Rookie Spotlight: Aaron Judge
Today’s game of baseball is full of young stars. Corey Seager, Trea Turner, and Gary Sanchez are just a few guys who added their names to the list of baseball’s best young players. We’re amidst one of the greatest youth movements the game has ever seen. Just take a look at the list of the top 20 players in baseball. A vast majority of them are 25-years-old or younger, and more are striving to add their names to that list. One guy who will be a household name by the end of the season is New York Yankees’ outfielder Aaron Judge.
[the_ad id=”567″]Judge had his first cup of coffee in the majors last season, slashing .179/.263/.345 with four homers over 84 at-bats. While his moon shots were exciting to watch, his 43.5 strikeout percentage kept him out of the everyday lineup, and ultimately landed him back in Scranton. At just 24-years-old, he has been drawing comparisons to outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, who has been crushing homers for the Miami Marlins since 2010. Judge should start the season as the Yankees’ right fielder and will do all in his power to stay there for the Bronx Bombers.
With every rookie, it’s common to give them a ceiling that compares to current major leaguers. Judge’s ceiling could go as high as Marlins’ slugger Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton is one of baseball’s most feared power hitters. In 827 games, Stanton has collected 208 homers, but health has been a major problem for him. He’s averaged just 118 games over seven seasons, and a lot of that time off can be attributed to all of his moving pieces at the plate. Stanton, like Judge, is a towering menace at the plate that requires his whole body to work fluently to get his hands through the zone. With more power and more movement comes more risk for injury, which has hindered Stanton’s career.
Judge’s swing has a lot of the same characteristics as Stanton’s does, which is evident by how far the balls travel off of his bat. It’ll be Judge’s ability to stay healthy that will put him on the same level as Stanton. He’ll need to keep his swing balanced and fluid to ensure that he can remain in the lineup on a regular basis. Yankees’ hitting coach Alan Cockrell has been working with Judge on his leg kick, that’ll help his timing at the plate. There’s a lot that goes on when someone as big as Judge steps up to the plate, but when it all comes together, it leaves us staring in awe.
At 6-foot-7 and 282-pounds, Judge would look much more comfortable lining up at tight end than he does in right field. His undeniable power was put on display in the Yankees’ first spring training game when he launched one off the scoreboard at George M. Steinbrenner Field, an estimated 449 feet. While much of what happens in spring training should be looked at with an asterisk, it’s impossible not to get excited seeing balls fly out of the park.
Judge’s power has earned him top-prospect-status since the Yankees drafted him in the first round of the 2013 Major League Baseball Draft. Ranked the fourth best Yankee prospect before the 2016 season, he has been abusing opposing pitching throughout the minors, but he hasn’t been without flaw. He struck out 28.5 percent of the time in his first stint in Triple-A in 2015. While his fastball recognition and reaction time is top-notch, he’s had trouble picking up the curveball. However, he has shown that he can adjust, knocking his strikeout rate down to 23.9 percent in 2016. He also improved his timing and plate discipline in his return to Triple-A, allowing him to be a more balanced hitter at the plate. Judge’s ability to make adjustments is beyond his years, and he should be able to follow that same pattern at the major league level.
If he can cut back on his strikeouts, Judge could emerge as one of New York’s biggest stars. The interest in all-or-nothing guys is declining, but Judge can be more than just a slugger with 30 homers and 200 strikeouts. With the amount of power that he generates, Judge doesn’t look like someone who is swinging for the fences every time. His smooth swing compares to that of Giancarlo Stanton, as does the distance of the balls coming off his bat.
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) March 10, 2017
The talent is there, the mindset is there, and he has a chance to put the two to use. It all comes down to whether Judge can make the proper adjustments to MLB pitching, and stay in the lineup on an everyday basis. If he can, there should be no reason he can’t reach the 30 home run mark at the hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium. 2017 will be a huge stepping stone for Judge, and he has a chance to turn an opportunity into a long and prosperous career in pinstripes. Aaron Judge may be just starting his path towards a major league career, but it won’t be long until we see his name on the back of Yankee jerseys on the streets of New York.