A Look At The Outfield: Fangraphs 2020 Positional Power Rankings and Thoughts:
Ethan Semendinger looks at Fangraphs’s 2020 Positional Power Rankings for the shortened season and how well the New York Yankees projected starters and positional depth look across the outfield and at the DH spot.
Players Listed: Brett Gardner, Mike Tauchman, Giancarlo Stanton, Miguel Andujar, Clint Frazier, and Thairo Estrada
Expected Total fWAR (2020): 0.9 fWAR from Brett Gardner (0.4), Mike Tauchman (0.1), and Giancarlo Stanton (0.3)
In the Fangraphs article about the New York Yankees Left Fielders talks about how the position could be extremely varied based upon who is going to be the everyday player. While this seems like an obvious statement given the difference between how Brett Gardner and Giancarlo Stanton play the game, this leads the writers at Fangraphs to stating that this aggregation of projected statistics is anything but perfect.
The main fWAR would come from three different left fielders in this prediction, of which the majority comes from long time veteran in the Yankees outfield: Brett Gardner. While 2019 was seen as a big positive outlier, over the average year of his career it was actually just a tick stronger. Hopefully this can continue as he approaches his age-36 season, but the betting odds is that Gardner will at least be the starting left fielder.
Giancarlo Stanton will most likely be used in a sparring role in the outfield as the Yankees are going to want to ensure that he stays as healthy as possible in a season where every missed game by star players is going to hurt much much more. While he’ll probably be marked as the Left Field #2, I anticipate that the role will be moved onto Mike Tauchman to keep his game up to MLB speeds.
With the remaining players, Tauchman is going to have to hope he plays himself into that Left Field #2 role as there will likely be a fair amount of action available while resting Brett Gardner. Unfortunately, Andujar looks to be a long shot for any serious time, Clint Frazier will likely be an early roster casualty, and Thairo Estrada really shouldn’t be considered unless tragedy strikes this team again.
Players Listed: Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner, Mike Tauchman, and Tyler Wade
Expected Total fWAR (2020): 1.2 fWAR from Aaron Hicks (0.8), Brett Gardner (0.3), and Mike Tauchman (0.1)
For the Left Fielders, I said that Gardner will at least be the starting Left Fielders because I don’t want to sleep on Aaron Hicks staying healthy for a whole season. If that happens, anticipate seeing a lot more Tauchman as he and Gardner will likely have to split time in Center to make up for the lost Hicks.
However, if Aaron Hicks can stay healthy that plays very favorably for the Yankees in 2020. Recently, Foolish Baseball put together a good video about the Yankees “hidden dynasty” in Center Field and Hicks would only continue that trend based upon his great value (when on the field). This shows in a #6 placement across all MLB teams with a projection that he’ll be good for 174 plate appearances. Interestingly enough, he may be the first player to not miss a single MLB game after getting Tommy John surgery, and even though he is very injury prone, he has managed to play 60 games in all but 1 season (2019).
If this doesn’t happen however, the Yankees can still breathe fine with playing a tandem of Gardner and Tauchman. We discussed Gardner above, and with Mike Tauchman he is going to have to prove that the little time he played in 2019 to his high standard wasn’t a fluke. The Yankees have gotten very lucky in recent years with finding serviceable bats and turning them around for short stints, but hopefully Tauchman can prove that he is more than a one-hit-wonder.
Tyler Wade is the ultimate utility man, which is going to be extremely favorable for his staying on the roster as cuts are being made throughout the season. While he’ll end up probably playing less than 20-25 innings in the outfield, it is good to note he is somewhat of an option.
Players Listed: Aaron Judge, Clint Frazier, Mike Tauchman, and Tyler Wade
Expected Total fWAR (2020): 1.8 fWAR from Aaron Judge (1.7) and Mike Tauchman (0.1)
When looking at the Yankees projected players for right field, it should come as no surprise as to why they manage to be second best in the MLB, falling behind only the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Nearly 80% of the projected plate appearances for Yankees right fielders go to Aaron Judge, a player who in his worst season by wRC+ (141) was still 7th in the American League (min. 400 PA’s). Combine this with defensive metrics that also top the league with a 20 DRS (tied for 1st) and a 12.7 UZR (2nd place), and it is easy to see just how good Aaron Judge is. However, there is a major question that after last season will now hover over his head for the next few seasons: can he stay healthy? He has played in 100+ games each of the last three years, so being healthy for a 60 game season sounds likely, but it is hard to tell where he is at with his health.
If the Yankees happen to lose Judge, it won’t spell immediate trouble but it will greatly effect the product on the field. Mike Tauchman would likely be the next-man-up to start and like we’ve said twice above, if given a shot he needs to prove that 2019 wasn’t a fluke. If it was the Yankees will likely go to Clint Frazier as their next option. There are no doubts about if his bat can perform at the major league level, but after some incredibly bad reads on balls hit to him in the outfield last season saying that his defense is a liability is nearly fact.
Tyler Wade is also an option, but if things managed that he would be the Yankees best available option of the players Fangraphs listed, I would hope they would’ve already had Giancarlo Stanton getting reps in the field.
Players Listed: Giancarlo Stanton, Miguel Andujar, Aaron Judge, Mike Ford, Gary Sanchez, and Luke Voit
Expected Total fWAR (2020): 1.1 fWAR from Giancarlo Stanton (0.9), Miguel Andujar (0.1), and Aaron Judge (0.1)
Speaking of Giancarlo Stanton, the Fangraphs article for designated hitters makes the point that while other DH’s across the league carry negative defensive value, Stanton finds himself here out of a lack of outfield spots available for him to play. Obviously, if a spot opens in Left or Right field it would be expected that Giancarlo Stanton would slot in as the everyday fielder which would also open up the DH spot as a rotating window of power bats.
If this happened and no regularly fielding players were being used at DH to give them a half-day off, then Miguel Andujar would see this as likely his best shot to stay consistent in the Yankees lineup if Gio Urshela shows that his 2019 wasn’t a fluke.
But I think Fangraphs puts it best with what the Yankees have at DH for this season:
“What’s truly exciting for the Yankees is that they have other options. If Gardner fades and someone gets hurt, Stanton can play left or right and leave DH duties to Andújar, who terrorized the AL East in 2018 before missing most of 2019 due to injury. If Judge wants a day off to rest his legs, simply swap one comically large gentleman for another. If Andújar doesn’t pan out and Stanton gets hurt, how do you feel about Ford, a professional baseball destroyer? The Yankees have an absolute embarrassment of position-player riches, and while Stanton might not be their full-time DH, they’ll get value from the position regardless.”