The Yankees have an outfielder primed for stardom

yankees, aaron judge
Oct 23, 2022; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Harrison Bader (22) celebrates with center fielder Aaron Judge (99) after hitting a home run in the sixth inning during game four of the ALCS for the 2022 MLB Playoffs at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

When the New York Yankees traded for outfielder Harrison Bader, he was still in a walking boot after suffering a plantar fasciitis injury. At 28 years old, Bader had struggled to maintain consistency with the St. Louis Cardinals over the first five years of his career, but the Yankees might be able to unlock a star player in 2023.

General manager Brian Cashman traded Jordan Montgomery for Bader simply because he saw the outfielder as a postseason weapon.

Featuring impeccable defensive qualities and elite athleticism, Bader not only made an impact during the playoffs, but he arguably the team’s best player, and it wasn’t even close.

Over nine playoff games, Bader hit five homers, six RBIs, and walked four times across 30 at-bats. He struck out just six times, earning a .333 batting average with a 43% on-base rate and a .833 slugging percentage. His 1.262 OPS was the best on the team, despite being swept by the Houston Astros in the ALCS.

The Yankees saw Harrison Bader’s potential on a national stage:

While the Yankees submitted to Houston’s dominance, Bader proved that he could be a star player in an outfield that already features Aaron Judge. If the Yankees can find themselves a top left fielder to pair with those two, they will have the best outfield in baseball.

Looking at some of Bader‘s numbers from this past season, he hit .250 with a 29.4% on-base rate across 86 games. He slugged just five homers and 30 RBIs with a 19.8% strikeout rate and 4.8% walk rate. Interestingly, he hit just as many homers in nine games during the postseason compared to his regular season numbers, indicating the injury may have disrupted his flow — otherwise, the Yankees’ “hit strikes hard” mantra may have hit home.

One notable stat is his power metrics, featuring a career-low 26.3% hard-hit rate and 3.4% barrel rate with an 83.4 exit velocity. Those were odd numbers for Bader, who traditionally has much better power stats, so we should expect somewhat of a bounce-back campaign in that category. Defensively, he posted a perfect fielding percentage across 698.1 innings, including seven outs above average in center field.

With Bader’s ability to steal bases, recording 17 this past season, he matches perfectly with the Yankees’ aggressive style. It is as simple as returning his power to make him arguably a star player with the Bombers, and with one year left of team control, the Yankees may end up extending him if he maintains his health and dominates in 2023.