TAMPA Upon being traded to the Yankees, reigning NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton couldnt contain his excitement about joining a star-laden lineup that has already been dubbed Murderers Row 2.0.
I feel sorry for the baseballs, too, Stanton joked back in December at the Winter Meetings in Orlando.
Last season, the Bronx Bombers ranked second in the majors in runs scored (858) and first in homers (241).
Those numbers, however, are likely to explode this season.
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During the offseason, Brian Cashman had hoped to add two-way star Shohei Ohtani to the mix as a DH/SP in free agency. But Ohtani declined to take a meeting with the Yankees, so the GM pivoted and quickly landed Stanton in a blockbuster trade with Derek Jeters Marlins.
Immediately, Stanton and Aaron Judge, who have won the past two Home Run Derbies, were being compared to the greatest slugging duos of all-time, including Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.
All you can go off of is our stats from the previous year for what you think we can do, Stanton said during the spring. Then you put us together, and who knows after that.
Stanton (MLB-high 59 HRs) and Judge (AL-high 52 HRs) combined for 111 homers in 2017 four fewer than the M&M Boys, Mantle (54) and Maris (61), combined for in that magical 1961 season.
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I like it because Im probably going to score 200 runs with him hitting behind me, said Judge when asked about the possibility of him and Stanton hitting second and third in the order.
Batting practice featuring the duo which has redefined the way the sport views distance and exit-velocity has become a must-see event. Stantons seemingly effortless opposite-field power can be mind-boggling. He also has something to offer his younger teammates in terms of approach.
Some balls, when they hit them, youre like holy crap, hitting coach Marcus Thames said. At the same time, when they square it up, its going to do what its going to do.
But the Yankees lineup is much more than just two guys, which is why many wonder if theyre going to shatter some records in 2018. The 1997 Mariners, with A-Rod, Ken Griffey Jr., Jay Buhner and Edgar Martinez, hold the MLB record for homers in a season (264), while the 1999 Indians, with Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome and Roberto Alomar, were the last team to score 1,000 runs (1,009).
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Gary Sanchez, aka The Kraken, is probably the teams best all-around hitter, according to CC Sabathia, a young Manny Ramirez at the plate given his ability to hit to all fields. And Brett Gardner (21) and Didi Gregorius (25) both established new career-highs in homers last season. And Greg Bird has the potential to hit .300 with 25-30 homers if he can ever stay healthy for a full year, according to former Yankee first baseman Tino Martinez.
Bird compared the potential of the 2018 Yankees to that of the franchises last World Series champion, the 2009 team that scored 915 runs and had an All-Star infield of Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter and A-Rod.
The middles kind of everywhere, Bird said when asked about the heart of the order, which figures to be rounded out at least at the start of the upcoming campaign by newcomers Neil Walker and Brandon Drury, as well as Aaron Hicks.
And that doesnt include two potential future stars, Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, joining the lineup later in the season from Triple-A. What stands out is the pure depth, the ability to overcome slumps, injuries and regressions.
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Just imagine if they get more than 48 games out of Bird and 88 games out of Hicks. Even Sanchez and Gregorius each missed about a month of action themselves. And what if Drury can double his home run total from 2017 (13) due to changes in his swings launch angle, an adjustment made this offseason? And what if Judge gets a better handle on the breaking ball?
Aaron Boone continues to tinker with combinations including having a lefty between Judge and Stanton, something hes said hed like to do in a perfect world but regardless, its hard not to dream of the possibilities with this group.
Its going to be a lot of fun to watch, said Dellin Betances, who compared the combo of Stanton, Judge and Sanchez to facing Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion when they were hitting back-to-back-to-back in Toronto.
Boone and Thames have been preaching all spring to their hitters about controlling the strike zone making sure to swing at their pitch.
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This is still a strikeout-prone group, after all, and the question remains whether they can hit elite pitching deep in the playoffs. Last season, Judge, Bird and Sanchez struck out in 38 percent of their postseason plate appearances. And Stanton has yet to appear in the playoffs in his career.
Nevertheless, Thames is already raving about the groups work ethic. And there is a ton of talent there.