TAMPA, Fla. — The Yankees believe more innings in the outfield will help Giancarlo Stanton play to his potential this season. Aaron Judge has a suggestion on how to make it happen.
“I mentioned it to them about, ‘If we need to get Big G in right field at Yankee Stadium, put me in left,'” Judge said. “I don’t mind. I don’t mind switching around so we can have me (center fielder Harrison Bader) and Big G out there. We’ll get some reps, hopefully, in spring training and get comfortable out there.”
Yankees manager Aaron Boone said there is no firm plan to start playing umpire in left field, although Boone acknowledged the concept is “on the table.” Like Boone, Stanton believes he would benefit from semi-regular duty in the outfield.
“I think I have more fluidity when I’m an outfielder,” Stanton said. “As an outfielder you’re more engaged in the game, whereas (as) a DH you’re in a lot of the time staying warm and hitting, kind of watching the game from the TV.”
Stanton played right field during his best season in 2017 with the Marlins, when he paced the Majors with 59 homers and 132 RBI while winning the National League’s Most Valuable Player Award. He has served primarily as a designated hitter since then, including 65 starts at DH last season, compared to 38 in the outfield (34 in right field and four in left).
“It will continue to be similar to last year,” Stanton said. “I hit a bump in the road with the (left Achilles) injury there (in July), but you’ve got to build to a similar game plan and see what we can achieve and put ourselves in the best case scenario to win every night — wherever that is in the lineup.”
Judge said: “I know he wants to be a good outfielder. He’s good out there.”
Boone has said he prefers not to play Stanton in the more spacious left field at Yankee Stadium, but having Stanton patrol smaller left fields like Boston’s Fenway Park and Houston’s Minute Maid Park would be a consideration. Out of necessity, Stanton made two more starts during last year’s American League Championship Series.
“I’m open to things like that, especially at home,” Boone said. “So we’ll see. It’s something that I would say I’m at least considering and we’ll just see how it goes with letting it play out and getting guys reps in different places. So no decision on that yet, but it’s something that’s on my board.”
The Yankees appeared to enter the spring with a left-field competition between switch-hitters Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Cabrera, with general manager Brian Cashman saying he suspected Hicks would eventually win the starting role.
But the judge’s proposal could shake up the mix; more starts in the outfield could provide time in the DH role for Josh Donaldson, for example, which could help alleviate a crowded infield mix. Last year’s All-Star Game MVP, Stanton went down in the second half, finishing the season with a .211/.294/.462 slash line while hitting 31 homers and 78 RBIs in 110 games.
“I don’t know if 59 (homers) is in there, but I know an All-Star, middle-of-the-order wrecking ball is in there if he’s healthy,” Boone said. “The biggest thing is, as much as we can keep him posted all the time, he’s capable of putting up huge numbers. It’s still totally in there. It’s just a matter of getting him to post 140 times or whatever it may be.”
Stanton has played in 290 of a possible 546 regular season games since the start of the 2019 season.
“I’m of the belief that him playing outside, I think it’s good for his game, but I also think it’s good for his health,” Boone said. “I think it’s good that when he’s healthy, he’s not just a DH. I feel like if you’re going to squat or bench press or run a marathon, you don’t sit over there and not do it. You have to work on those things.”
Judge made 78 plate appearances in center field and 73 in right field last season, but he has never appeared in left field as a major leaguer. He suited up there for seven games with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2016, and his last regular inning at the position came during his freshman season at Fresno State University.
“The only way you can really test things out is to throw yourself out there,” Judge said. “Hopefully I’ll get a couple of games out there.”