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Yankees 2022 Season Preview: Giancarlo Stanton

After staying healthy and productive in 2021, Giancarlo Stanton looks to keep that going this season.

New York Yankees v Oakland Athletics Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Since the Yankees acquired him in 2018, the issue with Giancarlo Stanton has never been his play. The “worst” wRC+ that he’s put up as a member of the Yankees was 128 in his debut season with the team. When healthy, he’s hit.

That caveat has been one of Stanton’s issues — he hasn’t been healthy for large patches since the trade, including missing most of 2019 and more than half of the shortened 2020 season. Beyond that, in an effort likely to try and keep the injuries at bay, the Yankees have also tethered Stanton to the DH spot. He had been a passable defender while with the Marlins, but the Yankees sticking him at DH and resting him a good amount diminished his WAR figure last season, even though he was otherwise good at the plate.

However, towards the end of last season, the Yankees seemed a little more amenable to having him play the outfield. So will they continue on with that in 2022?

2021 Stats: 579 PA, .273/.354/.516, 35 HR, 97 RBI, 27.1 K%, 10.9 BB%, 137 wRC+, 2.6 fWAR

2022 FanGraphs Depth Chart Projections: 595 PA, .262/.345/.514, 36 HR, 102 RBI, 27.7 K%, 10.7 BB%, 133 wRC+, 2.8 fWAR

From a hitting perspective, there’s no real reason to expect Stanton to fall off much, if at all. He still smashes the ball harder than anyone in baseball, and there have been no signs that anything about that will change.

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While the Yankees should hopefully be able to count on Stanton posting a good-to-very-good season, the end result being a very-good-to-great one instead will probably depend on the two aforementioned points: his health and the Yankees’ willingness to let him play the field more.

Obviously on the injury front, there’s no real way to predict what will happen in the coming season. Previously “injury prone” players can make it through a season just fine, as evidenced by Stanton’s 2021, where he played 139 games. There’s always a risk with him (as there is with any player), but all of that remains to be seen.

The more interesting aspect of his 2022 will be the outfield and rest days part of the equation. As mentioned, the Yankees were a little looser about his outfield restrictions towards the end of last season, and it would almost certainly help if they continued that into this season.

However, the catalyst for that relative flexibility was the team’s trade deadline acquisition of Anthony Rizzo. After that, they would occasionally run out a lineup that included Rizzo at first base, Luke Voit at DH, Aaron Judge in center field, and Stanton in right, a setup that was dubbed the “Jumbo Package.”

However, at least at the moment, there wouldn’t be a massive need to do that. As of last night, Anthony Rizzo is back with the team and Voit’s roster spot looks to be on shaky ground once again. Aaron Hicks is expected to be back for the regular season, and he’ll likely see the majority of the reps in center field, regardless of whatever decision the team makes about bringing back Brett Gardner.

The majority of Stanton’s playing time is going to be at DH, but having a little more flexibility with him couldn’t hurt, and could help squeeze more good bats into the lineup, depending on what the rest of their offseason looks like. Maybe Voit would be able to stick around after all with frequent DH appearances, though it appears unlikely. Based on manager Aaron Boone’s comments yesterday, it fortunately seems like the Yankees are leaning on continuing to play Stanton in the outfield more than they did during the first half of 2021.

One narrative that hopefully definitely died last season is the one surrounding his lack of “clutch-ness.” Stanton came through for the Yankees many times last season, including some massive home runs in the late season sweep of the Red Sox. He was also one of the very few genuinely good performers in the Wild Card Game loss, going 3-for-4 with a home run (and two other drives that nearly went out, as well). In seven of the playoff rounds he’s taken part of, he’s had an OPS over 1.000 in five of them.

When he’s on and locked in, there is arguably no hitter more fun to watch than Giancarlo Stanton. Hopefully, we’ll get to see plenty more of those stretches in 2022.