Girardi Wants Johnson to Bat Second

The Yankees are in a pretty good position right now. The roster has serious depth and the only real competition in spring training will determine who becomes the fifth starter and who becomes a setup man. However, people need discussion topics, and now that Johnny Damon is brandishing a Detroit cap, the lineup debate will focus on the two-hole. Some fans prefer Curtis Granderson, while others will vote for the patient Nick Johnson. Fortunately, we pretty much know where Joe Girardi stands:

“On-base is extremely important to me because the guys behind him can all hit the ball out of the ballpark,” Girardi said, again not naming names. “So, yes, you’d love to have a guy that had an extremely high on-base percentage that can run and hit for power. But if you had that guy he might hit somewhere else.”

“You like to have guys who can run,” Girardi said. “But as I said, because of the guys in front of him, that becomes less important. You don’t have to be a flyer.” (source)

That seems encouraging for Johnson, who’s fantasy stock just rose by several points. I can understand where Girardi is coming from, and having Johnson bat second makes a lot of sense. Firstly, the oft-injured designated hitter will work the pitch count, giving both Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira a good look at the starter’s arsenal. Secondly, his career .402 OBP would certainly help the club score runs.

I can understand the naysayers. Granderson’s speed would be nice at the top of the order, but his strikeout rate, inability to hit lefties and inferior contact percentage (80.5% compared to Johnson’s 85.8%) could hurt the Yankees more than Johnson’s lack of speed.

Like I wrote a few weeks back, Granderson would probably be better suited to the fifth-spot in the order because of his speed. Yes, the strikeouts will hurt there too, but I think that his power/speed combo would be better utilized lower in the order, especially if he enjoys a power surge in Yankee Stadium. Either way, the Yankees have a very strong lineup going into 2010.

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