Injured in the outfield [2019 Season Review]

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Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Hicks didn’t have 2019 seasons’ to remember. Both Yankees suffered a number of injuries that cut their campaigns short. The Next Men Up, namely Mike Tauchman and Cameron Maybin, helped the Bombers overcome the lengthy absences of Stanton and Hicks.

Hicks was decent when healthy, but certainly not at his best either. He appeared in 52 regular season games and recorded a 102 wRC+ on a .235/.325/.443 batting line. He struck out a ton (28.1 percent), much higher than recent years. On the bright side, Hicks still walked aplenty (12.2 percent) as usual. Meanwhile, Stanton barely saw any action this year. He posted good numbers in very limited action (139 wRC+ in 18 games and 2 plate appearances).

Health woes

Both Hicks and Stanton had injury issues very early on.

For most of spring training, Hicks struggled to return from a lower back strain. Frustratingly, he had what seemed like a million false starts in his recovery. At first, there was little concern about his readiness for opening day because the initial stiffness occurred very early in March. But numerous delays eventually piled up to the point that he couldn’t return to the majors until the ides of May.

Stanton made it through spring training unscathed, but it didn’t take long for him to go down once the regular season began. He strained his bicep on a swing just a few games in, and wouldn’t be seen again until late June. What seemed like would be an injury that would only keep him out for a few weeks turned into about two and a half months. He had a couple of setbacks while recovering, including a calf strain and a mysterious shoulder “thing”. It was a bizarre situation, as Randy noted earlier this year.

Sadly, both players had to go on the shelf again not too long after returning. In Stanton’s sixth game back, Stanton banged up his knee running the basepaths and returned to the injured list. Giancarlo wouldn’t return until the end of September. Hicks lasted longer than Stanton after returning from his first injury, but his second malady ended his regular season. A flexor strain in his throwing arm shut him down in early August, which given what we know now was clearly a precursor for Tommy John surgery. He wasn’t supposed to return at all in 2019, except…

Hicks made his case to return for the ALCS, and it paid off

There was no expectation that Hicks would play again in 2019, until Hicks decided to take matters into his own hands. He started throwing on his own and sent video to the Yankees’ staff in order to plead for another opportunity. The Yankees obliged and added him to the roster before Game 1 of the ALCS. However, Hicks didn’t appear until he pinch hit for Cameron Maybin in the 10th inning of Game 2.

Hicks started every game the rest of the series and did a nice job. He reached base five times in Games 3 and 4 combined, but really made his mark in Game 5.

That three run dinger put the Yankees up 4-1, which was the final score of Game 5. Though the Yankees lost the series in six games, Hicks’s homer helped stave off elimination.

Stanton’s body cost him what could have been a redeeming October

(MLB GIF Hub)

Even though Stanton didn’t have a great ALDS from a results-oriented standpoint, his approach at the plate was excellent. I thought he was going to have a monster ALCS, and well, it sure looked like he was about to after what he did in Game 1 against the Astros. Stanton tallied two knocks in Game 1 against Zack Greinke, including this solo shot in the 6th inning that gave the Yankees a 3-0 advantage:

What a beautiful sight. But at that time, what we didn’t know is that the outfielder suffered a quad strain earlier in that game. The injuries just never ended for the 2019 Yankees, unfortunately. Stanton didn’t play again until Game 5, which resulted in some debate about whether or not the Yankees should have replaced him. He gave it his best, but went 0-for-3 in Game 5’s win before sitting out Game 6.

The Yankees hoped to have Stanton available for the World Series, hence not deactivating him. But as we found out later, Stanton would have been on the injured list had it been the regular season.

There were a number of crappy things that happened in that Houston series, but losing Stanton was a huge bummer. Not having him for most of April through September was frustrating. But when he had the chance to make up for it in October, his body let him down once more. For shame, because it really seemed like he would pummel the Astros. At least to me.

What’s next?

For Hicks, Tommy John surgery rehab. Didi Gregorius, who underwent the same procedure last offseason, returned on June 7th this year. Hopefully, Hicks can rejoin the Yankees around the same time in 2020. It hasn’t been an ideal start to the seven year extension he signed with the Bombers, but there’s still plenty of time to right the ship.

As for Stanton: a 2020 redemption tour with a vengeance. Injury after injury marred Giancarlo’s 2019 campaign, but all he can do now is put it in the rear view mirror. The starting left field or designated hitter roles are his next season. Let’s hope it stays that way for the full season’s slate of games.

By the way, Stanton can opt out of his contract at the end of next season. However, I find it hard to imagine the 30 year-old walking away from $218 million over seven more seasons. That would be challenging to beat in free agency.

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2 Comments

  1. RetroRob

    Stanton’s season was such a UFO injury wise. He’s never lost a season before. He played in 158 and 159 games the two prior years, and when he has missed times due to injuries prior it was fluky situations, like getting hit in the head with a pitch from Mike Fiers (back in the news!).

    I don’t know if the Yankees can play any better in 2020 than they did with their “Next Man Up” group, but I do think there’s a way better chance they can repeat a 100-win season with Stanton and Severino back, and Hicks too in the second half.

  2. DJ Lemeddardhieu

    Hicks is going to have a lost season next year, Derek. Like Didi, he’ll come back in June/July and struggle to find his swing. He did well in the ALCS last year after a layoff but he’ll be in Spring Training mode in the midst of the pennant race. I don’t expect much from him next year. A 7 year deal and 2 will be lost. And we couldn’t sign Corbin because of the 7th year. Gardy and Tauchman will have to carry us again in CF next season.

    Stanton was a mistake to trade for and has quickly turned into the resident albatross since Ellsbury has just gone completely AWOL. I don’t expect anything from him but more injuries and strikeouts. Somebody needs to tell these big guys like Voit, Stanton and Sanchez not to run hard and get hurt. Just jog from one base to another. They ain’t getting paid to run the bases. Stanton got hurt trying to steal 3rd base. Why? What is Boone telling these guys? Such a senseless injury that could have been avoided. I know they want him to play LF but DH might be the best role for him to avoid breaking. Maybe Andujar can learn how to play left.

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