Chris O’Meara/Associated Press
When it comes to the leadoff spot, most MLB managers opt for their fastest player or best contact hitter—not a prolific slugger.
But Aaron Boone and the New York Yankees are willing to defy the norm.
Aaron Judge was inserted into the leadoff spot for Friday’s spring training game against the Boston Red Sox, with fellow slugger Giancarlo Stanton hitting second. According to ESPN’s Cole Harvey, Judge believes this is a strategy the Bronx Bombers could employ during the regular season.
“This morning I wake up and I’m hitting leadoff,” Judge said, per Harvey. “It’s just another day. No big deal.”
In 2017, Judge was the runner-up for the American League MVP award by slashing .284/.422/.627 with 52 home runs, 114 RBI and 127 walks. His 52 dingers were the second-most in all of baseball, trailing only National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton.
Putting power bats at the top of the lineup is unorthodox. Seemingly since the beginning of baseball, sluggers have been penciled into the third or cleanup spots, allowing the contact hitters to get on base ahead of them to set the table. However, the job of a leadoff hitter is to get on base—and that’s exactly what Judge (.422 on-base percentage in 2017) and Stanton (.376) do.
As advanced metrics become more prevalent, teams are looking to get the most out of their best players. Bumping Judge and Stanton up in the order could squeeze in an extra at-bat in games for them here and there. Of course, maximizing plate appearances for those sluggers only increases New York’s chances of winning.
It doesn’t hurt to experiment during spring training. Whether Boone will use the strategy during the regular season remains to be seen.