Jumbo Package Helps Power the Yankees into Playoff Position

Monday night brought something unseen in the majors since September 7, 1901: a matchup between two teams on winning streaks of nine or more games. In this case, both the visiting Yankees and the hosting Braves were riding streaks of exactly nine wins, and it was New York who prevailed with a 5–1 victory.

Monday’s game also brought something with only slightly more precedent: the fourth appearance by the tallest outfield in AL/NL history, one made possible by the Yankees’ aggressive approach at the trade deadline and their momentary good fortune when it comes to injuries. Their lineup featured 6-foot-5 Joey Gallo in left field, 6-foot-7 Aaron Judge in center, and 6-foot-6 Giancarlo Stanton in right, each of whom figured significantly in the team’s win. That trio of elite power hitters has played a played a prominent role in helping the Yankees blow past the Red Sox, A’s and Mariners to the top of the AL Wild Card standings.

Facing the Braves’ Huascar Ynoa at Truist Park, Stanton swatted an opposite-field solo home run in the second inning to give the Yankees a 1–0 lead, then added a two-run double that scored both DJ LeMahieu (who was hit by a pitch) and Gallo (who walked) to break a 1-1 tie in the sixth. His first drive left the bat at 103.4 mph, his second at a scorching 119.2 mph:

The Yankees extended the lead against Edgar Santana in the eighth via a two-out Judge single, walks by Gallo and Luke Voit, and then a two-run single by Gary Sánchez, effectively sealing the game. Gallo, meanwhile, had the defensive play of the night via his diving catch of a Guillermo Heredia drive in the second inning:

Judge traveled a long ways — 87 feet, according to Statcast — to haul in Jorge Soler’s fly ball in the third:

Quipped Yankees manager Aaron Boone afterwards, “It’s nice to see the jumbo package out there playing really well.”

The Jumbo Package, or the Big Boy Outfield, or the Large Adult Sons of Brian Cashman — by whatever name, this is the tallest outfield in major league history, at least going by the listed heights at Baseball Reference. Those measurements may contain their share of fudge, but unless you’ve got a tape measure, that’s the best we’re going to do.

While other teams have at various points given playing time to three outfielders listed at 6-foot-5 or greater in a single season, only the 2016 Cubs ever shoehorned three into the same lineup:

Teams with Three Outfielders 6-Foot-5 Or Taller
Team Year OF1 Ht OF2 Ht OF3 Ht Tot Starts
Yankees 2021 Aaron Judge 79 Giancarlo Stanton 78 Joey Gallo 77 234 4
Phillies 2010 John Mayberry 78 Domonic Brown 77 Jayson Werth 77 232 0
White Sox 2012 Adam Dunn 78 Jordan Danks 77 Alex Rios 77 232 0
White Sox 2013 Adam Dunn 78 Jordan Danks 77 Alex Rios 77 232 0
White Sox 2014 Adam Dunn 78 Jordan Danks 77 Michael Taylor 77 232 0
Phillies 2014 John Mayberry 78 Aaron Altherr 77 Domonic Brown 77 232 0
Rangers 2015 Kyle Blanks 78 Joey Gallo 77 Carlos Peguero 77 232 0
Rangers 2021 DJ Peters 78 Joey Gallo 77 Ronald Guzman 77 232 0
Phillies 2015 Aaron Altherr 77 Domonic Brown 77 Jordan Danks 77 231 0
Cubs 2016 Kris Bryant 77 Dexter Fowler 77 Jason Heyward 77 231 26
Mariners 1993 Randy Johnson* 82 Jeff Nelson* 80 Dann Howitt 77 239 0
Cubs 2018 Steve Cishek* 78 Kris Bryant 77 Jason Heyward 77 232 0
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference
* = Pitcher making cameo appearance of one inning or less in the outfield. All heights in inches.

In assembling this list, I had to exclude two teams who used tall pitchers for very brief stints in the outfield, though you can read about Mariners manager Lou Piniella’s curious decisions to use Nelson (in front of the Green Monster in Fenway Park!) and Johnson (!!!) in the field for brief spells here.

Thanks to Bryant’s versatility, Chicago started him in the outfield 48 times during that championship season, including 26 times in left field when Fowler played center and Heyward right; all three measure up at 6-foot-5, so cumulatively, these Yankees have a three-inch edge. Unsurprisingly, The Athletic’s Jayson Stark — with an assist from YES Network’s James Smyth — actually beat me to this chestnut by a couple of weeks and also noted that New York’s collection of absolute units weighs in as the heaviest outfield, too, at a total of 777 pounds (Judge at 282, Stanton at 250, and Gallo at 245).

This was the second time Boone has started the Gallo-Judge-Stanton alignment of the jumbo package; the first was last Thursday against the Twins. The original permutation came into being on July 30 and 31 — Gallo’s first two games since being acquired at the deadline — in Miami against the Marlins, when the ex-Ranger started in right with Judge in center and Stanton in left.

The combination of injuries, interleague play, and the deadline trades for Gallo and Anthony Rizzo made all of this possible in the first place. Even as the Yankees lost Aaron Hicks for the season due to left wrist surgery as well as reserves Clint Frazier to vision problems, Miguel Andújar to a left wrist strain, and Tim Locastro to a torn ACL, the team spent the first two-thirds of this season treating Stanton as something more delicate than a Fabergé egg, and not without reason. Thanks to a veritable cornucopia of injuries, the slugger played just 41 regular-season games in 2019 and ’20 combined, including 13 in the outfield in the former year. The last time he played the outfield prior to this season was on October 12, 2019, when he suffered a Grade 2 strain of his right quadriceps in the ALCS opener and was limited to one more game in the series. His first 81 games this season were as a designated hitter, interrupted by a 13-game stint on the injured list in May due to… a left quad strain.

