Giancarlo Stanton’s performance in the 2023 season will have a significant determination on the quality of offense the Yankees have. As Aaron Judge carried the team down the stretch of 2022, Stanton battled injuries and hit poorly relative to his career norms. It was probably the worst performance in his very successful career. While I’m confident much of this can be chalked up to injury, I don’t think we can just assume his health going forward. And as a result, we cannot be sure he will be the version of himself the Yankees need him to be for an extended period of time.
As the team begins to invest more into their young players, they will need to hedge any adjustment periods from those prospects with star level production from players like Judge and Stanton. They can’t afford for Stanton to repeat ’22. With that said, let’s take a quick look at his numbers from last before diving into the rest of his preview.
2022 Yankees Statistics: 452 plate appearances, 31 HR, .327 wOBA, 115 wRC+, 1.2 fWAR, 38 games played
2023 ZiPS Projections: 32 home runs, .346 wOBA, 128 wRC+, 10.7 BB%, 28.0 K%
If I’m being honest, the combination of Stanton’s raw skills and tendency for injury puts him right in line with this median projection. If he is able to maintain health for the majority of the season, I think he can easily surpass this, especially the home run total. However, if he can’t kick the injury bug again, then the Yankees would be happy if this is where he ends up. They need somebody with a high floor like this to pencil into the lineup on a regular basis. It’ll take some slack off of Oswald Peraza, Oswaldo Cabrera, and Anthony Volpe as they try to contribute to this team.
When I think about a player in general, I typically like to be optimistic. I’m not in the business of doubting the skills of a player of Stanton’s caliber. That’s why when I wrote about Giancarlo Stanton at FanGraphs last month, I focused on drawing the line between the healthy version of Stanton, and the injured version of Stanton. In the beginning of the year, before he battled multiple lower leg injuries, Stanton looked like he was in near-prime form. He was swatting home runs and was a fearsome presence in the lineup. At the end of the year when he seemed to be getting over his injury troubles, he put together quality at-bats and hard-hit balls. But in the middle of all of that, he routinely missed pitches in the heart of the plate and looked shocked at times as fastballs would pass him by. It was surprising to see from somebody who we are used to being one of the scariest hitters in the game.
That’s the thing about hitting, though. If your foot, ankle, calf, knee, or anything else down there is ailing you, it can be tough to pull the trigger to swing! There were times when Stanton’s legs would literally give out from under him. It may be weird to say, but this may make you feel semi-optimistic on Stanton for this year. I know he will still be susceptible to injury, but I’m skeptical it will be on literally every part of his legs like it was last year. He had showed in years past he was more than capable of putting up with injuries and still be a well above average hitter. You just have to hope it doesn’t take out his entire lower body again.
The last piece of the puzzle I’ve yet to mention is the plan for Stanton to continue to get burn in the outfield this year. If he can get out on their on a semi-regular basis, the Yankees will be better equipped to roll out their best offense that has him, Judge, and Harrison Bader in the outfield, a rotation of their gluttony of infielders from second to third or DH, and Anthony Rizzo at first. As you can see, a lot of the flexibility on this team rides on Stanton’s ability to perform and stay healthy. I’m willing to bet on him, but it’s smart to proceed with cautious optimism.