Yankees: Giancarlo Stanton needs to be the primary left fielder in 2020
Giancarlo Stanton has started the majority of his games with the Yankees as the designated hitter but if he can stay healthy in 2020 he needs to be the primary left fielder.
2019 was a lost season for the former NL MVP because of injuries. After appearing in 158 games in 2018 and leading the Yankees with 38 HR Stanton only played in 18 games last season. He hit .288 with 3 HR and 13 RBI but he was pretty much a non-factor for the entire season. He rushed back from a knee injury in late September just in time for the playoffs, but he suffered a quad strain in Game 1 of the ALCS and missed four of the next five games against the Astros.
The Yankees thrived without Stanton throughout the regular season but there’s no doubt they missed him during the ALCS. People forget how big of a threat he is when he’s healthy and in the lineup and this season the Yanks are going to need him to stay on the field more than ever.
With Aaron Hicks expected to be out until June at the earliest recovering from offseason TJ surgery, the Yankees will likely open up the season with four outfielders on the 26-man roster. Aaron Judge is obviously going to be the starting right fielder, and the returning Brett Gardner will be in center until Hicks returns. As for left field, Stanton should be the primary starter while Mike Tauchman will be the fourth outfielder off the bench who can fill in at center and left on occasion.
It’s crucial that Stanton begins the season in left field and not at DH for a couple of reasons. The first is he’s the best option they have. As great as Tauchman was for the Yankees last season in the absence of injured stars like Judge, Hicks, and Stanton it was only his first full season in the big leagues so he still has something to prove to show that his performance in 2019 was no fluke.
I believe Tauchman is going to play a big role for the Yanks next season, similar to how he impacted the club last season, but Stanton is the better option in left if the Yankees are going to reach their full potential as an offense. Tauchman will play a decent amount, but if he’s going to replace someone in the starting lineup it’s going to be the veteran Gardner and not Stanton.
The second and main reason why Stanton needs to play in the field is it will open up a spot in the starting lineup for the returning Miguel Andujar at DH. Like Stanton, Andujar landed on the IL just three games into the season. He ended up only playing in 12 games due to a torn labrum but he’s expected to be fully healthy this spring and will compete for the starting third base job with Gio Urshela.
It will be a competitive battle but if Gio can follow up his breakout season in 2019 with a solid showing this spring he should win the job because he’s the better defender at third and it’s not even close. There’s a chance the Yanks will try out Miggy at first base to add some more versatility to the roster, but if that doesn’t work out the best way to get him consistent at-bats is as the DH.
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Considering Stanton’s injury history there are concerns that he won’t be able to hold up playing in the field every day. There are also concerns about his defense in general because prior to coming to New York he only played right field. However, he was very solid in right throughout his tenure with the Marlins and as challenging a position as left field can be at Yankee Stadium Stanton has shown glimpses with New York that he’s capable of being an adequate defender out there.
He’ll also have a full Spring Training of reps to prepare himself for the season, so I think the concerns about his ability to play in the field are way overblown. He’s still only 30 and he’s always been a great athlete and if he can stay healthy his offensive production will surely make up for any of his shortcomings on the defensive side. And again, the most important thing is it will open up a spot in the everyday lineup for one of the best young hitters in the game in Andujar.
Miggy has a lot to prove as well after his lost season in 2019, but after watching his incredible rookie campaign two seasons ago I don’t think there’s any question he’s a legitimate middle of the order force and the Yankees now that. Adding him and Stanton back into the fold in a lineup that led all of baseball in runs scored a season ago is almost unfair and it should pay massive dividends for the Yanks in 2020.
Expectations will be high for both players, but with an offense this stacked there’s no need for either of them to put added pressure on themselves. All they have to do is play their part and they’ll be fine.