DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Judge Headline List of 11 Yankees Featured on MLB Network's "Top 10 Right Now"
In order to win more than 100 games, and play deep into the postseason, a team needs to be built with a lineup and pitching staff full of solid players. For a club that won 103 games in 2019, and added one of the best starting pitchers in the game this offseason, it's safe to say the Yankees have star power up and down their roster.
MLB Network finished its annual offseason tradition – ranking the top ten players at each position on the diamond – and New York had at least one player ranked on each list except for one. Their total of 11 players ranked was the most of any Major League team.
The rankings in this criteria were determined by MLB Network's "The Shredder," a mechanism that factors in Statcast data, analytics as well as traditional statistics. Therefore, any sort of bias is not factored into these decisions – it's completely and utterly contingent upon on-field performance.
Last week, Inside The Pinstripes dove into the discussion as to which starting pitcher is the best hurler in baseball – after the rankings for the top ten starters were released with Gerrit Cole in the No. 3 spot – so let's start with the position players first:
Catcher: Gary Sánchez (5)
Even with his injury history, Gary Sánchez continued his reign as one of the best power-hitting catchers in baseball last season. In 2019, Sánchez's 34 home runs was tops among all backstops. He posted an average of .232 to go along with 77 RBI and 62 runs in 106 games.
Sánchez isn't one of the best defenders in baseball, but he's improving – he cut down on past balls from a league-leading 18 in 2018, to just seven last season.
Yasmani Grandal – one of the Chicago White Sox's many additions this winter – was ranked as the game's best backstop on this list.
First Base: Luke Voit (7)
New York acquired Luke Voit midway through the 2018 season and in 2019, the slugger took over as the Yanks' starting first baseman. In 118 games, Voit mashed 21 homers.
At a position with so much power, Voit's long ball numbers were middle of the pack. Factor in his ability to hit for average (.263) and get on base effectively, and the bulky slugger ranked seventh among first baseman with an .842 OPS.
Atlanta's sweet-swinging lefty Freddie Freeman was placed at No. 1.
Second Base: DJ LeMahieu (2)
DJ LeMahieu played three positions last season – his first year with the Yankees after signing a two-year deal in the offseason – putting together one of the best all-around campaigns of his nine-year career. His 197 hits was third-best in the game, while he finished in the top-four in batting average (.327).
He ended up fourth in the race for American League Most Valuable Player, securing a Silver Slugger Award at second base as well.
With Gleyber Torres set to take over as the club's full-time shortstop in 2020, expect LeMahieu to settle in comfortably at second base for the entire campaign. Perhaps in 2020 he can surpass Ketel Marte (who's coming off a monster, breakout season) for the top spot.
Shortstop: Gleyber Torres (7)
Speaking of Torres, the 23-year-old followed up a tremendous rookie season with an even better performance in 2019. The talented youngster split time at both infield positions up the middle, but his 38 home runs would have been tops in the league at shortstop.
Torres will strive to appear in his third-consecutive All-Star Game in 2020 – and if you're impressed with his performance on the field, you're going to fall in love with him even more after reading about his unwavering efforts to give back in the community.
Trevor Story of the Rockies sits atop the leaderboard, with Francisco Lindor one step behind.
Third Base: N/A
Gio Urshela's performance in 2019 was everything the Yankees could have asked for and more at the hot corner. He was an extra base hit machine, slashing his way to a .314 batting average and 47 doubles – tied for fourth-best in baseball.
That being said, Urshela fell just shy of earning a spot on the list of the top third baseman right now. Stars like Alex Bregman, Anthony Rendon and Nolan Arenado were featured in the top three spots respectively.
Miguel Andújar was spectacular at third base in 2018, before spending the majority of last season sidelined with injury – the 24-year-old is preparing himself to play other positions in 2020, however, as he was spotted taking fly balls in left field ahead of Spring Training.
Left Field: Giancarlo Stanton (10)
Like Andújar, Giancarlo Stanton played in fewer than 20 games in 2019. Nonetheless, the slugger is positioned at 10th among the league's best left fielders.
It's impossible to look past his prolific history in the outfield – just three years ago, Stanton mashed 59 long balls with the Miami Marlins, earning the NL MVP Award.
Stanton's potential, if he can avoid injury, is through the roof. In fact, it's one of the Yankees' five biggest questions leading up to Opening Day. Should he play a full season, he could easily climb up higher on this list next offseason – he'll be competing with the likes of Washington's Juan Soto, however, who took the top spot this winter.
Center Field: Aaron Hicks (8), Brett Gardner (10)
Once again, and no surprise here, Mike Trout is the No. 1 center fielder in baseball – that being said, two Yankees cracked the top ten.
Aaron Hicks will be out for the majority of 2020 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, but his skills on defense and switch-hitting bat make him the eighth-best center fielder on this list. Brett Gardner, the Bombers' longest-tenured player, slots in at No. 10.
The starting duties in center field this season will in all likelihood be given to Gardner, who played 98 games at the position last year.
Right Field: Aaron Judge (3)
All rise for the third best right fielder in the game.
Judge has experienced his own set of injuries over the past two seasons, since his all-time performance in 2017 as a rookie. In 102 games last year, Judge proved he is still one of the best outfielders in baseball when he's healthy – he hit 27 homers while tearing the cover of the ball, leading the league in average exit velocity (95.9 mph) for a third straight season, per Statcast. After all, he was ranked as the best right fielder on this very ranking one year ago this winter.
The leaderboard in right field is stacked – former MVPs Christian Yelich and Bryce Harper are featured, as well as Mookie Betts, in the No. 1 spot.
Starting Pitcher: Gerrit Cole (3)
Cole was ranked behind the 2019 Cy Young Award winner from both leagues: Jacob deGrom and former teammate Justin Verlander.
You can certainly argue, however, that Cole should have been placed ahead of those two entering 2020. Cole won 20 games last season, his ERA (2.50) was the lowest in the AL, he led baseball with 326 punch outs and his longevity was on full display, tossing the fourth-most innings among all starters (212.1) across 33 games started.
For more of Inside The Pinstripes' coverage on the Yankees' newest ace from this offseason, read up on his immaculate introductory press conference performance, his emotional connection to the club and how he stacks up with the other ace in the Big Apple, deGrom.
Relief Pitcher: Aroldis Chapman (2), Adam Ottavino (8)
Aroldis Chapman, for a seventh consecutive season, is among the best relievers in the game – this time, the hard-throwing southpaw is second on the list.
His consistency is unprecedented – while other relievers from the past decade like Craig Kimbrel, Kenley Jansen, Wade Davis and more have dropped off the list, Chapman is still right at the top. He led the Yankees with a rate of 13.4 strikeouts per nine innings last year. Kirby Yates, who was the premier reliever in baseball within this criteria, had a 15.0 strikeout-per-nine ratio.
Ottavino, who played his first season in pinstripes last year, slots in at No. 8. The right-hander's 1.90 ERA was best among each of the Yanks' back-end bullpen arms, while appearing in the most games among all the Bombers' pitchers (73) – tied for eighth-most in baseball.
Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report on Wednesday, with position players suiting up for the first time at the Yankees' Spring Training facility just five days later. Which of these high-performing individuals do you think will take the biggest step forward in 2020?
To keep up with all of Inside The Pinstripe’s coverage, click the "follow" button at the top right-hand corner of this page.