2021 Hitting Predictions for the Yankees’ Starting 9

It’s almost finally upon us. Yes, a full 162 game MLB Season awaits. It was no fun last season trying to predict seasons in a shortened year, yet this season the past time will return to its past form; and so will my projections. Without wasting any time, I’m going to jump into my batting projections for this upcoming season. None of these are going to bold, these will be my ‘normal’ predictions. My bold predictions (or should I say unrealistic ones) will come at a different time.

Gary Sanchez

It’s only fitting to start off with the player that has polarized Yankee fans the past three years. You either can’t stand Sanchez, or you can’t imagine a world where he doesn’t find something that works. It’s been this way since his Rookie Year, and the optimists will tell you this is the time for him to break out. The pessimists, well, they’ll tell you how it’ll be more of the same.

Sanchez had himself a pretty terrible shortened 2020 campaign, slashing .147/.253/.365 with 10 home runs, a 68 weighted Runs Created Plus (100 is average), and a .271 weighted On Base Average (.320 is average).

Sanchez is unlikely to replicate a season as horrible as that this year, I think he’ll find a bounce back and win some more people over as the year progresses.

2021 Prediction: 107 GP .235/.315/.487 30 HR 107 wRC+ .326 wOBA. 

By season’s end, Sanchez should be viewed as an average to above average player, as that’s probably what he is. Is he going to be a top five offensive catcher? There’s a chance. But, he can definitely find himself in the top ten. If you want to look at hitting through a pure power lens, I think he’ll lead catchers in home runs this season. He has always had plate discipline issues and I think that’s what will hold him back from being tops in catchers in terms of wOBA and wRC+.

Aaron Judge

I think we are getting to a point with Judge where that rookie season is starting to fade away, and he is slowly leading a career defined by great play, but also by injuries. That’s too bad because when Judge has played, he has been a force. In the 28 games he played last season, he recorded a .375 wOBA and a 139 wRC+ with a .336 OBP and a .554 slugging %. However, he played in less than 50% of the games. The year before that, he played in 102 and in 2018, he played in 112.

In his rookie season, Judge played in 155 games. He’s missed at least a month of baseball in each of the last three seasons. I do think he’ll miss anywhere from 28-33 games this season, but if he can play in 135 games, that would be quite the positive. At the end of the day, Judge is nearly 29 years old with a new contract looming. If there were ever a time for him to stay healthy and keep playing good baseball, it’s 2021.

2021 Prediction: 129 GP .245/.355/.540 38HR .375 wOBA 143 wRC+. 

Again, all of Judge’s play comes down to staying on the field. We know that if he is on the field, he is going to be a main contributor. He’s been off the field too much the past three seasons, but I see that changing this year (at least a little bit). Injuries are hard to predict, but Judge is coming into this season healthier and in better shape than he was last year.

Giancarlo Stanton

Speaking of injuries, let’s talk Giancarlo Stanton. In three seasons since being a Yankee, Stanton has played in 199 games. In one season, 2018, he played 158 of those 199. That means in the last TWO seasons of baseball, he has played just 41 of 222 playable regular season games.

Some of that was forgiven last year, when he was by far the Yankees’ best hitter in the postseason and nearly carried them past the Rays in the ALDS. Much like Judge, it’s an important time for Stanton to be in the lineup nearly every day.

2021 Prediction: 120 GP .245/.358/.515 41 HR .370 wOBA 142 wRC+. 

If healthy, I think Stanton will be the Yankees’ best offensive threat. In the measly 23 games he did play in 2020, he was pretty darn good (.379 wOBA 142 wRC+). Much like with Judge, it’s all about staying in the lineup. He won’t even be playing much in the outfield this season, which should help him stay healthy.

Clint Frazier

You have to be happy for Clint Frazier. He’s come a long way since missing about 10 fly balls in a single game against the Red Sox in 2019. Additionally, it appears he has matured a bit as a person. He’s always got a smile on his face and he is able to reflect on his old ways, even with some self-deprecation.

Production wise, Frazier was pretty good last year too. Not only did he finish as a gold-glove finalist, but he also slashed .267/.394/.511 with a .388 wOBA and a 149 wRC+. If you are doing a double take looking at that .394 OBP, me too. His jump in on-base percentage (from .317 in 2019 to .394 in 2020) is unthinkable. His plate discipline vastly improved, and it was such a welcome sight. He swung at pitches outside of the zone nearly 10 percentage points less than he did in 2019 and swung and missed the least he has in his career.

This all came with a batting stance change as well, which Frazier has kept for this season. I do think, though, that he will come back down to earth a bit this season.

2021 Prediction: 135 GP .258/.335/.450 22 HR 108 wRC+ .328 wOBA. 

I don’t think he will replicate the season he had last year as that would just be very hard to do, but I do see him being a solid contributor. One thing I want to note, though, is that I would not be surprised if we saw changes in left field after a month or so of Frazier being out there. Left field at Yankee Stadium is no easy task and Frazier is no world beater of a defensive outfielder. If there’s going to be something that drags him down, it will be his defense. If his defense stays solid, though, he’ll remain in the lineup.

