TAMPA — In 2017, Giancarlo Stanton's final season with the Marlins before being traded to the Yankees, the slugger clobbered 59 home runs, drove in 132 runs and won the National League Most Valuable Player Award.
Now, entering his fourth season in New York, the slugger believes he's a better hitter than he was during that historic season in Miami.
"I definitely am a better hitter than that point," Stanton said in a Zoom call on Wednesday afternoon. "Have the results showed? No. But I am."
It's early in the spring, but Stanton is starting to show that he's not all talk. He backed up those strong words a few hours later in the batter's box.
Stepping up for his second at-bat against the Pirates on Wednesday night, Stanton decimated a 2-2 changeup from Pittsburgh's Tyler Anderson, sending a missile to deep left. The line drive curled around the foul pole before disappearing out of George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Statcast had the three-run home run measured at 420 feet with an exit velocity of 115.1 mph.
The rocket under the lights came only a few days after Stanton ripped a pair of doubles in New York's 4-0 win over the Phillies on Sunday. Both liners registered exit velocities north of 109 mph off his bat.
It's not exactly a surprise seeing Stanton effortlessly test the limits of Statcast. He's proven throughout his career that he's capable of hitting a baseball as hard and as far as anybody in Major League Baseball. In fact, in 2020, Stanton hit the ball in play with an exit velocity of more than 115.1 mph five different times.
The true test in his statement regarding MVP form, however, will be his ability to stay on the field.
Stanton played a full season in 2018, his first campaign in pinstripes, mashing 38 homers over 158 games (that's one fewer game than he played the prior season in Miami). Since then, however, Stanton has appeared in only 41 contests. He's clubbed only seven regular season homers over those two injury-riddled seasons.
Although an assortment of injuries have prevented Stanton from avoiding the injured list, the slugger knows that he's improved since his finale in a Marlins uniform because of the adjustments that he's made in his approach at the plate and his ability to understand the zone.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone believes fans got a glimpse of the new and improved Stanton last year in the postseason when Stanton tore the cover off the ball, hitting six long balls in seven games.
"I was obviously really happy for him to go and produce at such a high level on a big stage against the best competition," Boone said in the first week of Yankees camp. "But I really feel like that's what he's capable of and I feel like through these injuries, I've seen the evolution and the maturity of a great and talented player."
Stanton isn't the only one that thinks he's better in the box now than he was in 2017.
"I think if he can stay healthy, he's going to turn in a special season" Boone added. "I think he's in a lot of ways, a much better hitter than even he was when he won his MVP several years ago."
Boone doubled down in an interview with YES Network during Wednesday's game, saying the slugger is poised to put together a "scary" season if he can stay healthy.
"I wouldn't want to put a limit on what he's capable of," Boone said in a Zoom call with reporters after the final out. "I just feel like he hasn't been on the field to let that growth he's had as a player and as a hitter manifest itself. We saw it in short spurts, obviously last year to start the season where he got off to a great start before getting injured and then obviously what he was able to do in the postseason. I think that's what he's capable of."
The 31-year-old revealed that he's feeling more agile thanks to his offseason training program, working closely with New York's director of player performance Eric Cressey. After reporting to camp, Stanton recounted his offseason, focusing on strength "without being glued to the gym" while adding yoga to the mix as well.
Showing that his offseason regimen is working thus far, Stanton confirmed on Wednesday that he plans on playing in the outfield at some point this spring before the regular season begins.
While it's always "cool" to see the high exit velocity numbers, Stanton explained that he's not trying to hit the ball at a certain speed, nor hit a certain amount of home runs entering a new season. Above all else, he's focused on staying on the field.
Why? Because if he can do that, the production will follow.
"I'm expected to produce the best that I can and to be out there on the field," Stanton said. "I'm not really worried about the numbers ... If I'm out there and can have time to adjust to what I see or any new rhythms of the game or how I'm being pitched then that's the most important aspect is just showing up."
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