The Yankees‘ 2024 outfield is set to look a lot different compared to their 2023 alignment. During last year’s spring training, Rafael Ortega was competing for a starting position, but the Yankees added Juan Soto and Alex Verdugo to the mix this year, cementing previous liabilities.
A Transformative Offseason for the Yankees’ Outfield
Going from one of the worst outfields in baseball to one of the best overnight should be expected, considering Soto has a Hall of Fame level bat and Judge is only one year removed from winning an MVP. Verdugo may be the outlier among the bunch in terms of production, but he is still capable of being an above-average contributor. Let’s take a look at what the Yankees did this offseason to turn the outfield around.
Star Power in the Outfield
RF: Juan Soto
Let’s get one thing straight, the Yankees didn’t acquire Soto because of his defensive proficiency, they added him because he hit .275/.410/.519 last season, playing all 162 games. He hasn’t played fewer than 151 games since 2019, not considering the Covid season.
Soto is a special talent who provides the Yankees with two of the top five best hitters in the sport. At just 25 years old, Soto is in line to be extended long-term, locking down the top half of the batting order for the foreseeable future.
With that being said, Soto will likely slot into right field in Yankee Stadium, where the Yankees can hide his vulnerabilities. Last season, Soto played 1,345 innings in the outfield, hosting a .989 fielding percentage with -6 defensive runs saved and -9 outs above average. Clearly, he has his fair share of issues, but his offensive value outweighs his defensive problems by a significant margin.
CF: Aaron Judge
The Yankees are preparing to transition Judge full-time to centerfield, but it may only be for the 2024 season. Now 31 years old, Judge is fully recovered from a toe injury that significantly dampened his 2023 season. He still managed to hit .267/.406/.613, including 37 home runs and 75 RBIs. Judge is considered the best hitter in the sport, and having him alongside Soto is problematic for any opposing pitcher.
Defensively, Judge played 134 innings in centerfield last season, hosting a perfect fielding percentage with one out above average. He has solid range and good command as a communicator, meaning he shouldn’t skip a beat playing in the heart of the outfield.
LF: Alex Verdugo
Verdugo is a good hitter, but comparably to his two running mates in the outfield, he doesn’t even closely compare.
At 27 years old, Verdugo and Soto are headed into the final year of arbitration. He signed a one-year, $8.7 million deal to avoid arbitration this offseason with the Bombers, locking down left field.
In 2023, with the Boston Red Sox, Verdugo hit .264/.324/.421, including tying his career-high of 13 home runs and 54 RBIs. His 98 wRC+ indicated he was 2% worse than the average hitter. It was the first time he dropped below 102 wRC+ since 2018, when he had only played 37 games.
A Bright Future Ahead
The expectation is that Verdugo will capitalize on the short porch in the Bronx and help as a defensive asset. Last season for Boston, Verdugo played 1,170 innings, hosting a .990 fielding percentage, 9 defensive runs saved, and 1 out above average. Considering the issues the Yankees had in left field last year, Verdugo will be a fantastic addition, and his offensive potential is certainly noteworthy.
As you can see, this unit is comprised of several significant improvements, and the Yankees now support one of the best trios in the game offensively, marking a major turnaround.