MLB sources discuss Yankees' Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton's potential for 2021 season

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Giancarlo Stanton Aaron Judge Yankees TREATED art
Giancarlo Stanton Aaron Judge Yankees TREATED art

If, if if. It seems like every sentence, every utterance, about Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton and their potential for 2021 starts with that qualifier, followed by a dissertation on either slugger’s chances to remain healthy during the long season.

It’s reality in Yankeeland these days. Everyone believes both will mash like crazy...if they stay healthy.

“If Stanton stays healthy,” says a scout from a rival club, as if on cue, “he’s liable to have a monster year.

“Same thing with Judge. They’ve both proven they can hit 50 home runs. If they can both stay healthy, who knows what to expect? The pitcher can’t walk them every time up.

“How many people in baseball have the power they do?” adds the scout, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “(Pete) Alonso, you’d have to have in there, maybe some others. You can count them on one hand.”

Their resumes show how talented Judge and Stanton are, and even when they don’t play a lot, it’s clear. Stanton had the hardest-hit ball of any player in MLB in 2020 (121.3 miles per hour, according to Statcast), though he played just 23 games in the shortened season, and went wild in the postseason with six homers, 13 RBI and a 1.426 OPS in seven games.

Judge homered seven times in the first 10 games last year in an MVP-ish start, but got hurt shortly thereafter and only played 28 of the 60 games.

In fact, Stanton has played only 51.8 percent of regular-season games since becoming a Yankee in 2018. Judge has played 72.7 percent of games since reaching the Majors for good in 2017, but the number drops to 63 percent if you just consider the last three seasons.

The Yankees have revamped their training, hiring Eric Cressey as the director of player performance before last season, and both Stanton and Judge have tweaked their preparation routines.

The Yanks -- and the sluggers -- are hoping that helps. Their seasons likely soar or sink on the results.

“It all depends on how they addressed the durability issue,” says Dan O’Dowd, the former GM of the Colorado Rockies who is now an analyst for MLB Network. “We don’t, in the industry, talk enough about durability. Tools don’t play unless they’re on the field.

“I’m a big Eric Cressey guy,” O’Dowd adds. “I believe in his programs and I think he gets how an athlete’s body moves. If they committed to his programs, and they are moving better and are connected better, that will help. It’s the soft-tissue injuries that drive me crazy. I feel like they are avoidable, being tied to sleep, training and nutrition.

“Judge should be one of the more dominant players in the game, and the face of the game. I think there’s been a light missing with him -- rehabbing all the time sucks the life out of you a little bit.”

Jeff Nelson, the former Yankees reliever who now hosts a New York Post podcast about the Yanks called “The Pinstripe Pod” with Chris Shearn of the YES Network, applauds both players for seeking different routines to train and prepare.

But, he notes, whatever their new routine is will have to add the same mental boost that prepping in the weight room does.

“Guys I played with were heavy lifters,” Nelson says. “Paul O’Neill was always in the weight room. That worked for him. It helps you mentally, too -- ‘OK, now I’m ready to go out and play.’ As a reliever, there were aches and pains, but you get in the weight room, you feel them go away a little bit and you feel, ‘I’m ready for today.’”

If -- there’s that word again -- the duo is healthy, serious pinstriped dreaming can begin. Stanton certainly has offered glimpses this spring.

Last week, he mashed a home run clocked at 115.1 mph at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa. The above-mentioned scout was watching the game on television and exclaimed so loudly after the ball was hit that a relative in another room asked, “What’s the matter?”

“I can’t tell you how many games I’ve seen at that stadium and that was one of the quickest balls I’ve ever seen leave that park,” the scout says. “I couldn’t believe it. That ball got out of there like a laser. He’s so strong.”

In another spring game, Stanton lashed two doubles, both measured at better than 109 mph. Even Judge noted earlier in camp that Stanton “looks just like his playoff form from last year.”

A full dose of that would be good news for the Yankees. Judge might be able to push it even further and impact the entire sport, O’Dowd says.

“Stanton is what he is -- streaky,” O’Dowd says. “I think he’ll stay healthy this year. As a DH, you have less susceptibility to getting hurt. Or you should.

“But Judge can be a consistently great player. He can use the whole field. It’s not just all power. There’s not many guys like him. I hope he stays healthy because he’s really good for our game.”

So if -- get used to it -- they are fit all season, what can the Yankees hope for?

“You’re talking about two guys who could hit over 100 home runs together and over 200 RBI, combined,” Nelson says. Only five clubs -- the 1927 Yankees, the 1961 Yankees, the 1998 Cardinals, the 2001 Giants and the 2002 Cardinals -- have had teammates combine for 100 or more homers in one season.

“As a pitcher, seeing those two guys, I wouldn’t want to face them all the time. They are a constant threat, even without anyone on base.”

“If” -- we swear, Nelson used that word unprompted -- “you could see 145 games out of each of them, the Yankees are a World Series team, with that pitching staff and those guys staying healthy.”