Why This Outfield Combo Might Be The Yankees’ Best Option
By Derek McAdam
February 24, 2023
Derek McAdam discusses who the best outfield pairings could be for the 2023 season. Who's in? Who's Out?
Coming into the off-season, several questions came into existence regarding the Yankees: Would Aaron Judge leave in free agency for another team, and how would the Yankees respond in free agency if he did? These were just a couple of questions that not just Yankee fans had, but also baseball fans around the league. However, a question that Yankee fans were very curious about was who would command left field this upcoming season.
Andrew Benintendi was acquired at last year’s Trade Deadline. He was seen as someone who could play left field and give the Yankees a solid-hitting left-handed batter. However, Benintendi was hit by a pitch at the beginning of September, and ultimately missed the rest of the season. To make matters worse, his contract was up at the end of the season, and he was slated to be one of the top outfielders to hit the free agency market. There was a possibility that he would come back to the Yankees, but ultimately opted to sign with the White Sox for five years.
With Judge signing with the Yankees, this solved one of the missing pieces in the outfield. It was a certainty that Judge and Harrison Bader would command two of the positions, but the other spot remained in question. Oswaldo Cabrera had done a fine job in right field when Judge shifted over to center field, and shown that he can be the utility player that the Yankees need. However, Giancarlo Stanton is also someone who has been wanting to play more in the outfield, since he claims it keeps him more focused in games.
This is exactly why a combination of Stanton, Bader and Judge in the outfield is the best combination that the Yankees might have. Is it the best defensive outfield the Yankees could have? No. However, this may be vital to the success of the Yankees’ offense, which is going to have to produce more if they want to be successful.
In 65 games as the DH last season, Stanton hit an abysmal .189. In 38 games playing the outfield, mostly in right field, Stanton was hitting right around .260. While he didn’t play as many games in the outfield as he did as a DH to even the statistics out, this is still a mind-blowing difference that definitely holds some value. Stanton’s claim of feeling like he’s a much better overall baseball player when he’s in the outfield every day is most likely true, especially when the statistics are taken into consideration.
The Yankees are planning on putting Judge in left field and Stanton in right field during Spring Training to see how both players do. While it may seem a little ridiculous to pay a left fielder $40 million annually, Judge is a much better defender right now than Stanton. Given that right field at Yankee Stadium is a little easier to play than left field, this is a decision that makes a lot of sense.
It also doesn’t mean that Stanton will become the primary right fielder. I could see a scenario where Judge plays 30 games or so at Yankee Stadium in left field, while Stanton is in right field during that time. On the road, Stanton will most likely play left field, since many of the other MLB parks seem to be more “friendly” to left fielders. First, let’s see how things go in Spring Training before we make the official decision.
The Yankees absolutely need Stanton to have a better season at the plate than last year. Yes, he still hit 31 home runs and drove in nearly 80, but the .211 average has to come up. If Stanton can play the field every day, the statistics show that he will be that better hitter. As long as he is healthy, which he seems to have better luck with when he’s playing the field, keep putting him in.
At this point, it seems as if Aaron Hicks is going to be an odd-man out. This does not mean that he is going to be cut or become the everyday DH, but his time in the outfield will not be an “every day” role, barring any injuries. Depending on what the Yankees decide to do with Cabrera, Hicks may end up being the fifth outfielder, who plays mainly left and some center field and may DH a few times during the season. The Yankees may have faith that his plate appearances have better results because of the shift ban, but it remains a question as to how they see him when it comes to playing the outfield.
However, the Yankees shouldn’t worry too much about trying to put Hicks in every day, unless the Yankees are proven correctly and he starts hitting. Their main focus should be Stanton, who remains a vital part of the team and is a potential worrying factor. Judge has been healthy and has remained a solid hitter and fielder, not including the post-season. Stanton still has some injury worries, but I believe that can be solved if he’s playing in the field more often.
It doesn’t have to be an every day thing, but he should be playing there several times a week. If Stanton can give the Yankees at least a .250 average and at least 130 games played this season, they will absolutely take it. And the fans, hopefully, will as well.