You ask, we answer. The Post is fielding questions from readers about New York’s biggest pro sports teams and getting our beat writers to answer them in a series of regularly published mailbags. In today’s installment: the Yankees.
Who should be the starting lineup for the Yankees this year? — Patrick Grant
The Yankees never used the same lineup for more than two games in a row all of last regular season. That was in part due to the 39 stints on the injured list by 30 different players, but it was also due to the greater reliance on analytics and taking advantage of matchups.
There are some obvious everyday choices — DJ LeMahieu at second base, Gleyber Torres at shortstop, Gary Sanchez behind the plate and Aaron Judge in right field. But Miguel Andujar could see time at third base, first base, outfield and DH. And the Yankees would no doubt like to limit Giancarlo Stanton’s time in left whenever possible.
So let’s go with a lineup of LeMahieu leading off and at second base, Judge in right hitting second, Torres hitting third at short, Stanton batting cleanup and in left, Sanchez catching and hitting fifth, Andujar as the DH hitting sixth, Brett Gardner in center hitting seventh, Luke Voit at first hitting eighth and Gio Urshela at third batting ninth. That leaves Mike Tauchman as a fourth outfielder, and another lefty bat, along with Mike Ford at first and Tyler Wade as a backup infielder.
If the season ever gets underway, teams will almost certainly be allowed to carry more than 26 players, which means Clint Frazier and Thairo Estrada could also see action. And if the start of the season is delayed long enough, perhaps Aaron Hicks would be back from offseason Tommy John surgery.
With the multiple number of injuries the Yankees have seen over the last few years, both on and off the field, is a change in conditioning, strengthening needed? Does the team monitor offseason programs players have for themselves? — Peter Glass
The change came during last offseason, when Matt Krause was let go and Eric Cressey was hired as the director of player health and performance. Longtime athletic trainer Steve Donohue was transitioned to an emeritus role.
Cressey co-founded Cressey Sports Performance and will continue to head up his practice, meaning his time actually spent with the team will be somewhat limited.
“We’re in the process of overhauling how we assess players,’’ Cressey said during a conference call after his hiring.
The odd injuries continued into the spring. Luis Severino, after first feeling discomfort near his elbow during the playoffs, wasn’t diagnosed with a UCL tear until spring training. James Paxton first reported issues with his back in September and made three postseason starts before undergoing surgery in February. Aaron Judge may have suffered a fractured rib and punctured lung in September and has still been dealing with symptoms. Giancarlo Stanton strained a calf early in spring training, continuing his run of being injury-prone too. It’s too soon to tell whether the addition of Cressey will fix the Yankees’ injury woes.
If the season resumes with doubleheaders and very few days off, teams could be playing up to nine games a week. D … do the Yanks go with six or even seven starters, and how do they compare with the other contenders? — Henry W Katz
If Paxton is able to be part of the rotation after back surgery, that would give them a starting five of Gerrit Cole, Masahiro Tanaka, Paxton, J.A. Happ and perhaps Jordan Montgomery. Certainly the loss of Severino, as well as Domingo German’s absence while he serves the final 63 games of an 81-game suspension for violating MLB’s domestic violence policy, will be felt. They could turn to Jonathan Loaisiga and newcomers Deivi Garcia, Michael King and Clarke Schmidt, but they will also rely heavily on their strong bullpen.
As for the rest of the AL, no team is built so well for frequent twinbills and rare days off. The Rays have an excellent rotation but not a ton of depth. Cleveland’s rotation is still strong, even after trading Corey Kluber to Texas, and Houston, despite losing Cole to the Yankees in free agency, will have solid starting pitching and bullpen.
Since the Yankees are way short on left-handed hitters, why have they not looked at trading for Joc Pederson of the Dodgers? He hits for power and plays the outfield. — Lorenzo Gonzalez
This might have been more likely if the season hadn’t been suspended indefinitely by the coronavirus pandemic, since the Yankees might have opened the season with Judge on the injured list with a fractured rib, Stanton coming off a calf strain and Hicks likely out until midseason rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. The Dodgers are certainly open to moving Pederson, since they initially agreed to ship him to the Angels when they traded for Mookie Betts from the Red Sox, but that deal fell through when there was a delay in the Betts’ deal. Still, the Yankees seem set with their roster — with Brett Gardner, Mike Ford, Mike Tauchman and perhaps Tyler Wade all hitting from the left side.