When the New York Yankees gave away starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery to the St. Louis Cardinals to get center fielder Harrison Bader, they thought they were acquiring a Gold Glove-caliber defender who would make a huge difference with the leather.
It took a while (he had a bout of plantar fasciitis in the second half and his Yankees debut was delayed), but he showed fans that he was exactly as advertised.
Not only did he provide his usual elite defense when healthy, but he also hit five postseason home runs and was a pleasant surprise with the bat.
Bader is entering a crucial season with the Yankees, as it is his last one of team control.
If spring training play is any indication, his defense remains as good as ever.
Look at this play during Wednesday’s game against the Washington Nationals:
Just another day in CF with @aybaybader. pic.twitter.com/5qYgSZ079D
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) March 1, 2023
Joey Meneses hit a fly ball to shallow center field that required Bader to accelerate and make an impressive diving catch to secure the out.
If he is truly behind his 2022 injury, this type of play will be a common occurrence in center field.
The winner of the Gold Glove award in 2021 because of his defensive prowess in center, he had 15 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and 14 Outs Above Average (OAA) that season.
Affected by the plantar fasciitis, those numbers decreased to -1 and 7 in 2022, but it makes sense given the nature of his ailment.
Now healthy, the 28-year-old is out to prove that he remains a defensive asset.
So far, so good.NEXT: Aaron Judge Tops Mike Trout In Powerful 2023 Odds