The Yankees’ outfield was one of the team’s core strengths in 2018. Obviously, a large part of this can be attributed to Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, and Giancarlo Stanton being terrifying hitters. In addition to that, however, the trio, along with Brett Gardner, have acquitted themselves quite nicely in the field as well.
Hicks was known since his prospect days as a plus defender, with good range and a cannon of an arm in center field. Judge, too, has used his surprising speed and sheer size to snag sinking liners and rob homers at the fence many a time. And Stanton, while not really celebrated for his glove, has consistently posted above-average defensive numbers throughout his career. When the Yankees lost all three of them in the early goings, they lost three capable defenders in addition to middle-of-the-order bats.
However, the Yankees’ outfield defense has turned out just fine despite losing its regulars. As a unit, the Bombers’ outfield ranks 6th in MLB in FanGraphs’ Def rating. Though defensive statistics are imprecise in small samples, that’s still an encouraging sign.
Another encouraging sign is that the Yankees, as a team, have allowed a relatively low BABIP to opposing hitters, despite their pitchers not being especially good at generating ground balls. To wit: the Yankees own the fifth-lowest team BABIP allowed in baseball, with a .275 mark. Meanwhile, their hurlers’ combined ground-ball rate is just 15th in MLB, at 43.0%. This means that fly balls hit against the Yankees are falling in for hits at a lower rate than expected. Some of that can be explained by the Yankees’ pitchers inducing infield pop ups by the dozen (12.6% infield fly ball rate, 1st in MLB). However, credit must go to the Yankees’ outfield defense as well.
Instrumental to the Yankees’ solid outfield defense has been former no-name Mike Tauchman. Now in Triple-A, the 28-year old provided the Yankees with 266 innings’ worth of quality glovework in his time in the majors, committing just one error and racking up five defensive runs saved. While the former Colorado farmhand was up-and-down as a hitter, his defense more than made up for it. Kudos to Tauchman for filling in so capably at all three outfield positions at the Yankees’ time of need.
Cameron Maybin has also been a boon for the Yankees’ defense. Formerly a top prospect, Maybin hasn’t lived up to the lofty expectations placed on him, but he has carved out a nice career as a glove-first speedster. Although the 32-year old’s days of patrolling center field are likely over, Maybin has proved to still be a solid defender at the corners, posting positive DRS (1) and UZR (0.6) marks over 161.2 innings of work.
At the time they were acquired, neither Tauchman nor Maybin generated much fanfare. However, their solid performances are what kept the Yankees’ outfield defense afloat Aaron Hicks returned. Credit to them for filling in capably, and also to Brian Cashman for picking them up. Quality fourth outfielders don’t exactly grow on trees, but the ninja GM managed to snag two of them. These pickups have made all the difference in the Yankees’ outfield defense.