Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman shocked the baseball world on December 11, 2017, by acquiring Giancarlo Stanton, the then reigning National League Most Valuable Player, in exchange for second basemen Starlin Castro, and prospects Jorge Guzman and Jose Devers. Included in New York’s side of the deal was $30 million in salary relief of the remaining $295 million left on the contract, should Stanton opt into the duration of his agreement following the 2020 season.
In 2018 Stanton didn’t match his monster 2017, 7.3 WAR season in which the slugger fell just one home run shy of reaching the 60-homer plateau. However, he did produce enough to garner a WAR of 4.2 as he scored and drove in 100 runs.
Some fans called the Yankees, who did have the third-best record in all of baseball, the worst 100-win team the franchise has had and labeled Stanton’s inaugural season in the Bronx as a ‘bust’. Neither of these ring true, especially the ladder as ‘G’ smacked a team-high 38 round-trippers leading his club’s successful effort in breaking the single-season home run total in MLB history.
Stanton admittedly struggled mightily to begin the 2018 campaign, which left an incredibly negative impression on fans as he was subject to unnecessary ridicule and booing from Yankee fans throughout the entire season last year. His biggest problem was with breaking balls, and he saw them 31.8% of the time, which was at a slightly increased rate from his historic 2017 season. His K% and Whiff% on those pitches were 40.9% and 46.3%, respectively. These percentages were increased from just a season ago as the California native posted a 33.6 K% and 42.4 Whiff%.
On a hugely positive note, the 6’6’ hitting machine used the entire field more, slightly changing his approach from his past. This resulted in being shifted 142 fewer times than 2017. One would think this would have helped him out immensely at home after all the Yankee Stadium walls are hitter friendly. Well, his home and away splits don’t back that sentiment up as Stanton slashed .229/.311/.468 with 20 home runs and 49 RBI in 297 Yankee Stadium at-bats and batted .300/.374/.547 with 18 homers and 51 RBI in opposing ballparks.
Shocking, right? It seemed to me, especially after struggling coming out of the gate, the 29-year old was pressing hard at home and ultimately never really settled in. Fear not, this will change in 2019. Cut Stanton some slack, he didn’t have as negative a season as he’s made out to have had and it was his first season getting used to playing on the brightest stage in the world and not playing the field for the first time in his career.
Another statistic of note was that Stanton hit at a much, much higher clip when batting fourth in the order. He slashed .321/.393/.606, so Aaron Boone, please pay attention.
So, you still want to replace Stanton with say, maybe a guy named Bryce Harper? Think Harper will be worth more years and money? Well here is a quick advanced analytical analysis for you.
Stanton has been around for nine big league seasons and has smacked 305 home runs, which round up to 34 home runs a season. Throughout his career, the 2007 draftee has slashed .268/.358/.548, has a BABIP of .319, and an exit velocity average of 93.5 miles per hour.
Harper has hit 184 home runs, which round up to an average of 27 per season. Across seven major league seasons, the 26-year old has slashed .279/.388/.512, produced a .318 BABIP and posted an exit velocity average of 90.2 mph.
The advantages tilt Stanton’s way in Barrel%, and Hard Hit% as the Yankee has a well above Major League average percentages at 17.3% and 50.7%, respectively. Harper falls much closer to the MLB average (6.1%) in his Barrel% of 10.9, and is actually below league average (48.8%) of Hard Hit% at 43.3%.
The former Washington Nationals outfielder outperforms Stanton in his K% and BB%. League average for both stats are 21.4% and 8.2%. Harper’s K% is 20.9%, and his BB% is an astronomical 17.4%. The former Miami Marlin has an inflated K% of 27.9 and BB% of 10.9%. One explanation for this vast discrepancy between the two players that should be taken in to account for these stats are Harper has had better protection than Stanton and has played for a much more competitive team, leading to fewer competitive pitches to Harper (up until 2018 at least).
Giving the eye test, I believe Stanton is a winner, and Harper isn’t ‘the guy’ to carry an organization when it matters. Granted that Stanton struggled when it matters most, in October, Harper has not been able to push his team through the first round of the postseason either. Stanton hits the ball harder, barrels the ball up more, plays better defense and has more both raw and game power as well.
So what does the future hold? Nobody on Earth truly knows, but I think that Stanton will settle in and thrive this season and postseason. He should bat around .260 – .270 hit 40+ homers, and drive in 100 runs.