It wasn’t exactly a rewarding experience for those, myself included, that heavily drafted and invested in New York’s Giancarlo Stanton . He played only five more games in 2020 than 2019, bringing his grand total to 41 games played over the last two years. Since joining the Yankees, he’s hit 45 home runs in 199 regular season games, with 38 of them coming back in 2018 when he appeared in 158 contests. Stanton is on the wrong side of 30, but when healthy, he still has immense pop and can send balls into oblivion. However, when healthy is the key term there, because Stanton hasn’t exactly been the beacon of health over the last two years. The Yankees view Stanton primarily as a DH-only player heading into 2021, and so does the fantasy community, which arguably affects his draft stock a bit.
Does Stanton deserve the injury prone tag or is it more just freak incidents that have occurred? Well, in 2014 he was obviously hit in the face by a pitch and in 2015 he ended up fracturing a bone in his wrist after a swing and miss. Outside of those however, it’s been more soft tissue and less “freak of nature” injuries. Since the start of 2016, he’s spent time on the disabled and injured list for groin, biceps, knee and hamstring ailments. Besides from the injuries themselves piling up, it’s hard for Stanton to get into a rhythm when he’s continuously missing time. With good health, Stanton is as sure as they come for 35+ home runs, but you can’t circle the bases if you’re unable to step in the batter’s box.
Just as easy as you can make a case for Stanton, you can make one against him. Outside of the health and durability concerns, his launch angle has decreased overall from years prior, but being in the Yankee Stadium launching pad helps offset that a bit. Furthermore, his zone contact percentage has decreased three straight seasons now, while his contact rates out of the zone has increased astronomically. When you combine this with the fact that he’s making less contact on pitches in the zone and getting pounded with sliders low and away, you can see why the strikeout rates are approaching dangerous territories.
Additionally, in his handful of regular season games last year, his 26.5 percent fly ball rate would have been the lowest of his career by nearly seven percent. Playing in Yankee Stadium will reduce some of the concerns with increasing GB/FB ratio, but eventually, it’s going to catch up to him. Regardless of whether or not the stadium can masks some concerning trends, for someone that you are drafting expecting big time power totals, more ground balls and less fly balls typically doesn’t translate to 40+ homer campaigns.
Just when you were about to fully commit to not drafting Stanton anymore, starting in 2021, the playoffs happened. Wow. In seven postseason games, he slashed .308/.387/1.038 with six home runs and 13 RBI. For the record, all of those numbers were equal to or greater than his numbers in 23 regular season games. His numbers from the postseason were a microcosm of what we’ve seen from Stanton lately, especially in New York. In 26 postseason at-bats, he hit six home runs and struck out 10 times.
With UT-only eligibility, drafting Stanton forces you to be a bit more methodical and targeted in your approach. You only have one spot to play him in, so lineup construction gets a bit tricky. Furthermore, of the UT-only guys, he’s cheaper than Yordan Alvarez , Nelson Cruz and J.D. Martinez, but more expensive than Franmil Reyes . Reyes has the big time power potential with less injury concerns. If you want home runs with a .260-ish batting average, why not take Reyes on the discount?
Courtesy of Steamer Projections
I was one of the humans at the forefront pounding their chest for Stanton last year, and it simply didn’t work out. His price is reasonable for 2021 and optimism following his white-hot postseason is sizable, but the durability issues and five straight years of a declining fly ball rate aren’t overwhelmingly favorable for Stanton, who is on the wrong side of 30 let me remind you. Furthermore, without outfield eligibility, he negatively impacts your lineup flexibility, which results in an increased demand for production to continue slotting him into his one and only available lineup spot.
Drafting Stanton could prove to be a league winning move if he can stay healthy, but keep in mind that the farther you push him up from his ADP, your profit margins reduce by the pick, and the hope for a return to stardom becomes a necessary expectation.