With Verdugo thriving in pinstripes, Yankees’ left-field riddle finally over

Yankees' Alex Verdugo-making a thrilling defense in left field at Yankee Stadium on May 07, 2024.

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The void in the Yankees’ left field remained a veritable black hole causing them many problems in the 2023 season. But the team can now fill that void with Alex Verdugo‘s thrilling power show and immaculate glovework. The outfielder has not only put a stop to the Yankees’ revolving door policy in left field but also provided a much-needed ‘spark’ to the lineup and overall performance.

The Yankees confronted issues in left field as soon as they parted ways with Brett Gardner in 2021. After the failure of Clint Jackson Frazier, the potential replacement for Gardener, the team roped in Andrew Benintendi in 2022. However, he left the Bronx after the season and the Yankees opted for a revolving door plan.

In the span between Gardner’s final appearance in left field and the conclusion of the 2023 season, the Yankees deployed a staggering 16 different players at the position, underscoring the instability and lack of consistent production. The list includes Joey Gallo (51 games), Giancarlo Stanton (7), Aaron Hicks (61), Tim Locastro (3), Miguel Andújar (18), Marwin Gonzalez (9), Matt Carpenter (3), Andrew Benintendi (31), Oswaldo Cabrera (42), Franchy Cordero (4), Jake Bauers (20), Isiah Kiner-Falefa (28), Greg Allen (3), Willie Calhoun (3), Billy McKinney (27), and Everson Pereira (26).

But with Verdugo, who has been a model of consistency, has so far started 35 games this season in left field, out of the Yankees’ 38 total games played. He has effectively ended the Yankees’ trial-and-error show in that position.

The only three contests Verdugo has missed this year came last week when he was placed on the paternity list to celebrate the birth of his child. Apart from that brief absence, Verdugo has been a constant presence, making his mark felt in left field, at the plate, and within the clubhouse.

Aaron Judge recently showered praise on Verdugo, lauding him as a complete player and emphasizing his qualities as a left-handed-hitting left fielder who consistently competes at a high level. He also commended Verdugo’s reliability and unwavering desire to take the field every single day, highlighting his unwavering commitment to the team’s success.

Alex Verdugo and Aaron Judge are at Yankees 2024 spring training camp.
X-NYY

Judge further elaborated on his admiration for Verdugo’s defensive prowess in left field, comparing him favorably to Gardner, another highly regarded Yankees outfielder. He underscored Verdugo’s exceptional ability to read the game and his effective communication skills with his fellow outfielders.

“He’s just a complete player,” he said recently. “He’s a guy we’ve been looking for, a left fielder that’s left-handed and competes every single day. He shows up every single day ready to play, he wants to play every single day.

“I told him the other day in the outfield, he’s one of the best left fielders, besides Brett Gardner, that I’ve played with. Just how he reads, he communicates. We got a special group of outfielders here. We’re lucky to have him. I’ve been pushing for quite a long time to try to get him over here and excited to see what he’s doing.”

The Yankees captain expressed his gratitude for the talented outfield group the Yankees have assembled, mentioning his long-standing advocacy for Verdugo’s acquisition and his eager anticipation of the dynamic contributions he would bring to the team.

Alex Verdugo exceeds the Yankees’ expectations in left field

Alex Verdugo’s knack for delivering in high-pressure situations was on full display during Tuesday’s triumph over the Astros. The dynamic outfielder went 3-for-5, launching a home run, driving in four runs, and making a spectacular diving catch. Entering Wednesday’s contest, Verdugo boasted a .275 batting average and an impressive .812 OPS. His left-handed stroke and exceptional bat-to-ball skills have made him an ideal fit in the cleanup spot since manager Aaron Boone positioned him there in the latter part of last month.

For Boone, the ability to pencil Verdugo’s name into the lineup as the everyday left fielder has been an immense luxury, particularly considering the revolving door the Yankees have endured at that position in recent years.

Alex Verdugo, players of the New York Yankees
AP

Spanning the 2022 and 2023 seasons, Yankees left fielders accumulated an fWAR (Wins Above Replacement) of 2.9, which placed them 22nd among all major league teams. In stark contrast, through his first 34 games this season, Verdugo alone had already amassed an fWAR of 1.1, underscoring his immense value and impact on the team’s success.

Aaron Boone lavished praise on Verdugo’s performance, highlighting his unwavering energy and intensity, as well as his seamless integration into the team’s fabric. Boone revealed that he had been closely monitoring Verdugo’s progress even before the Yankees acquired him in December, and he marveled at the outfielder’s exceptional contributions both in the field and at the plate. In sum, Boone characterized Verdugo’s impact as nothing short of remarkable.

Beyond his offensive prowess, Verdugo’s defensive range in left field has been a sight to behold, adding another dimension to his value as a player.

As of Wednesday, Verdugo found himself tied for third among qualified major league left fielders with three Outs Above Average (OAA), according to Baseball Savant. Moreover, he was tied for second at his position with four Defensive Runs Saved (DRS).

In stark contrast, from 2021 to 2023—a period following Brett Gardner’s last season as the primary starter in left field in 2020—the Yankees ranked a dismal 24th with minus-22 OAA and 25th with minus-nine DRS from their left fielders.

While Verdugo’s tenure in The Bronx may be limited to just this season, as he is set to become a free agent in the upcoming offseason, the Yankees have already reaped the rewards of his presence. In the interim, Verdugo has consistently expressed his deep affection for the team and the clubhouse atmosphere.

Yankees' Alex Verdugo shows his swag after hitting a three-run homer off Astros' Verlander at Yankee Stadium on May 7, 2024.
Joey

“I love it, I love it,” Verdugo said. “I really do. It’s a great organization, great team, great staff. Honestly, I couldn’t be happier here.”

Verdugo harbors unbridled enthusiasm for his current job and his words exude a sense of utmost contentment with his role, heartfelt gratitude, and commitment for the opportunity to contribute to the Yankees’ success.

“He’s been everything I would have hoped for, as far as just his energy and edge every day, his ability to fit into the room and then his play on both sides of the ball,” Boone said about Verdugo. “He’s been terrific.”

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

One thought on “With Verdugo thriving in pinstripes, Yankees’ left-field riddle finally over

  1. The failure of Clint Frazier? Please. Was told he was the starting LF but lost the job within the first week of the season based on nothing he did or didn’t do. Miguel Andujar, has one shot, got hurt but never got another. Cabrera? He got the D down, but had a HC that fui ed him here. Look at how much better he has done since Lawson was fired! Florial sat in the minors despite there being an opening in CF. Dominguez was given a shot, and will get another one at the latest, next season. It looks like Spencer Jones will also be given a shot. even if it did one until 2026.

    Verdugo is probably a one and done unless Soto goes elsewhere real fast in the off season.

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