How does a team go about improving an offense that scored the second-most runs in baseball in 2017? Trade for Giancarlo Stanton, of course.
The Yankees launched 241 home runs in 2017, so adding Stanton, who drilled an MLB-best 59 dingers, makes an already imposing lineup that much more dangerous. Stanton's finest season as a major leaguer earned him the National League MVP Award, and when the new ownership of his former club ultimately decided a rebuild was in store, the Yankees jumped at the opportunity to land the eight-year veteran.
Stanton, 28, came into the 2017 season working to prove detractors wrong about a particular aspect of his game. In the preceding five seasons, Stanton had played in an average of just 115 games. The continual loss of time prevented Stanton from fulfilling his true potential.
Stanton had a solid first 80 games in 2017, hitting 21 home runs while registering a .868 OPS. Symbolically, the fireworks began for Stanton on July 4. From that day through Aug. 29, a span of 49 games (48 starts), Stanton simply destroyed baseballs. In 216 plate appearances, Stanton stroked 12 doubles, 30 home runs and put together a .350/.454/.917 slash line. Stanton scored 52 runs and drove in 60 during the span.
The numbers were astronomical, but one that may have meant the most to Stanton's success was 159. That's the number of games Stanton played in 2017, a career high. The good news for Stanton (beyond not being stuck in Miami) is he'll have a very good chance to match that games played total because of the situation he's entering in New York.
The Yankees have already stated Stanton and Aaron Judge will split time in right field and at designated hitter this season, plus he will a tad bit in left field. The intended ratio of the split is still to be determined, but any day Stanton can simply hit aids the health and strength of the 6-foot-6, 245-pounder.
Stanton had a decent lineup around him in Miami last season with the likes of Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Justin Bour surrounding him. However, the protection Stanton may receive with the Yankees may prove to be even better.
Between Judge, Greg Bird, Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius, the Yankees have enough firepower to rotate bats around to find the best combinations. Stanton will surely benefit from whatever spot in the order he eventually lands, though hitting third or fourth makes the most sense.
Stanton could be in for another big season if he extends some career trends and improvements from 2017 into 2018. For the second straight season, Stanton saw just over four pitches per plate appearance (MLB average in 2017 was 3.9), which indicates he has enough patience required to hunt for the pitch he wants. Additionally, Stanton has consistently drawn more walks than the average big leaguer, and last season he walked 12.3 percent of his plate appearances, the third-highest mark of his career. Stanton also turned in the lowest strikeout rate of his career last season (23.6 percent). Add it all together, and he's a home run hitter with very good plate discipline who may have figured out how to effectively control the strikeouts that come with a physically larger player that hits for power.
If anything is going to drag Stanton down outside of any health concerns, it might be some off-the-field factors. Coming to New York from Miami might be something of a chore for Stanton. While there are plenty of stars on the team to keep the media happy, the onset of the season will surely focus on Stanton and how he seems to be acclimating to the club.
When stars are traded, expectations tend to be high for the fanbase. When the player is coming off an MVP season, the anticipation of superior play is ramped up that much further. How Stanton handles the pressure of the move and his own desire to demonstrate his worth to the club will be a factor to keep an eye on, especially early in the season.
It is also worth circling back to the fact Stanton will not be playing in the field on a daily basis, and that's not because he shouldn't. Stanton has consistently provided above-average defense in right field (10 defensive runs saved in 2017), so this isn't a scenario where it is better that he simply hits.
While less time in the outfield may be beneficial to his health and ability to stay strong through the entire season, there is no telling how his performance will be affected when asked to DH or play a new position on occasion. Stanton is an eight-year veteran with 59 plate appearances as a DH (courtesy of some inter-league play) and ZERO games played in left field, meaning there is very little basis to draw from.
Similarly to Judge, placing statistical expectations on Stanton based on his otherworldly 2017 season could prove to be difficult without getting wrapped up a dreamworld. However, we can comfortably suggest that if Stanton manages to play in 150+ games and secures 650 plate appearances, he can eclipse the 40-home run mark based on his career HR/PA percentage (6.5). In the middle of the Yankees lineup, this could translate to over 100 RBIs. Regarding ratio statistics, a slash line of .270/.360/.560 is realistic.
Stanton's addition to the Yankees makes the club's offense more intimidating and provides important protection for the younger studs on the roster. If Stanton is healthy and is able to quickly acclimate to the inside and outside stresses of the game, his inaugural season in New York could be wildly successful and exciting.