It is no secret the Yankees are still trying to fill the left field position this off-season, creating a position battle between Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Cabrera, and Estevan Florial. I wouldn’t leave out Willie Calhoun or Rafael Ortega either, but both are long shots to win the starting job.
With every passing day, the Yankees continue to build a strategy regarding the outfield alignment, but the latest twist involves Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge switching positions.
“I did mention it to him, if we need to get Big G in right field at Yankee Stadium, put me in left,” Judge said regarding Stanton’s defensive playing time. “I don’t mind it. I don’t mind switching around so we can have (Harrison) Bader, me, and Big G out there. So, we’ll get some reps in spring training and (get) comfortable out there.”
Judge has been the ultimate gamer as a defensive piece, taking over in centerfield when the Yankees decided to bench Hicks last season. Judge has only ever played right and center, enjoying 4,611 innings in RF and 798.2 in CF. He had a perfect fielding percentage in both last season, recording a combined three defensive runs saved and two outs above average.
Right field is the easiest position to play in Yankee Stadium, with the left requiring a bit more range and speed to cover ground. Judge has both, paired with incredible arm strength. Let’s take a look at a potentially new combination in the outfield come Opening Day.
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Projecting the Yankees’ 2023 Opening Day outfield:
RF: Giancarlo Stanton
Stanton playing more defensive reps in right field certainly isn’t out of the question. At 33 years old, though, Stanton has dealt with a number of injuries over the past few seasons. He played just 110 games in 2022, dealing with a calf injury. His offensive numbers were the worst in his entire career, hitting .211 with a sub .300 OBP for the first time ever.
Defensively, he played 280.2 innings in right field, posting a .982 fielding percentage with -4 defensive runs saved. His qualities as an outfielder have deteriorated due to injury, but he is capable of coming up with flashy plays and showcasing his underrated athleticism.
For a player earning over $30 million, having him start in right field would at least maximize his value, so the Yankees have to consider it as an option.
CF: Harrison Bader
The addition of Harrison Bader was supposed to help the Yankees down the stretch, and while he didn’t feature much during the regular season donning the pinstripes, he was elite during postseason play.
However, Bader isn’t known for his offensive contributions but rather his elite defensive qualities. He has gold glove level talent in the outfield, and while he posted just seven outs above average last year, he recorded 15 defensive runs saved and 14 outs above average in 2021 with the St. Louis Cardinals. If he can maintain his health, and develop chemistry with his teammates, Bader can transform the outfield into one of the best units in the game.
LF: Aaron Judge
As stated above, Judge represents arguably one of the best defensive players on the roster, let alone the 2022 MVP for his incredible season in the batter’s box. Featuring him in left field may not be preferable since it increases the probability of injury due to the athleticism required, but he’s more than willing to do whatever it takes to win games this upcoming season.
It is nice to see that Judge took his contract in stride and is looking to earn every penny instead of cashing in and sitting back.