out of the order in exchange for Hicks. Judge is performing with his power and needs the at-bats. Ellsbury has started off hot while Gardner is the team’s leadoff hitter. Not only that, but he is best suited at being a leadoff hitter. There is nowhere to squeeze Hicks in on regular basis when Matt Holliday returns to the lineup.
Bird & Carter are Struggling
Despite Greg Bird’s strong Sunday performance (3-4 with a HR and double), his production early in the season has been worrying. While nobody thinks that Bird should be removed from the lineup, his early woes have sent off mild alarm signals. It is not only because he only had one hit prior to Sunday’s game. Watching Bird’s at-bats have been borderline painful. The smooth swing and good approach that he had in Spring Training seemed to have vanished. Actually, it left Bird and flew over to the other corner of the infield to Chase Headley.
Bird is not in Monday’s lineup because a lefty is starting for the Sox. Before his struggles, Girardi would have kept Bird in the lineup. Now, Chris Carter gets another start at first. Carter is also batting sub .200 at the moment (currently at .182 prior to Monday’s game). Between the two of them, there is a large amount of production being left empty at first base.
First Base is Easiest Position to Learn
That is not to say that learning the position is easy. To quote from the movie Moneyball, “It is incredibly hard.” However, out of the other positions that are not infield, it easily wins. Taking away learning bunt plays, defensive alignments, verbal cues, and other non-fielding factors, first base requires the least amount of technical fielding ability. Any ground ball that heads toward first needs to be blocked more so than fielded. The ability to pick throws in the dirt is thought more of an added bonus rather than a requirement. Plus, Judge’s athletic ability will only help him out in learning the position.
With the Future in Mind, Bryce Harper Plays RF
Looking ahead to the mouth-watering free agency class in the 2018-19 offseason, the natural target for the Yankees will be Bryce Harper. The infield should be stacked with infielders (which would take interest away from Manny Machado). Plus, Harper grew up a Yankees fan, which could mean he has a favoring for playing in pinstripes. However, the outfield could be stacked as well. Ellsbury will still be under contract, as well as Judge. Also, Clint Frazier will be with the MLB team and potentially Blake Rutherford. Perhaps Judge can move over to first (if Bird does not shake this slow start ever) to have a spot open for Harper. Even if the transition to first was temporary, the organization would have that idea in mind for the future.
More Likely, Brett Gardner is Traded
While this idea could work, the odds of it happening are slim to none. If the Yankees feel the need to get Hicks into the starting lineup more often, then they will be more inclined to ship Gardner away in a trade. Hicks is cheaper and younger than Gardner is at this point. My idea keeps the team together through the 2017 season (at the least), but the Yankees will probably not show that willingness. Unless they are leading the AL East around the trade deadline and do not want to mess with team chemistry, Gardner will be traded before any thought of moving Judge to the infield happens.
With a Brett Gardner trade, Hicks would take over the everyday role in LF. Rather than call up Clint Frazier to fill the current Aaron Hicks role, Rob Refsnyder would then be the platoon guy for the MLB team. Even with the Yankees early season success, it is hard to shake the idea of someone being moved.
Too Many Good Outfielders is a Good Problem
This problem that I am attempting to solve is a good one to have. If Hicks can keep up this production, then the Yankees will have four solid outfielders on the their roster. Even though the Yankees would like to have Hicks in the lineup more often, they will not mind having him as a great commodity off of the bench. This is the position the Yankees want to be in rather than the alternative.
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Latest posts by Griffin Fuller (see all)
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- With Four Outfielders Clicking, Could A Position Change For One Help The Yankees? - April 17, 2017