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Aaron Boone has his work cut out for him this spring. While there are a number of questions to work through, none may be bigger than figuring out who’s the starting right fielder. Both Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, probably Boone’s two best players, have played mostly right field in their careers. Both have impressive offensive capabilities, but the deciding factor may come down to defensive abilities. Is one significantly better than the other defensively?
The SABR Defensive Index, which has been used to help select Gold Glove awards over the past several years, has both players ranked pretty similarly.
Judge actually ranked as the second best defensive right fielder in the American League behind Mookie Betts with an SDI of 8.5. In the National League, Stanton ranked close to his towering teammate with an SDI of 8.2. That was good for 3rd among right fields in the NL.
Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), which measures how many runs a player saves through their fielding, measures both players similarly as well.
Looking at UZR/150 innings to get an apples to apples number, Judge had a UZR of 7.7 in 2017 with Stanton recording a 7.1 UZR. Looking deeper into Stanton’s career, though, shows a wide range of UZR scores from -9.9 in 2013 to 16.4 in 2015.
What about Fielding Bible’s Defensive Runs Saved (DRS)? There Stanton just beats Judge out with 10 DRS to Judge’s 9.
More traditional numbers might give Stanton the slightest edge. Stanton’s fielding percentage last season was .988. Judge’s was .982, which is actually higher than Stanton’s career fielding percentage of .980. But Stanton had nine outfield assists last season to Judge’s five.
Overall, it looks like both right fielders rank pretty similarly defensively. The takeaway here? Don’t envy Aaron Boone’s job this spring. Boone may look to determine positions based on comfort and willingness to change positions. Or perhaps he’ll rotate them through DH, splitting right field duties.
Whatever he decides, both players should provide above average defense coupled with monstrous offensive power.