The Yankees made one significant outfield upgrade that will pay off in 2023

harrison bader, yankees
Oct 23, 2022; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Harrison Bader (22) hits a home run in the sixth inning against the Houston Astros during game four of the ALCS for the 2022 MLB Playoffs at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees haven’t made any significant upgrades aside from inking Carlos Rodon to round out the starting rotation. Retaining Aaron Judge isn’t viewed as an improvement but rather an essential retention, so general manager Brian Cashman still has his work cut out for him this off-season.

However, there are a few holdover pieces from the trade deadline in 2022 that will make a significant impact this upcoming season. In fact, one of the biggest upgrades was at the center field spot, landing Harrison Bader just moments before the trade deadline expired in exchange for Jordan Montgomery.

Bader has quickly become a fan favorite with his energy and athletic style of play, but he will offer far more value than Aaron Hicks as both an offensive and defensive player. Hicks enjoyed his 32-year-old season last year, hitting .216 with a .330 OBP, eight homers, and a 90 wRC+.

On the other hand, Bader only played in 86 games, dealing with plantar fasciitis for the majority of the season. However, he was solid during the 2021 campaign, featuring in 103 games. He hit 16 homers with a .267 average, .340 OBP, and a 110 wRC+. Defensively, Bader is one of the best centerfielders in baseball, enjoying 38 defensive runs saved and 50 outs above average across 3579.1 innings in his career. He logged 15 defensive runs saved and 14 outs above average in the 2021 season alone, but due to the injury, he struggled to a degree in 2022.

With a new coaching staff, Bader will change his approach slightly, notably in the batter’s box. The Yankees predicate themselves on hitting strikes hard, courtesy of Dillon Lawson, which may change Bader’s strategy. We got a glimpse of what he’s capable of during the playoffs, where he hit five homers over nine games, easily representing the Yankees’ best offensive threat.

Same as it always is. I feel like I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel. A lot of it is sharpening up your pitch selection. Baseball is tough because it’s more about what you don’t swing at and maybe waiting out an at-bat or taking that borderline pitch and not putting it in play, whatever it may be. Just continue to sharpen that pitch selection. From the physical standpoint, the bat speed and the hand speed — I’m in a great spot. He’s happy with all that. He wants us to continue to sharpen up your eye, which I feel like we’re all trying to do every single year, with or without any coaching.

Bader told New Jersey Advanced Media in an exclusive interiew.

The Yankees will have a much-improved outfield in 2023:

Despite playing in only 86 games last year, he struck out at a career-low 19.8% but also walked a career-low 4.8%. His hard-hit rate and barrel percentage dipped in 2022, well below his career averages. That would indicate he returns back to normal this upcoming season, and with bigger base paths, Bader can easily extrapolate with his aggressive running style. He stole a career-high 17 bases in 2022, including two in just 14 games with the Yankees.

At the end of the day, what is the point of having an elite athlete if you aren’t going to utilize those skills? Bader should be able to provide ample value on the base paths, but his incredible defensive acumen will also stand out to help lock down the Yankees’ outfield. Having an elite defensive player in Aaron Judge in right field and potentially Oswaldo Cabrera in left, there’s a strong argument to make the Bombers will have the best defensive outfield in baseball.