In 2016 the Yanks used a revolving door Designated Hitter. This was usually spent to give someone a day off from playing the field or to get an additional lefty or righty bat in the lineup, you know how Girardi loves his matchups.
There are two, maybe a sleeper third, main candidates for DH this year. Let’s first go with one of the newest signings: Matt Holliday
Holliday has had a long successful career first starting with Colorado, then Oakland, and finally the Cardinalls before landing with the Yankees on a one year 13MM contract. Even though Holliday is 37 years old he still can be a productive part of this team.
Holliday had a tough year last year with a triple slash of .246/.322/.461 below his 2015 numbers in everything but slugging %. In 2015 he slashed .279/.394/.410 and a while that slugging % is pretty low Holliday was hurt the whole year and only clubbed 4 homeruns.
Ideally for 2017 if Holliday could take the best of 2015 and 2016 to slash something around .275/.394/.480 it would be a great season. Holliday only played in 110 games last year and 73 the year before so staying healthy, which he should be able to do by no longer playing the OF, is going to be important. He still has some pop, exhibited with his 20 HR last year.
The projections are pretty reasonable but I do think he’ll have a higher OBP and hope for a higher slugging. Holliday is a great hitter and now that he can focus on just hitting I expect a great year, not a career year since he is 37, but a year that justifies the signing.
Chris Carter is going to be the starting first baseman against lefties and the backup first baseman against righties. If Holliday is hurt or Joe wants to give him a rest look for Carter to DH and Bird to play first, even against a lefty.
As I mentioned in the infield primer Carter is one dimensional, he can hit the ball really far or strikeout. He does walk on occasion demonstrated by his 11.6% BB% but he strikes out way too many times, 33.1% career rate and 32% last year. in 2015 he hit .199 and .222 in 2016 so he really can’t hit for average. He does have a lot of power with a .277 iso last year and a .499 but he really is more of a 6,7,8 hitter because of that low on base %.
I think these projections are pretty spot on, with maybe too many ABs. I’m hopeful that Bird gets 70% of the ABs and carter 20% with the following 10% going to other players. This would mean at first base carter would only get 12 0ABs, and I would guess another 100 ABs at DH.
Sleeper DH: Rob Refsnyder
Refsnyder has not been able to handle any position defensively but has been able to perform offensively to a certain extent in the Majors and has crushed Minor league pitching.
Between 2015 and 2016 Ref has a .262/.332/.354 which is a decent slash line but no where near his minor league statistics. He has a quick bat but needs to continue to develop his patience at the plate. He’s not the biggest guy so turning into a Dustin Pedroia-esque player is probably his ceiling.
Let’s look at the 2016 data to see how Ref performed. In AAA he had a triple slash of .316/.365/.402 over 230 plate appearances. In the Majors he struggled to adapt slashing .250/.328/.309 which is troubling. That .309 slugging % is an issue. His walk % was fine but his K% went up, which means he needs to adapt and learn from his mistakes. Refsnyder had a 26.4 line drive % but a 52.8 GB% in 2016 at the major league level. He needs to improve on that in order to shoot the gap and get more singles and doubles. I would like to see his hard hit percentage go up from 26% to somewhere around 30-33%. With that change I would expect Refs to hit somewhere around .300 for a full season. For reference the best player in the world, Mike Trout, has a hard hit % of 41%.
Overall I will be looking for Refsnyder to really show something this spring training. He needs to force Girardi’s hand and by hitting the ball hard, even if the results don’t show right away eventually they will.Side Note on Refsnyder, it will be interesting to see what position Girardi plays him at this spring, hopefully third base, second base, and the corner OF because he has the potential to be a very good hitter, but if he can’t play defensively it really limits Joe’s options.