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Spring Training Notes: 2018
1 year ago  ::  Mar 23, 2018 - 10:49AM #291
Posts: 32,868

Yankees: Where should Greg Bird bat?

This year’s Yankees lineup is stacked with power, but most of it is right-handed. First baseman Greg Bird provides a lot of left-handed power. Where does he fit in?

We still don’t know what the Yankees Opening Day lineup will look like, but based on manager Aaron Boone’s lineup choices during Spring Training, it looks like he’s stacking the righty and lefty power. Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gary Sanchez are in the second, third and fourth spots, respectively, and Didi Gregorius and Bird in the five and six slots.

Conventional wisdom says to put a left-handed hitter somewhere between all those righties. The thinking behind that is to make it more difficult for opposing managers to manage their bullpens late in games.

That being said, Boone is a numbers guy. It’s one of the reasons the Yanks hired him. He says the numbers will play a big role in his lineup construction:

“I’ll bring guys in from the front office and ask them to run different run-projection stuff on what it looks like with this guy; if we give this guy [a day] off, what’s the best combination? Those are conversations that I’m always having.”

So, what do the numbers say? We ran some lineup projections through the Lineup Analysis tool at Baseball Musings, using this year’s PECOTA projections from Baseball Prospectus. This is assuming Neil Walker gets the bulk of the at-bats at second base. That’s something that isn’t a given now that Tyler Wade is on the 25-man roster.

et’s assume the lineup will look like many people expect:

  1. Brett Gardner (L)
  2. Judge (R)
  3. Stanton (R)
  4. Sanchez (R)
  5. Gregorius (L)
  6. Bird (L)
  7. Brandon Drury (R)
  8. Aaron Hicks (S)
  9. Walker (S)

As constructed, that Yankees lineup is expected to score 5.076 runs per game. However, that’s not the highest-scoring combination.

In fact, the highest-scoring combination looks like this:

  1. Judge (R)
  2. Stanton (R)
  3. Walker (S)
  4. Sanchez (R)
  5. Bird (L)
  6. Gregorius (L)
  7. Hicks (S)
  8. Drury (R)
  9. Gardner (L)

That lineup, with Judge leading off and Walker batting third, is projected to score 5.14 runs per game. Flip-flopping Bird and Sanchez generate the same result. This lends some credibility to the conventional wisdom by using the switch-hitting Walker to break up all that right-handed power. It also has Bird in the five hole, ahead of Gregorius.

Although many people balk at the notion of batting Judge in the leadoff spot, the numbers indicate that the Bombers would score more runs by giving their two best hitters, Judge and Stanton, the most at-bats.

Because it’s fun to dream and look at numbers, we also ran a lineup analysis with Wade at second base. To make things easier, we just swapped him with Walker and put him the ninth spot in the order.

That lineup looks like this:

  1. Gardner (L)
  2. Judge (R)
  3. Stanton (R)
  4. Sanchez (R)
  5. Gregorius (L)
  6. Bird (L)
  7. Drury (R)
  8. Hicks (S)
  9. Wade (L)

In that configuration, the Yanks would score 5.013 runs per game. At this point, Walker is expected to put up better numbers than Wade. That probably accounts for the difference in production.

What’s most noteworthy about this version of the lineup is its most productive configuration:

  1. Gardner (L)
  2. Stanton (R)
  3. Bird (L)
  4. Judge (R)
  5. Sanchez (R)
  6. Gregorius (L)
  7. Wade (L)
  8. Drury (R)
  9. Hicks (S)

This version would, theoretically, generate 5.059 runs per game. As a result of adding Wade to the lineup, the Yankees are most productive with Gardner at the top of the order and Stanton, not Judge, hitting second. Also noteworthy is Bird is batting third.

In conclusion, the numbers point to a few key things. First, the Yankees could score more runs with Walker in the lineup instead of Wade. Second, breaking conventional wisdom by batting Judge in the leadoff spot also results in more runs. They also show that breaking up the righties with a lefty or switch-hitter would result in more run production. Finally, it looks like Bird, in many scenarios, should be that guy, hitting anywhere from third to fifth, but always ahead of Gregorius.

Of course, Boone will decide who bats where, and things will undoubtedly change as the season plays out. However, these numbers could give us a window into how the Yankees will make some lineup decisions in the early going.

