It was easy for many Yankees fans to be frustrated with Giancarlo Stanton by the time October 2020 rolled around. He had been a tantalizing presence in the Yankees’ lineup when available, but had only played in 41 of a possible 222 games the last two seasons. Constant muscle-related injuries had turned him exclusively into a designated hitter as well, which is a role he’s suited for but one that might not be worth a $325 million contract.
Then, Playoff Giancarlo took over.
Although the Yankees’ postseason run was brief, Stanton’s impact reached 2009 Alex Rodriguez levels. Stanton played in all seven of the Yankees’ playoff games, and launched six home runs while driving in 13 runs over that span. He slashed .308/.387/1.038 and tallied an incredible 27 total bases in those seven games. It was the first time the Yankees truly got to envision what a healthy Stanton could do for them in the big games.
Now entering his fourth season with the team, Stanton will try to carry over that success into his best campaign as a Yankee, and hopefully a healthy one.
2020 Stats: 94 PA, .250/.387/.500, 4 HR, 11 RBI, 28.7 K%, 16.0 BB%, 142 wRC+, 0.4 WAR
2021 ZiPS Projections: 527 PA, 250/.347/.558, 38 HR, 111 RBI, 32.6 K%, 12.1 BB%, 132 wRC+, 2.5 WAR
Stanton’s 2020 regular season was much like his 2019 effort. He got off to a blistering start, launching home runs in the team’s first two games and getting on base at an absurd .453 rate. More intriguingly, the hulking slugger had dramatically improved his plate discipline – his swing, chase and whiff rates were down, and his batted ball data was through the roof.
Of course, things just couldn’t keep going this well for Stanton and the Yankees, and their big bopper went on the injured list with a left hamstring strain. Once Stanton returned, he exhibited more of the same, but only hit one long ball in the nine games he played. And then, of course, he dominated in the all-too-brief playoffs.
Stanton’s 2020 season mirrored Aaron Judge’s. They both got off to amazing starts that were derailed by injury. The big difference was that Stanton was better than Judge in the playoffs, but the Yankees should feel good about their top two power hitters going into 2021. They’ve rarely taken the field at the same time, but when they do, the Yankees’ lineup becomes the most feared in all of baseball.
The key for Stanton in 2021 will be health. The Yankees are planning to use him mainly as a designated hitter again this season, although he could get some reps in the field as the year progresses. It remains to be seen if this will help keep him on the field, but the Yankees have the other outfielders necessary to let Stanton focus only on his hitting. It could produce the most locked-in version of Stanton we’ve ever seen, which is an incredible prospect to dream of.
Stanton still hasn’t won over all of the Yankees’ fanbase, but entering his age-31 season, he should be slated for one of his finest performances yet. As long as he stays healthy, the sky is the limit for Stanton.