Yankees Complete Lineup With Headley

After signing Chase Headley to a four-year, $52 million contract, the Yankees have all of their position players set for the 2015 season. Brian Cashman announced that Alex Rodriguez will be the full-time designated hitter. Martin Prado will be able to give new shortstop Didi Gregorius an experienced double play partner to play next to. Jose Pirela should be able to fill the utility role and Rob Refsynder should be able to go back to Triple-A for more seasoning. The best thing about this Yankees lineup is its depth. You could argue that their is no throw away spot in the order unless Gregorius or Brendan Ryan is in against a lefty. That certainly has not been the case in recent seasons with guys like Brian Roberts, Kelly Johnson, Jayson Nix, Chris Stewart and Vernon Wells in the lineup on a pretty consistent basis. Unfortunately, I could go on and on with that list.

What the Yankees really lack is a true middle of the order hitter, a real power threat who is one of the best hitters in MLB. They had somebody like that, but I won't mention his name since that gets a lot of people riled up. Once you lose that guy it's hard to find another. With elite players like Giancarlo Stanton and Mike Trout being locked up earlier by their teams, you almost have to develop them. Maybe Aaron Judge can turn into that kind of player, but not this season.  Cashman seems to think he can make up for the lack of a stud in the short term with a starting lineup that has the potential for 15+ home runs from everybody except Gregorius.

An interesting question will be where will Jacoby Ellsbury bat? The Yankees signed Ellsbury to a huge deal to be their leadoff hitter, but because of injuries and the lack of a true middle-of-the-order hitter, he batted third for 365 at-bats and first for 202 at-bats this past season.  Ellsbury hit .257/.298/.475/.773 with a 110 wRC+ last year hitting leadoff and .277/.342/.386/.728 with a 104 wRC+ batting third. Those numbers don't make a lot of sense since the conventional wisdom would be that Ellsbury would be looking to get on base more batting leadoff and hit for more power at the three spot. So what that tells me is his approach did not change at all batting third, and that it was just random that he happened to hit for more power when batting first.

Ideally, Ellsbury will go back to hitting leadoff and form a dynamic duo with Brett Gardner at the top of the lineup. Both are lefties, but both handle left handed pitching fine. If Joe wants to bat Prado second and Ellsbury third against lefties, that would be also be fine. Either way, the Yankees need Ellsbury's OBP to go up from a poor .327 last year and more towards his .347 career OCP.

The Yankees really have no idea what to expect from three players -- Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira. You would figure Beltran has the best chance to give you a good year since he did so most recently in 2013, and in the months of April and July when he was healthiest he hit very well.  Rodriguez actually hit pretty well when he last played in 2013 (.244/.348/.423/.771). The Yankees would be thrilled with anything close to that again after not playing for a full year. One thing you know about Rodriguez is that he will be super motivated to prove a lot of people wrong.  He also keeps himself in amazing shape, so you just never know. Teixiera hit 22 home runs last season, but continued his overall hitting regression.

Keep in mind that even after the Yankees acquired Headley and Prado last season they did not hit much better as a team. They only hit .241/.302/.383/.685 in August and and even worse in September at .224/.284/.362/.646. That's not going to get it done.

With the state of their team now, the Yankees will need a lot of lottery numbers to hit to be a contending team this season. Their current odds to win the 2015 World Series are the 14th highest in MLB at 25/1.  It seems like they're content with building a mid 80's win team and hoping to get lucky and make the postseason, where anything can happen. The sad part is they did get lucky last year and outperformed their Pythagorean record by seven games and still only won 84 games. It's hard to see it getting a lot better at this point.