Aaron Hicks

Aaron Hicks is simply becoming almost comical at this point, and not because he’s bad. It’s really because he just loves to draw walks. Hicks was 3rd in the MLB last season in BB% behind Juan Soto and Bryce Harper. With Soto and Harper, though, they are getting pitched around somewhat often. Hicks, on the other hand, is usually smack dab in between some good hitters in that Yankees lineup. And he still draws walks.

2021 Prediction: .240/.385/.425 20 HR 117 wRC+ .345 wOBA

Hicks will be the mainstay between what will probably be Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton in the Yankee lineup. His only job hitting in between those two is to get on base and let the big bats drive him in. He’s grown comfortably into that role, and he’ll likely play it well this year.

Luke Voit

Luke Voit had himself the best year of his career last season. He came into the season in fantastic shape and it paid dividends. Now, he’s got expectations. In 56 games played last season, Voit hit 22 home runs (good for 60 over 162 games) and slashed .277/.338/.610 all while dealing with some ‘foot stuff.’ Given that he was battling being hurt all season, it’s impressive that he was able to play in nearly every game.

Will Voit replicate the season he had last year? Likely not to a T. We will also see more of Jay Bruce in the lineup this season, since Voit will miss at least the first three weeks of the season with a partial meniscus tear in his knee. Given the injury, here’s what I think Voit’s season will look like.

2021 Prediction: 101 GP .262/.348/.497 27 HR .340 wOBA 118 wRC+  

Voit, sitting at 30 years old, isn’t likely to duplicate the season he had last year. In fact, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Yankees tried to trade him at what will likely be his highest value. They have the players to fill a need a first base, such as Bruce and LeMahieu, and they could use another relief arm or utility infielder as well. While it does not look like Voit will be on the move, I see a world where it would make sense. His value certainly goes down a bit due to the injury, but Bruce is no slouch as a replacement. Not only is Bruce probably better defensively than Voit, but it allows the Yankees to wait and see before having to trade Tauchman at his lowest value since joining the team.

DJ LeMahieu

Seemingly everybody’s favorite Yankee right now, LeMahieu puts up numbers like his nickname, a machine. LeMahieu, perhaps much to the chagrin of the Yankees’ Front Office, had a career season in 2020. He slashed an egregious .364/.421/.590 with a 176 wRC+ and a .429 wOBA. This all but cemented Yankee land’s love for him, and practically cornered the Yankees into inking the 33-year-old to a long term deal. But the rationale is, if the Yankees win a World Series while he’s around, it’s worth it! Also, when it comes to the Yankees, it’s hard to get rid of the fan favorites.

2021 Prediction: 145 GP .313/.360/.455 20 HR 129 wRC+ .340 wOBA

LeMahieu will still be very good, but I have a tough time believing he’ll duplicate what he has done the past two seasons. But there is no denying he will still be one of the main contributors on this team.

Gleyber Torres

A lot has been made of Gleyber Torres coming into Summer Camp last year out of shape and not ready play. Whether or not that was true, his performance was not great. He slashed .243/.356/.368 with just three home runs, a .326 wOBA, and a 106 wRC+. Where he did get a lot better was in his plate discipline, which may be a good sign going into this season. He increased his BB% from 7.9% to 13.8% and lowered his K% from 21.4% to 17.5%. Much like many of the players above, I think  Torres will vastly improve over his performance last season. He is in seemingly the best shape he has been in in a couple of years, and is looking good in spring.

2021 Prediction: 150 GP .280/.355/.510 28 HR .360 wOBA 130 wRC+ 

My hope, and my thinking, is that Torres will mature as a player this season. The shine of being a baby bomber has worn off just a little bit, and now he is a 24-year-old looking to have a bounce back year. Outside of his poor performance last season, his improved plate discipline is nothing but a good sign. The more disciplined he is, the better he will be, and we may see that come to fruition this season.

Gio Urshela

Urshela had himself another nice season last year and is well beyond the ‘buying or selling’ phase that comes when players become really good overnight. He’s established at this point.

2021 Prediction: 142 GP .275/.340/.435 25 HR .330 wOBA 125 wRC+

Urshela was quite the find for the Yankees. He went from a potential filler at third base to an everyday contributor, and that’s about all you can ask for. I think he’ll replicate much of what he has done as a player up to this point, and will continue being a reliable presence in the everyday lineup.

It’s easy to appreciate how dangerous this Yankees starting 9 really can be. What makes it funny (or even frustrating) is because it feels so different as a lineup, but it isn’t. It’s been the constant injuries the past two years that make it feel so different. They’ve practically had the same pre-season lineup for the past two seasons. If healthy, this is without a doubt one of the best lineups in the MLB, if not the best. However at this point, the Yankees can’t really take health as a given.

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