Stanton returned from the IL as the team’s first interleague road series (Philadelphia on June 12–13) approached, and so the possibility of his playing the outfield became a frequent topic of discussion on the Yankees beat. At one point, Boone suggested that he would do so during the team’s July 22–25 trip to Fenway Park. But when Judge and five other Yankees landed on the COVID-19 IL a week before that series, Boone opted to go with his fill-in flychasers and keep Stanton in his usual role. The trip to Miami, for the team’s second interleague road series, became his unveiling and just happened to coincide with Gallo’s arrival. This series in Atlanta is the team’s third such series, and given the way Stanton’s been swinging the bat (.324/.429/.592 for a 181 wRC+ this month), there’s no reason to sit him down.

Before his injuries, Stanton was an above-average fielder, with 4.9 UZR and 7 DRS per 150 games in right field. In 11 total games so far — including six in right, four of those with Judge DHing and the other two with Voit doing so — he’s been fine in the field. Statcast credits him with 22 plays made in 22 attempts and zero OAA, and he’s at zero as far as DRS is concerned as well, with 0.3 UZR — not that anybody should put much stock in such small samples.

As for the rest of the group, Gallo won a Gold Glove as a right fielder last year and is legitimately a premium defender, with 11 DRS, 4.6 UZR, and 7 OAA this season. “I would consider myself as defensive-first player, honestly,” he said late last month. “Numbers-wise, I’m higher up there (on defense) than I am hitting. I can hit homers and whatnot, but I take pride in being able to change the game defensively.”

Gallo has yet to take off offensively since donning the pinstripes — in fact, he’s hitting just .148/.310/.358 in 100 PA — but his production has been well-timed. He has 0.42 WPA since joining the team compared to 0.01 in Texas, and all four of his homers for the Yankees have come when the score was one run in either direction, with two being go-ahead shots. What’s more, he’s pulverizing the ball since the trade, with a 97.2-mph average exit velocity, an 18.4% barrel rate (matching his pre-trade rate), and a 60.5% hard-hit rate. His slash numbers aren’t great because he’s struck out 43% of the time thus far, but those metrics suggest that he’ll come around.

Judge, meanwhile, has been solid to great in right field, depending upon which metric one consults (8 DRS, 1.7 UZR, -1 OAA) and has held his own in 12 starts and a total of 90 innings played in center (1 DRS, -0.1 UZR, 2 OAA). More importantly, he’s remained healthy and available save for his 11-day COVID stint; his 477 plate appearances is already his most since 2018, and he’s on track to wind up with more than in any season save for his ’17 rookie campaign (678). He’s hit at a .283/.377/.520 clip, and his 146 wRC+ is likewise his highest since 2018. His 27 homers are tied for 12th in the league, and his 4.0 WAR ranks 11th.

It’s fair to say that the jumbo package has been a limited success thus far, that within the even greater success of the Yankees posting a major league-best 20–4 record since the trade deadline. During that stretch, they’ve not only bludgeoned opponents by scoring 5.29 runs per game (a 29% gain on their pre-deadline mark of 4.11 runs per game) but also held them to 3.08 runs per game. The success of their pitching staff, and in particular the back end of the rotation, is worth its own article.

What remains to be seen, in addition to whether the Yankees can close their four-game deficit on the Rays for the AL East lead — right now their odds of winning the division stand at 29.8% — is whether Boone will return to some variation of the lineup he used last Thursday. We might call that the Super-Jumbo Package: a Stanton-Judge-Gallo outfield (in whatever permutation) plus the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Rizzo at first base and the 6-foot-3, 255-pound Voit at DH. Rizzo went 8-for-25 with three homers in his first six games following his arrival from the Cubs, but has cooled off to a .217/.333/.413 (107 wRC+) line in 57 PA with the Yankees and had to spend 10 days on the IL due to a COVID-19 infection.

Rizzo’s absence gave Voit, who was nearly traded at the deadline, another chance to assert his claim on the first base job and on playing time in general, and he didn’t miss it, hitting .320/.382/.620 with four homers and 17 RBI in 55 PA since returning from a 21-game absence due to a bone bruise and inflammation in his surgically repaired left knee. On Monday was named AL Player of the Week for his 10-for-21, 11-RBI performance from August 16 to 21. That hot streak has lifted his overall line to .266/.345/.449 (119 wRC+), meaning that pitchers now have one less place to hide in this retooled, supersized lineup.

Brooklyn-based Jay Jaffe is a senior writer for FanGraphs, the author of The Cooperstown Casebook (Thomas Dunne Books, 2017) and the creator of the JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score) metric for Hall of Fame analysis. He founded the Futility Infielder website (2001), was a columnist for Baseball Prospectus (2005-2012) and a contributing writer for Sports Illustrated (2012-2018). He has been a recurring guest on MLB Network and a member of the BBWAA since 2011, and a Hall of Fame voter since 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jay_jaffe... and BlueSky @jayjaffe.bsky.social.

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2 years ago

vaguely pleased that Adam Dunn, a torch-bearer of the Big Boy Movement in his own time, sneaks in here as much as he does