TAMPA, Fla. — The Yankees believe more innings in the outfield would help Giancarlo Stanton realize his potential this season. Aaron Judge has a suggestion on how to accomplish this.
“I told them: ‘If we have to put Big G in right field at Yankee Stadium, put me in left field,'” Judge said. that we can have me (center fielder Harrison Bader) and Big G there. We’ll have some reps hopefully in spring training and we’ll feel comfortable there.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone said there was no set plan to start playing judge in left field, although Boone acknowledged the concept was “on the table.” Like Boone, Stanton thinks he would benefit from semi-regular service in the outfield.
“I think I have more fluidity when I’m an outfielder,” Stanton said. “As an outfielder you’re more engaged in the game, whereas (as a) DH you’re inside most of the time staying warm and hitting, watching the game on TV.”
Stanton played on the right field in his best season in 2017 with the Marlins, when he paced the Majors with 59 home runs and 132 RBI while winning the National League Most Valuable Player award. He’s served primarily as a designated hitter since then, including 65 DH starts last season, compared to 38 in the outfield (34 in right field and four in left field).
“It’s going to continue to be similar to last year,” Stanton said. “I had a road accident with the (Achilles’ left) injury there (in July), but you have to prepare for a similar game plan and see what we can achieve, putting us in best-case scenario to win every night — — anywhere in the lineup.
The judge said: “I know he wants to be a good outfielder. He is good there.
Boone said he would prefer not to play Stanton in the more spacious left field of Yankee Stadium, although having Stanton patrol smaller left fields like Boston’s Fenway Park and Houston’s Minute Maid Park would be a consideration. Out of necessity, Stanton made two left-hand starts in the American League Championship Series last year.
“I’m open to things like that, especially in the home ballpark,” Boone said. “So we’ll see. It’s something I’d say I’m considering at least, and we’ll just see how it goes by letting it play out and getting reps from the guys in different places. So no decision on that yet, but it’s something that’s on my board.
The Yankees appeared to enter the spring with left-field competition between switch hitters Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Cabrera, with general manager Brian Cashman saying he suspected Hicks would eventually win the starting role.
But the judge’s suggestion may shake up the mix; more starts in the outfield could mean time in the DH role for Josh Donaldson, for example, which could help alleviate a congested field mix. Last year’s All-Star Game MVP, Stanton slumped in the second half, finishing the season with a .211/.294/.462 slant line while hitting 31 homers and 78 RBIs in 110 games.
“I don’t know if 59 (home runs) are in there, but I know a mid-range All-Star wrecking ball is there if he’s healthy,” Boone said. “The most important thing is that as much as we can keep him on the job all the time, he’s capable of posting huge numbers. It’s still absolutely in there. It’s just a matter of getting him to post 140 times or whatever.
Stanton has played in 290 of a possible 546 regular season games since the start of the 2019 season.
“I’m convinced he’s playing in the outfield, I think it’s good for his game, but I also think it’s good for his health,” Boone said. “I think it’s good that when he’s healthy he’s not just a DH. I feel like if you’re going to squat or bench press or run a marathon, you’re not just sitting there and not doing it. You have to work on these things.
Judge made 78 appearances in center field and 73 in right field last season, but he never appeared in left field as a big leaguer. He played there for seven games with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2016, and his last regular innings at that position came in his freshman season at Fresno State University.
“The only way to really test things is to throw yourself out there,” Judge said. “Hopefully I get a few games there.”