New York Yankees’ Giancarlo Stanton: Boom or Bust in 2020?

New York Yankees, Giancarlo Stanton
May 21, 2018; Arlington, TX, USA; New York Yankees designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton (27) reacts after striking out during the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

New York Yankees‘ Giancarlo Stanton was the longtime brute of the MLB who held the crown for the biggest and baddest slugger on the block — until Aaron Judge showed up. Now, two years into being teammates, both have struggled to stay on the field consistently. Stanton’s 2017 season that saw him demolish 59 HR’s, 17 in the month of August alone, en route to the NL MVP award, is now a thing of the past. For Stanton, 2020 is going to be arguably the most important year of his entire career.

Stanton’s time with the Yankees so far

In 2018, his first season with the Yankees, Stanton regressed from that monstrous 2017 season, but that came as no surprise to anyone that watched or knew the slightest bit about baseball. For any player to repeat a historic 59 HR season, they’d have to be Alex Rodriguez reincarnate. However, Giancarlo’s 2018 season was honestly fantastic, across the board. His OPS of .852 was — of the 10 Yankees to record at least 300 AB’s — third on the team, just .03 behind that of Miguel Andujar. His WRC+ of 129 was also third on the team, and his 38 HR led the team & was good for sixth in the entire league (tied with Nolan Arenado & Francisco Lindor). His 4.3 fWAR was also the third-highest of his — at the time — eight-year career. While he certainly didn’t reach the incredibly high bar he had set for himself the season prior, Stanton was still one of the best players in baseball.

2019 however, he only ended up playing in 18 games and missed the majority of his time with a lingering hamstring issue that kept him out of workouts and baseball-related activities. In an article recently posted by my colleague, Alexander Wilson, when discussing the “top four hitters projected in the 2020 LU”, he mentioned that the Yankees didn’t sign Stanton to stare at pitches that are in the strike zone, and instead to swing often, and to take those risks on pitches outside the zone — in hopes of him connecting with one for a devastating Home Run. I couldn’t agree more with that statement, as while I am personally a huge fan of players with great plate discipline (I feel as if it’s one of the hardest things to master), for Giancarlo Stanton, it wasn’t as if his plate discipline improved, it was as if he was being timid with the bat in his hands. Below is a table comparing a few of the numbers behind Stanton’s 2017 and 2018 seasons (info via Baseball Savant & Fangraphs):

YEAR Hard Hit % Barrel % Z-Swing % O-Swing % xSLG
2017 45.4% 17.4% 65.8% 27.4% .586
2018 50.5% 15.1% 65.3% 32.5% .473

As you can see by the stats above, aside from the HH%, Stanton was better in 2017 than he was in 2018, with the largest difference being the xSLG. The other thing that stands out to me was that Stanton was swinging at 5% more pitches out of the zone, and fewer pitches in the zone (even by a smidgen). What that says to me is that Stanton wasn’t as comfortable in the box in his first run-through in the Bronx under the bright lights. With that being said, he still put together — as previously mentioned — an All-Star caliber season. While 2019 was a forgettable season, I am not personally worried about Stanton’s production coming into 2020. Look for Stanton to swing at better pitches, and to be more patient in the coming years.

Giancarlo was distraught about not being able to be on the field with his teammates in 2019. One can only imagine just how badly he wanted to get out there and help his team win, as ultimately for Stanton that’s the main reason for playing baseball. Similar to Judge, in that he’s not one to bask in the spotlight, he plays to win and plays to bring a Championship back to the Bronx. When asked about whether or not there are concerns over Stanton’s future and health going forward, Brian Cashman had this to say: “I don’t know if [these injuries] are predictive of the future. None of the injuries were his fault and when healthy, he’s one of the best hitters in the game. I expect that to be the case next year.” For the General Manager of one of the premier organizations in all of sports to have — seemingly — no worries about Stanton’s future speaks bounds to me. While Stanton is slated to make $26,000,000 this upcoming season, there’s also an opt-out clause at the end of this upcoming season. While I don’t believe Giancarlo will opt-out, especially if he cannot put together a healthy season, there is still definitely something to play for.

I firmly believe that Giancarlo Stanton will come into 2020 with a massive weight on his shoulders, and that is the only thing that worries me. Whenever there are lofty expectations or unreasonably high bars set for players, it can only hurt their own confidence. While Stanton is one that — I think — can thrive under the bright lights, he hasn’t had that “Yankee Moment” that all fans are clawing at the air for. I expect that to change this upcoming season, and I am looking for Gian to re-establish himself as one of baseball’s premier players.

As John Sterling called on the first of Stanton’s many Yankee home runs: “Giancarlo, non si può stoparlo!” which means: “Giancarlo, you can’t be stopped!” — I don’t think that anyone will be able to slow down Stanton next year. Look for him to tear the cover off the baseball this upcoming season, and help contribute to what should be an onslaught of excellent offensive performances.