When the Yankees acquired Giancarlo Stanton in the winter of 2017, it was seen as — at the time — one of the biggest heists in history. The Bombers sent Starlin Castro, Jose Devers, and Jorge Guzman to the Marlins in exchange for the big slugger.
The best part of this deal is that the Marlins also agreed to pay a large chunk of Stanton’s salary as the years went by. Now, here we are, in the midst of the fifth offseason since having G in Pinstripes, and sadly nothing to show for it. Despite Judge’s heroic & record-breaking performance last season, the team still sits at the front steps knocking away at a seemingly impenetrable door. Though Stanton is far from the problem, he needs to stay healthy and put together a season that is more Stanton-esque than he recently did.
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Giancarlo Stanton needs to be on the field to strike fear in enemies’ eyes:
Giancarlo is one of the most electrifying players in baseball, and when pitchers miss over the heart of the plate, most of the time, the ball is sent into the stratosphere. When he’s locked in, there are few hitters in all of baseball that are as dangerous and game-changing as he is. With one swing of the bat, any game could be flipped on its head thanks to Big G. However, last season we didn’t see much of Stanton’s changing outcomes, partially because he struggled to stay on the field. He played in just 110 games which now means he has only appeared in 140+ games for the team one time since coming over. In 2020 he missed more than half the games, and in 2019 he was sidelined virtually all season with an assortment of injuries.
Stanton’s health is a key point to mention as we enter the 2023 Winter Meetings this upcoming Sunday. The team is urgently trying to retain the services of the AL MVP, Aaron Judge but will also be monitoring other signings and offers that are made over the next few weeks. There’s no doubting this team’s ability when the stars align, but as we saw last postseason, when they don’t, it’s a dreadful experience. Stanton did manage to clobber 31 HR in ’22, but his inconsistencies and cold streaks made for a rough time for the middle of the lineup. For as talented as he is, he’s also streaky, and last season was one of the worst years for Stanton in his entire career.
A few negative results impacted a very solid season:
The power is very clearly still there, and that may never falter, but for him to see his Hard Hit % dip below 40% for the first time in Pinstripes is a bit worrisome. I’m not worried about Stanton when he plays, it’s just a matter of getting consistent ABs and not having his routine constantly interrupted by nagging injuries that keep him out far longer than they should. Once more, Stanton was tops in numerous categories, with his Average Exit Velocity (99th Percentile) and Max Exit Velocity (100th Percentile) still lapping the field around him. However, what isn’t there is his ability to lay off poor pitches way out of the zone. Stanton posted some dreadful Whiff % and Chase Rates in 2022, and for the team to improve in 2023, it may start with him.
Big G was on top of pitches more than he had ever been in his career at 34.5%, meaning that he was hitting bullet groundouts and hard liners into the shift. On top of that, no pun intended, he was hitting more to the center of the field than he ever had (41.7% Straight Away %). To put it plainly, Stanton was still torching the baseball, he was just hitting it to the worst parts of the field. His HR/FB% was roughly in-line with what he does yearly, his Barrel % was up from last season, and he still annihilated the ball whenever he made contact. Sadly, he only made contact 2/3 of the time at 66%, which was the lowest since his 2015 year in Miami.
The results didn’t fall his way, but his wOBA this year was also a career-low at .327. For someone as destructive with a bat in their hands as Stanton, this number is unreasonably low. For reference, Christian Yelich posted a .328 wOBA despite many people’s claims that he fell off entirely. With a full and healthy, offseason for him to prepare, Stanton must put together a full season in 2023. No more of this “well, if we get him for three quarters of the year…” reasoning, instead time for him to prove it. The Yankees have fallen victim to the rest days mantra, and unfortunately for Stanton, he is always the first to get looked at through a microscope. Giancarlo needs to suit up for at least 130 games next year if the Yanks want to have any shot at beating Houston and advancing to the ALCS.
A healthy G is legitimately game-changing for the Yankees:
One of the biggest issues the organization encountered down the stretch was reliability and consistency. During the postseason, even with the shortstop game of tag, the rest of the LU was also up in the air. When Benintendi wasn’t able to go for October baseball, all eyes turned toward Stanton and whether or not he’d be in the field. He played the outfield a few times, but as seen, the Yankees would much prefer someone else out there.
With the likes of Matt Carpenter, Giancarlo, and a few others, the Yanks weren’t entirely sure as to what they were going to be getting out of them. The product on the field reflected such, and once more, the injuries got the best of the Bombers.
Stanton’s own Achilles heel this season was unironically his Achilles tendon, as that hampered his ability to play and caused him to miss a month of action. When he returned, he wasn’t able to regain that form he had prior and saw a dreadful stretch of play to end the year. From his return on August 25th through the end of the season, Stanton OPS’d an abysmal .633, struck out 35.5% of the time, and posted an 83 wRC+. His horrendous play was a main reason for the Yankees’ inability to score runs and win games in August and September, and if the team wants to avoid that same fate next year, Stanton has got to stay healthy.
Every year there’s this hope that the Yanks’ 1-2 punch of G and Judge will put it together and carry the team to the promised land. Perhaps this is finally the year where it all comes to fruition.
A healthy Stanton, add to that a healthy Stanton on a hot streak, is still one of the most feared batters in baseball. Even in a down year where he OPS’d just .759, he still sent 31 HR over the wall and was an impactful bat. He possesses the raw talent and strength that so few players have ever had, and assuming the Yanks do right and bring back Judge, this has to be their year. As Ryan Ruocco said at the beginning of the year, “No more excuses. Talk is cheap.” A big year for Big G could mean number 28 is just on the horizon.