Just before the eleventh hour on Wednesday night, Juan Soto joined the New York Yankees. The Padres traded him and Trent Grisham for five players, a pitching package headlined by righty Michael King.
Yes, the Yankees gave up a lot, including popular backup catcher Kyle Higashioka, but this is Juan Soto! It’s Zava, Steve Nebraska, whichever fictional super-athlete you prefer. For some of the older readers, this is the closest the Yankees have ever come to acquiring Ken Griffey Jr.
This is suddenly a new look lineup. Juan Soto joins two former MVPs in Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, plus a fellow former batting champion in DJ LeMahieu. Now add some of the Yankees’ exciting youth.
Manager Aaron Boone has his work cut out for him building this lineup. Let’s take a whack at it ourselves.
Alex Verdugo (LF)- The former Boston rival is an interesting choice for the leadoff spot, particularly because Verdugo doesn’t steal bases or walk a ton. His career walk rate (BB%) has peaked at the 42nd percentile in his career, per Savant. However, Verdugo is a contact hitter who doesn’t strike out much, nor chase pitches out of the zone. He can be an extra base machine when locked in and can provide some immediate momentum at the top.
Aaron Judge (CF)- Per usual, the Yankee Captain and former MVP takes his usual place in the No. 2 slot. MLB Network has toyed with Soto in this spot, but Aaron Judge batting second is practically tradition at this point. Plus, the Yankees avoid batting back-to-back lefties.
Juan Soto (RF)- Rather, Juan Soto will bat third because, if we’re being honest, it doesn’t make much of a difference. The two are so similar in that they’re power hitters who balance their walks and strikeouts. Soto just gets bonus points for having a batting title on his resume. Plus, back-to-back home runs still count the same regardless of who hits the first.
Gleyber Torres (2B)- The cleanup spot isn’t a conventional place for Torres, but injuries saw him batting third and fourth quite a bit in 2023. He hit .279 with an .824 OPS in 20 games batting cleanup last year while seeing his strikeout rate (K%) drop eight percentage points. If he can keep that up while also taking his walks, Torres could be in line for a strong contract season.
Anthony Rizzo (1B)- And if Torres’ maintains last season’s production, batting Rizzo fifth looks even better. We forget he was batting above .300 and taking full advantage of no infield shifts before suffering his season-altering concussion in May. Rizzo reads the strike zone well and isn’t afraid to choke up in two-strike counts. Batting fifth in a more mid-leverage position also arguably puts him in a better position for a comeback season.
Giancarlo Stanton (DH)- Stanton hitting .191 a year after batting just .211 means he won’t see the cleanup spot for the foreseeable future. Not unless he has an absolutely dominant spring training. Instead, Stanton can start in the No. 6 hole and work his way upward from Opening Day. If you ask Boone, he seems to think a big year is coming for the big guy.
DJ LeMahieu (3B)- Batting seventh is unconventional for a two-time batting champ, but LeMahieu turns 36 next year. Batting .273 in the second half implies he can still hit, just not at the top of the lineup anymore. Like Stanton, DJ LeMahieu’s goal for a better spot is to simply earn it via results.
Austin Wells/Jose Trevino (C)- We’ll include both here because this truly could be a lefty-righty platoon. Wells has plus power potential and is only improving as a catcher. Trevino has a Gold Glove and should fare better at the plate after recovering from wrist surgery. Maybe Wells can work his way up the lineup but until then, the Yankees’ catchers will bat eighth behind a boatload of talent.
Anthony Volpe (SS)- Cool your jets, folks. Derek Jeter batted ninth for most of his rookie season. Volpe had a solid rookie campaign, taking home a Gold Glove and finishing with a 20-20 seaosn, but he also hit just .209. That needs to improve by a wide margin in 2024. Until then, Volpe’s speed and ability to work counts makes him the secondary leadoff man, the perfect body for the No. 9 spot.