For the second year in a row, Giancarlo Stanton was limited due to injuries, missing almost two-thirds of the season and never playing defense. When he was on the field, however, he reminded Yankees fans why Brian Cashman jumped on the opportunity to trade for him after the 2017 season.
2020 Statistics: 23 games, 94 plate appearances, .250/.387/.500, 4 HR, 11 RBI, 144 OPS+, 0.4 bWAR, 0.4 fWAR
Contract Status: $29 million salary ($22 million for luxury tax purposes), under contract until 2027 with a 2028 team option
In a normal year, playing only 23 games would result in an incomplete grade, no matter how well a player performed in those games. In the COVID-shortened 2020 season, however, that represented a large enough chunk of time to allow us to feel comfortable with some sort of grade.
That being said, at initial glance, an A- grade does seem high for a full-time designated hitter who missed over half the season — and to a large extent it is — but it does capture his importance to the team. Stanton crushed the ball in limited action with an .887 OPS and a 51 percent hard-hit percentage that falls right in line with his healthy 2016-18 numbers. Before his injury and after his return, the Yankees went 16-10; while he was on the IL, they dropped to 16-17. In a similar vein, they were 14-9 with Stanton in the lineup and 19-18 without him. The lineup just becomes all the more intimidating with the big man in the heart of the order.
More significantly, Stanton went nuts during the Yankees’ postseason run. He homered in five straight games, including a grand slam in Game 1 of the ALDS (one of six playoff dingers overall), posting a .308/.387/1.038 triple slash with a 254 wRC+. Without Stanton’s presence in the middle of the lineup, it’s very likely that the Yankees would have been eliminated earlier than Game 5 of the ALDS. (Note that in the game following the embedded video, he homered in the sixth inning).
None of that matters, however, if you’re not able to stay on the field, and once again, that was unfortunately Stanton’s kryptonite. He would have missed the originally-scheduled Opening Day due to injuries, and he missed a month anyway due to a hamstring strain.
Given Stanton’s importance to the Yankees lineup, the team probably had him in mind when they hired Eric Cressey as a strength and conditioning coach last winter; they certainly hope that, with a full year under the system under his belt, that Stanton will be able to stay healthy and mash all throughout the 2021 season. If he can manage to remain a constant presence in the batting order for even 100 games, then it would be a boon for the Yankees’ offense.