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Reflecting on the first half of the Giancarlo Stanton experience

Five years in, five to go, what to think about Giancarlo Stanton?

MLB: Winter Meetings Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

In the final month of the 2014 season, possibly on the way to a National League MVP award, Giancarlo Stanton’s season came to an abrupt end after being hit in the face by a Mike Fiers fastball. That offseason, he signed a then-record-breaking 13 year, $325 million contract with the Marlins. He ended up spending just three of those 13 years in Miami, but remained one of the most feared hitters in the game; hitting 27 homers in just 74 games in 2015, and of course his 59 home run, MVP-winning 2017 campaign.

Following his massive 2017, Stanton was traded to the Yankees in December, with 10 years remaining on his megadeal. With the end of 2022 upon us, we are now halfway though his presumable Yankee tenure, which is a good place to think about where we’ve been and where we might be going.

This Thursday, I’ll be writing up his report card for 2022, which was the worst season (on a rate basis) that he’s ever had. As important as his ‘22 may be, there is much to think about as we now sit halfway though his likely time as a Yankee. He was one of the most exciting acquisitions in recent memories, coming off an incredible season, and pairing him with equally-large phenom Aaron Judge was an excellent recipe for fun.

In 2018, his first year in New York, he was very solid. It may have seemed a bit underwhelming at the time, but it’s impossible not to coming off of a 59-homer MVP season. He missed only four games, hit to a 128 wRC+ and was worth 4.2 fWAR in his pinstriped debut. Was it up to his 2017 standard? No, but that is a really good year any way you look at it.

The following two seasons, 2019 and 2020, are where much of the criticism directed at him comes from. He played in just 41 games over those two years dealing with injuries, but he did have a 142 wRC+ over that stretch as well. He never stopped being productive, which is the theme I’m going for here. He also put the team on his back in the 2020 postseason, slashing .308/.387/1.038 with six homers in seven games.

The big right-hander returned mostly to form in 2021, playing a relatively full year, mostly in the DH spot. He hit a Stanton-esque 35 long balls and for a 135 wRC+. His 2.4 fWAR was dampened by his occupation of the DH spot, but the production was relieving after several mostly lost seasons.

I’ll go more into depth on his 2022 campaign on Thursday, but it was definitely a low spot for him. He was still above-average overall at the plate, finishing with a 115 wRC+, which was sapped quite a bit by rough return from the IL in August. He was still very much himself in the first half of the season.

Stanton, like a lot of power-first guys, takes a bit of a reputation hit by being prone to some real slumps, ones that look particularly bad. But I think for decent portions of his Yankee career, Stanton has gone underappreciated. There has never been a season in his entire career where Giancarlo Stanton has been on the field and hasn’t been productive.

Since 2018, his arrival in the Bronx, his 129 wRC+ is top-30 in all of baseball among players with 1500 plate appearances. It’s also the second-best by any Yankee in that stretch, behind only Judge. He is only getting older of course, but his 140 career wRC+ is Hall of Fame level stuff, and when he’s healthy, he’s still mostly that guy.

Stanton is now 33-years-old, and there is no denying how expensive and lengthy his current contract is. He isn’t going to win another MVP, but he has always been an excellent hitter, and I don’t think there’s much reason to doubt that going forward. Heading into the second half of his time in pinstripes, knowing what to expect exactly is difficult, given the issues with his health.

Regardless, the talent should never be doubted. Injury issues and some incredibly lofty expectations have altered the way we often look at him. Those things aren’t completely meaningless of course, but they do skew our perspective. If he’s healthy and clicking, my money will be on him continuing to be that supremely feared slugger for the foreseeable future.