Yankees’ new outfielder could be in line for a career-year

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Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees have three primary starters heading to free agency next off-season, so the 2024 campaign is even more important to their future earnings. Juan Soto is in line for a monster contract that could surpass $450 million, but Yankees’ new starting left fielder Alex Verdugo is also looking to get his bag.

With Soto earning $31 million in his final year of arbitration, Verdugo settled at $8.7 million, which isn’t too shabby but certainly not even comparable to the 25-year-old Hall of Fame talent.

Verdugo’s Outlook and Adjustment With the Yankees

At 27 years old, Verdugo is coming off of a down year with the Boston Red Sox, but Yankee slugger Aaron Judge convinced management to acquire him. Verdugo hit .264/.324/.421 last season, including 13 homers and 54 RBIs with a 15.4% strikeout rate and 7.5% walk rate. His 98 wRC+ indicated he was 2% worse than the average MLB hitter, but that was the first time he clocked in below average since 2018.

Verdugo is known for having a solid batting average and historically a decent on-base percentage, but he recently told the New York Post about his mental state and confidence going into the new season.

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Acclimation and Performance

“I feel very driven, I feel very motivated, I feel like I’m in a much better place physically, emotionally, spiritually. I love the teammates here, the staff has been amazing to me, … Judge, Riz [Anthony Rizzo], Giancarlo [Stanton], DJ [LeMahieu], there’s so many amazing players. … It feels like they’re kind of taking me under their wing, and I’m able to work with them and really push myself with them.”

Verdugo has been welcomed with open arms, and despite moving to Boston’s rival, the players and management have helped him acclimate quickly.

The team’s new outfielder is an extremely confident and aggressive batter, looking to take it to opposing pitchers and attack the strike zone. He’s known for his emotional style of play, frequently beefing with fans of opposing teams, notably in the Bronx. However, fans will love his intensity, and Verdugo will capitalize on a newly improved Yankee squad that looks primed for a World Series push in 2024.

However, Verdugo isn’t only a competent offensive player, he’s also a good defender. Last year, he played 1,170 innings in the outfield, most of which came in left field. He posted a collective .990 fielding percentage with nine defensive runs saved and one out above average. Left field in Yankee Stadium can be problematic, but he shouldn’t have many problems making the transition.

In his first spring training at-bat over the weekend, Verdugo slapped a double down the left field line, giving fans a peek into what his upside can be donning the pinstripes.

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