With the signings of Troy Tulowitzki and DJ Lemahieu, the New York Yankees opening day roster is beginning to come into focus. Of course, there is still the possibility of Brian Cashman looking to improve the options in left field, or unclogging the infield logjam with a trade, perhaps of Miguel Andujar. Also, one more arm could join the ranks in the bullpen with the team still being linked to Adam Ottavino. Here are some way too early predictions on who will lead the Yankees in a few major statistical categories.
Batting Average- DJ Lemahieu
With the Yankees boasting a lineup of sluggers more skilled at getting on base and hitting for power than hitting for average, the leader in batting average could wind up hitting in the .280 range. 2018 leader Miguel Andujar (.297) could face a bit of a regression in his sophomore season as the league adjusts to him, as could Gleyber Torres. Lemahieu could as well, given his move to a new league, potential new positional duties, and no longer playing 81 games with the huge outfield of Coors Field. He’s a career .298 hitter however, and could fall short of that number and still lead the team in this category.
RBI- Giancarlo Stanton
Despite what many would consider an underwhelming first season in pinstripes for Stanton, he led the team with 100 runs batted in in 2018. Batting in the third or fourth spot in the order, behind on base machines Aaron Hicks and Aaron Judge, Stanton will have plenty of opportunities to drive in runs again in 2019. As he gets more comfortable with the AL, his role as a DH, and the pressure of New York, expect his run production to increase this season.
Home Runs- Aaron Judge
Against my better judgement, I almost pegged Gary Sanchez as the leader here. While there is reason to expect a bounce back from Sanchez, Judge is still the most logical choice. He finished tied for second on the team last season despite missing 50 games. There didn’t appear to be much of a lingering loss of power after he returned from his wrist injury and he is a tireless worker in the cage. As hard as it may be to believe, Judge is still growing as a hitter and his best days could be ahead of him. He’ll also lead the team in runs scored and on base percentage.
Wins- J.A. Happ
Not the most exciting signing the Yankees made this offseason, but one of the most important. Happ is a proven winner in the AL East and a consistent, reliable arm in the rotation. His brief stint in New York last season was immensely successful, despite his rough postseason outing. He’s made 30 starts in 4 of the past 5 seasons and posted an ERA under 4.00 in all 5. Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, and James Paxton all have higher ceilings, but Happ is the most predictable arm the Yankees will trot out on a regular basis in 2019.
Strikeouts- Luis Severino
Despite his second half swoon, Severino struck out 61 more hitters than the next pitcher in the Yankee rotation (Tanaka) in 2018. The pitch tipping issue is one that is correctable if Larry Rothschild is merely competent as a pitching coach. Even if Severino is something in between the dominant ace of the first half and the middle of the rotation arm of the second half, he should comfortably lead the staff in strikeouts in 2019.
Relief Appearances- Chad Green
David Robertson led the team in appearances last season, with 69. Dellin Betances was second with 66 but is likely locked in to the 8th inning set-up role. Chad Green is a little more versatile of an option out of the pen and should see an increase in opportunities with Robertson signing in Philadelphia. He’ll be called on anywhere from the 5th inning on.