1 year ago  ::  Mar 23, 2018 - 10:50AM #292
Posts: 32,868

Inside workout where 18-year-old Tyler Wade wowed Yankees

New York Yankees second baseman Tyler Wade (39) throws to first base during the third inning of a Spring Training baseball game against the Minnesota Twins at CenturyLink Sports Complex. (Butch Dill | USA Today Sports)

By Brendan Kuty bkuty@njadvancemedia.com,
NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

TAMPA -- Dave Keith, a Yankees southern California area scout, and his boss, Vice President and Director of Amateur Scouting Damon Oppenheimer, stood behind a net in shallow center field as 18-year-old shortstop Tyler Wade fielded groundballs at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Wade had flown alone from his California home to Tampa to attend the workout for 2013 draft prospects, in which Billy McKinney, an eventual first-round pick for the A's and current Yankees prospect, also participated.

When Wade finished, Oppenheimer turned to Keith. 

"That was pretty good," Oppenheimer said.

"I'm not trying to sell him," Keith said, "but if I'm being honest with you, he's way better than that."

A few months later, the Yankees made Wade their fourth-round pick, signing him to a $371,000 bonus and starting a journey that has most recently seen its highest point, with manager Aaron Boone saying that Wade will share second base with veteran Neil Walker on a team with World Series expectations.

Wade, now 23, has been a star of camp. Putting a rough 2017 big-league debut behind him, Wade has hit .316 with three doubles, a triple and three RBI in 38 at-bats, good for a .885 OPS.

But if Wade hadn't shown years ago at that workout that he was worth the investment, things likely would be very different.

Wade remembers it well.

"I was excited," he said. Then he paused to think. "Excited and anxious. It's the New York Yankees. There were a lot of people there, as in front office people. I was just trying to not make a fool of myself."

McKinney remembered meeting Wade on the on-deck circle.

"He was very professional," McKinney said. "He talked very well with people, especially me. I didn't know him. Everybody's kind of quiet, but Tyler wasn't afraid to start a conversation, and he made it feel very easy in the workout for everybody."

Wade, still in high school, had never been so far away from home alone before. But he told his parents that he wanted to see if he could handle it on his own. If he was going to skip college and play professionally, he'd have to do it sooner than later, anyway, he explained.

So Wade got on a flight and arrived the day before the workout. At about 8 a.m. the next morning, Wade took the field. Keith remembered being a little nervous for Wade, whom he'd scouted closely for months and with whom he'd built a bond.

"You're taking a West Coast kid, sending him out there and getting him up to play baseball at 8 a.m. -- that's 5 a.m. his time -- to go out and do something that means a heck of a lot to his future," Keith said. "It's 90-degree weather with 90-percent humidity. 'Hey, show us the best you have.' I've seen some kids get overwhelmed."

Not Wade. 

Aside from his impressive defensive display, Keith said he remembered Wade taking a round of batting practice off Danilo Valiente -- now the Yankees' major-league batting practice pitcher -- before facing live pitching.

"He asked, 'Which one of those guys are the best? I want to face him,'" Keith said. "I said all right. He faced him, hit two line drives and a walk off him."

If the workout solidified the Yankees' interest in Wade, it had been growing rapidly for a while before. Keith said he remembered watching Wade play one day at Murrieta Valley High School, learning that Wade would be playing very early the next morning, and asking two other scouts in the area -- Brian Barber and Kendall Carter -- to make a long early-morning drive to watch Wade again. Wade didn't disappoint, hitting three triples. 

Keith also made an in-house visit with Wade, whose high school coach was Monty Jones, whom Keith coached when he helmed the baseball program at Cypress College, a souther California junior college.

"When you get a kid like Tyler, you see the athletic actions, the tools, the ability to play the game," Keith said. "When you see that, that's pretty special. With Tyler, the difference-maker was his makeup."

A makeup that allowed him to fly across the country all alone at age 18 and wow the Yankees.

1 year ago  ::  Mar 23, 2018 - 4:24PM #293
Posts: 32,868

Yankees option RHP Luis Cessa to Triple-A

That is it for Spring Training Notes.  I will out-of-the-country

for the next few days.  GO YANKEES.

1 year ago  ::  Mar 23, 2018 - 9:39PM #294
Posts: 258

Thanks so much for all your work this winter on the threads.

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