Can you imagine the first player a pitcher sees on the mound is the New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge in the leadoff spot? It might not be too far-fetched as Judge will bat first for his team when the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox face off on Friday.
Per Coley Harvey of ESPN.com, he right fielder will bat first on Friday against the Boston Red Sox in a batting position that’s normally occupied by speedsters like the team’s primary leadoff man, Brett Gardner. Judge will set the pace for a lineup chock-full of power hitters, including Giancarlo Stanton (batting second), Greg Bird (third) and Gary Sanchez (fourth).
This is the first time Judge has appeared at the top of the order in his professional career.
“I might have done it in a high school game once,” said the reigning American League home run champion, who hit 52 homers last season.
Stanton is used to batting in the second spot in the order as he was moved their last season by manager Don Mattingly as a member of the Miami Marlins. Stanton swatted 59 home runs, had 132 RBI and won the National League MVP in 2017.
It’s something new for Judge, who said he prepares for this new experience like he does for any day at the ballpark. Having the most dangerous lineup in all of baseball may have become a little scarier knowing the mighty Judge will intimidate starting pitchers right off the bat.
Per Harvey, New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone mentioned earlier this spring that he had thought about moving Judge up a spot in the order to hit leadoff, particularly against left-handed pitchers. With the left-handed-hitting Gardner usually at the top, the possibility of a right-handed bat like Judge’s (or a switch hitter like Aaron Hicks), could provide better top-of-the-order balance against a left-handed starter.
It has already been announced that Brett Gardner will leadoff for the team when they face the Toronto Blue Jays in the first game of the season. It has also been reported that Judge is not the only slugger who may see time leading off for his team. An ESPN.com story by Eddie Matz on Thursday centered around The Washington Nationals using Bryce Harper as a leadoff hitter as well.
For his career, Harper has made 16 starts out of the leadoff spot, with all 16 of them coming during the 2013 season. A .274 hitter that year, Harper posted a .317 average as the leadoff hitter and had a .419 on-base percentage.
This might be a new look for Major League Baseball and teams looking to get an edge early and often, as well as give prolific hitters more plate appearances. As Harvey added, Houston Astros right fielder George Springer has been one recent example of a power-hitting leadoff man. Last season for the World Series champions, Springer hit 34 home runs, all while batting first. Of his 99 career homers, 61 have come from that spot.