You'll remember a few weeks back that I delved into what the Yankee lineup could look like with Alex Rodriguez out of it for a long time. Since then the Yankees have lost both Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira, two players who would feature heavily in the middle of the lineup. Which loss hurts the lineup more? Both players have something that the lineup lacks. Granderson was one of the three remaining power threats--Teixeira was one as well--and Tex was the team's only switch hitter. What's more, Tex hits lefties better than he hits righties and this iteration of the Yankee lineup may struggle against lefties, unlike years past in which Tex and Nick Swisher--another better-vs-LHP switch hitter--were paired with lefty mashers Derek Jeter, A-Rod, and Russell Martin. Kevin Youkilis will help pick up some of the slack, and so might Eduardo Nunez, but missing Tex, even for a short period of time, doesn't bode well for the Yankees' chances against lefties. Given all this, now down two more great hitters, what is the Yankee lineup going to look like?
Like I did in my last post, I'm going to assume that Derek Jeter is going to bat at the top of the lineup because we all know he's going to. Admittedly, parts of my lineup against lefties will be a little frisky, but I think these things are all defensible. I'm also going to go ahead and include Melky Mesa in my lineups. Though I might prefer Zoilo Almonte by a hair, Mesa's gotten a lot of playing time and if I (to borrow a cliche from Michael Kay) read the tea leaves , I'd have to think that Melky Mesa is going going to be in the Yankees' outfield come Opening Day.
This is where the Yankees miss Tex. Without him, the Yankees will likely have to stack lefties at some point in their lineup against righties. It's less undesirable to back up Hafner with Cano because even though Hafner is going to be pretty crappy against lefties, Cano mashes them equally; a LOOGY will only be able to neutralize one of them rather than both. As for the Johnson/Ichiro stack, Johnson is a player for whom Joe Girardi can easily pinch hit if need be. I'm giving Frankie Blue Eyes the starting job because he can be something more than useless at the plate, unlike Chris Stewart.
1. Derek Jeter, DH 2. Kevin Youkilis, 3B 3. Melky Mesa, CF 4. Robinson Cano, 2B 5. Juan Rivera, DH 6. Eduardo Nunez, SS 7. Brett Gardner, LF 8. Francisco Cervelli, C 9. Ichiro Suzuki, RF
Yes, that is Melky Mesa batting third. The "book" advocates putting a guy who's a low-OBP slugger in the three spot and that's likely what Mesa will be. He'll probably strike out a lot, but he's got enough raw power that he can make up for it. We could justify swapping him with Juan Rivera, but putting Mesa behind Cano would be a good way to ensure that Cano would see fewer than zero pitches to hit. An alternative plan, though, could include both Matt Diaz and Juan Rivera in this lineup, with Brett Gardner on the bench. In that case, we could put out this lineup:
1. Jeter 2. Youk 3. Diaz/Rivera 4. Cano 5. Rivera/Diaz 6. Mesa 7. Cervelli 8. Nunez 9. Ichiro
The last scenario would include Kevin Youkilis moving from third to first and having someone else--Jayson Nix? Ronnie Mustellier? David Adams (if he's ever healthy)?--play third. However, I'm not so sure that's going to go down.
My hand-wringing in this case, like it is in most cases, is probably a bit overstated. The Yankees will only have to deal with a lineup that is sans-Granderson and sans-Tex for a little over a month. They'll be back to fill in before we know it, and all the Yankees have to do is "survive" until their sluggers return.