Anthony McCarron, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Giancarlo Stanton figures to be heavily scrutinized during Yankees camp this spring, perhaps even more so than the new pinstriped ace, $324-million man Gerrit Cole.
Bring on the glare. Judging from what GM Brian Cashman says about Stanton, whose 2019 season was wrecked by multiple injuries, the slugger is "looking forward to reminding the fans of baseball that he's still an elite player."
"He obviously hasn't had a chance to declare himself in the Yankee world yet," Cashman said in a telephone interview. "All those things will come in time. People forget that (in 2018) he led us in home runs and RBI and it wasn't even a Stanton-like season for him, with injuries.
"I think he's looking forward to re-establishing the legacy he's been creating. Injuries have denied him that. Not that he needs more motivation -- he's a very motivated person -- but I think he's looking forward to letting everyone know who he is and what he's really capable of."
To do it, of course, Stanton, who turned 30 this offseason, must remain healthy in what is a crucial season for him and the club. Stanton, who doesn't become a free agent until 2028, is still on the Yankee books for $214 million.
Last year, he dealt with injuries involving his biceps, shoulder, knee, and quad and played in only 18 regular season games, plus five more in the playoffs. The Yankees made changes to their medical and training staffs over the winter and surely one of the prime tasks for those departments is keeping Stanton on the field.
When he's healthy, well, yikes. In 2017, he hit 59 homers in an MVP season for the Marlins. The next year, his first as a Yankee, he played through injury and still belted 38 homers (sixth in the American League) and knocked in 100 runs (seventh in the AL).
But he struck out 211 times in 2018 and also struggled, at times, in the postseason. He homered against Oakland in the AL Wild Card Game, but had just four singles in 18 at-bats against the Red Sox in the Yanks' four-game loss in the AL Division Series.
In his 18 games last year, Stanton had a slash line of .288/.403/.492 with three homers and then went .231/.389/.462 with a homer and four walks in five postseason games.
With a dose of good health, there's reason to be optimistic about Stanton and you don't have to be GM of the Yankees to feel that way.
Stanton is still a Statcast stud: On March 28 last year, he hit a single that was clocked at 120.6 miles per hour. It was the hardest-hit ball in MLB last season. Stanton also had the third-hardest hit ball, a 118.9 mph single in June. That kind of thump offers a glimpse of what Stanton can do -- and Cashman says there's plenty left.
"Obviously, I know what he'll do if he stays healthy," Cashman said. "Last year was unfortunate and it took him offline for almost the whole year and playoffs.
"When he's healthy, he's going to produce. He's one of the game's better players and that's exciting. Like any player, let's keep him healthy."
Going into camp -- the Yankees position players report next Monday and the club has its first full-squad workout the next day -- Cashman said he considers Stanton a fully healthy player.
But, the GM acknowledged, "If there's any holdback with him, in any way, shape or form, it's just an acknowledgement that he wasn't on the field as he normally has been throughout an entire year."
Above all, the Yankees hope this spring is the start of Stanton issuing reminders of his power to the rest of the baseball world. It certainly would help him be better embraced by Yankee fans, too. Strikeouts, his contract, his injuries all have seemingly kept Stanton out of their hearts.
Maybe this year he'll author a "moment" - a key playoff blast - to polish his pinstriped resume. Maybe he'll have the monster season some predicted in his homer-friendly home park.
To Cashman, it's all there, just waiting for a measure of good health.
"He's an amazing physical specimen," Cashman said. "The athleticism at that size is obviously very unique.
"He's a constant threat."