Following a 2016 season where the New York Yankees offense was carried by the “Baby Bombers,” fans should expect much of the same in 2017.
The New York Yankees will be heading into the 2017 season with hopes of improving the offensive numbers from last season. In particular, the potential 3-4-5 hitters in the lineup will be relied on for most of this offensive success: Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, and Aaron Judge.
Before we break down this potentially monstrous middle of the lineup, let’s take a look at how the Yankees offense did last year.
In 2016, the Yankees were on the wrong side of the best offensive teams in baseball. They were ranked 21st in total runs scored as well as having the fifth-worst on-base percentage in all of baseball.
Even the Cincinnati Reds had a higher team on-base percentage, and they finished 35.5 games back of first place to end the season.
Before the arrival of the baby bombers in the beginning of August, New York’s offense relied on hitters way out of their prime who were struggling to recapture the success they once had.
Disappointing seasons from Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez were big reasons why this offense could not get things going. Once rookie phenoms including Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge arrived on the scene, the offense looked rejuvenated and scored runs like there was no tomorrow.
In 2016, the middle of the order of the Yankees lineup was a very rough patch which contributed to the lineup’s struggles. The 3-4-5 spots are the heart of the order in every lineup and should not be filled with hitters who are way out of their prime, something that the Yankees had most of last season.
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Alex Rodriguez began the season batting third and did not give the Yankees anything in that spot to be noted, batting .200/.247/.351 with only nine home runs. The Yankees will be expecting that amount of home runs from Sanchez in the first month of next season.
The cleanup spot was given to Mark Teixeira, where he spent most of his brutal year, batting .204/.292/.362 with only 15 home runs and 44 RBI’s. A “cleanup hitter” is supposed to be cleaning up the bases by driving in runs. Judging by Tex’s RBI count, he was doing the complete opposite.
These are awful stats from guys who were supposed to be producing in the “heart of the lineup”. The 3-4-5 for next year looks to have much more success than they had in 2016.
Let’s take a look at the man who will, in all likelihood, be taking the three hole in the lineup next year, Gary Sanchez:
When Gary Sanchez arrived in the Bronx on Aug. 3, he made an impact like no other player in MLB history. In 53 games in his rookie campaign, Sanchez sported a slash line of .299/.376/.657 to go along with his stellar 20 home runs. He proved to the entire world that he is the real deal, adjusting to any pitch thrown in his direction.
Heading into his first full season, however, pitchers will be attempting different strategies to attack Sanchez, trying to find his kryptonite. The adjustments the 23-year old will have to make should not be tough for him at all, as he proved during the 2016 regular season.
With Sanchez used primarily in the three hole last year, there is no reason he won’t remain there for his sophomore campaign. One thing that sticks out about the rookie slugger’s stats is the minimum amount of RBIs he has under his belt.
He only had a total of 42 RBI’s with 20 home runs last season, which shows that the one and two hitters in the lineup were not doing their job of getting on base.
To go along with Sanchez’s impressive numbers from 2016, he will be receiving even more pitches to hit in 2017 with a fearsome hitter batting behind him in Greg Bird.
Speaking of Greg Bird, he will most likely be taking over the cleanup spot in the lineup heading into the season following the retirement of Mark Teixeira.
The lefty slugger will be returning to the Bronx after missing the entire 2016 campaign with a right shoulder labrum tear. The injury to Bird was a brutal blow to the Yankees’ 2016 plans following the outstanding success he found after being called up in the middle of the year in 2015.
Bird made his big league debut on August 13, 2015. From the point he debuted until the end of the season, he brought life to a Yankee lineup that was limping into the playoffs.
In his rookie campaign, Bird batted .261/.343/.529 with 11 homers and 31 RBIs in 46 games. He became the offensive spark that the Yankees were searching for on a team of veterans.
In replacement of Teixeira, who went down with a leg fracture, Bird also flashed the leather while bringing the Yankees to the postseason. Bird had a fielding percentage of .998, only committing one error throughout the entire season.
In hopes of returning back to that great form after injury, he will be playing in the Arizona Fall League this offseason to get back into the baseball groove. The left-handed hitter is very familiar with the AFL. In 2014, he won the MVP award thanks to his league lead in runs as well as finishing in second in hits, RBIs, and total bases.
Finally, the number five hitter will potentially be the Yankees 6’7″ right-fielder, Aaron Judge:
When Judge made his big league debut on Aug. 13, he arrived on the scene in grand fashion with a home run in his first at-bat. He launched a ball 446 feet into the batter’s eye in centerfield at Yankee Stadium. The power of Judge is an asset that could be essential to the Yankees’ long term plans.
Despite the huge amount of power we saw in his small sample size, he struck out 42 times in 84 at-bats, which will be a number that fans should expect to drop a tad next season.
Judge has, and always will be, a big strikeout guy due to his very large stature, but adjusting to the big league curveball was also a factor. The pitch has always been a problem for him but, now that he has experience at the highest of levels against them, he can properly make adjustments heading into next year.
Judge’s rookie season was also cut short after just 27 games when he hit the disabled list with a right oblique strain. In those 27 games, Judge was able to hit four home runs to go along with two doubles, and drive in 10 RBI’s.
Heading into the 2017 season with big league experience under his belt as well as a clean bill of health, fans should expect a much better season from the powerful right-handed hitter.
With the potential 3-4-5 in the Yankees lineup for next season being Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, and Aaron Judge, fans should be very optimistic when thinking about a boost in offensive production, leaning on the backs of the baby bombers.