Were the 2013 New York Yankees season beginning today, manager Joe Girardi already has enough talent to construct a starting lineup capable of winning the World Series come November. What remains to be seen is if Girardi realizes it and has the patience not to juggle the lineup after a couple of bad games.
If Girardi takes a few minutes to look over the back of his players' baseball cards, there is not a single reason in the world for him to have any trouble writing out a likely winning lineup card every night.
Also, those same baseball cards should be telling him to leave the bulk of his lineup set in stone—that history shows it will perform superbly over time.
Taking a look at the first third of the batting order, each player has a specific job that they have proven themselves more than capable of excelling at. Ichiro Suzuki, Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano would bat first-second-third (barring injury) without exception.
Right off the bat, the lineup goes left/right/left, with three players who average close to 100 runs scored per season, with lifetime batting averages over .300 (Suzuki-.322, Jeter-.313, Cano-.308). What other team can boast three potential batting champions in its first three batting slots? None.
Suzuki can steal bases (29 in 2012). Jeter can handle the bat and steal an occasional base, while providing a ton of hits (216 in 2012). Cano provides power (33 home runs in 2012) from the third slot. Men of steel, they played in a combined 481 regular season games last season.
Message to Girardi: Leave those three alone at the top, let them do their jobs and everything will be OK.
It gets better, with Mark Teixeira being assigned the Yankees' regular cleanup hitter. A switch-hitter, with power from both sides of the plate, Teixeira has the potential to knock home 130-plus runs in 2013. In his four seasons with the Yankees, he has 135 home runs and 425 rbi.
The key will be Girardi allowing him to get comfortable in the cleanup role without tinkering around. With Alex Rodriguez on the DL until at least June, Teixeira has the most logical skill set to complement the first three hitters while batting cleanup. That should make the decision a no-brainer for Girardi.
Batting fifth would be Kevin Youkilis. Some might argue that Curtis Granderson would be better suited for that slot with his 40-plus homers, but I disagree.
A bounce-back season from Youkilis will provide the Yankees with a higher average in the fifth spot, with decent power (19 home runs, 438 at-bats in 2012) and better plate discipline than Granderson. Youkilis has hit over .300 three times in his career, once with 115 RBI.
Youkilis also balances out the attack with another right-handed bat in the middle of the order, forcing opposing managers to burn through more pitchers.
Curtis Granderson, batting sixth, would be a potent weapon by stretching out the Yankees lineup considerably. He will still have plenty of opportunities to knock in runs with his power while also drawing walks (75 in 2012) with the ability to steal a base (47 from 2010-12).
Girardi may have to flip-flop Youkilis and Granderson until Rodriguez returns to balance out the lower portion of the lineup. However, that should not present a problem given the Yankees' strength through the top six slots.
Seventh through ninth would be the batting slots where Girardi could mix and match. A healthy Brett Gardner will give the Yankees speed and a capable bat near the bottom of the order (career .266 average, .355 on-base-percentage). In 2011, his 49 stolen bases led the league.
From there, the Yankees already have a lineup stacked with enough offensive firepower to go along with their strong pitching to compete for the 2013 World Series championship.
Preferably, GM Brian Cashman is able to make a move for a power-hitting right-handed designated hitter (to fill the void until A-Rod returns and Youkilis assumes that role).
In the meantime, Girardi can choose between infielder Eduardo Nunez and outfielder Chris Dickerson (to DH) for the first couple of months depending on the starter. At 25 years of age, Nunez's right-handed bat has produced totals of 448 at-bats, seven homers, 38 stolen bases, with a.272 average.
Dickerson could be the left-handed designated hitter. A career .266 hitter, in limited action with the Yankees in 2012, he hit two home runs in 17 at-bats to go along with a .286 batting average.
Austin Romine will get a shot to compete for the starting catcher job in 2013. Romine has a strong throwing arm and has shown flashes of power at the plate.
The 24-year-old Romine should be slotted ninth in the batting order. Whatever offense he provides can be considered a bonus as he matures at the major league level.
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