Two of the hottest young commodities so far this season have been power hitting rookies on different coasts. In New York, outfielder Aaron Judge has taken the big apple by storm. He currently leads the American League in home runs and has become the face of the franchise which the Yankees have been lacking since Derek Jeter retired. On the other coast, 1st baseman Cody Bellinger was called upon to help out a struggling Dodgers offense in late April. After a slow start, Bellinger has dazzled the fans in Hollywood and immediately become one of the most feared hitters in that lineup. Both players have already become highly valuable in both yearly and dynasty leagues. Let’s compare the two young sluggers and see who comes out on top.
[mks_one_half]Both player’s best tool is their plus power. On the 20-80 scouting scale, Baseball America graded both players power at a 70, which is consider well above average. They both use their immense raw strength and big frame to generate easy power to all fields. Just check out the video below of Judge’s blast to center field.
During their minor league careers, Bellinger was the one that showed a little more game power. Per 600 at-bats, he averaged close to 30 home runs compared to Judge’s 26. Both of these numbers are bound to rise as they mature as hitters. Judge is already learning how to use his massive frame to his advantage. No player in the majors has hit more home runs than he has through the first quarter of the season. He also plays in the better hitter’s park. Last season, Yankee stadium was the #1 ballpark for home runs while Dodger stadium ranked 20th. If Judge can start hitting to the opposite field more, his power numbers could be even better than they already are. The short right field porch in Yankee Stadium has elevated many players power numbers. If Judge starts going that way a little bit with his fly balls, watch out.[/mks_one_half]
— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) May 4, 2017
In the long run, Judge should be the one that puts up the higher power totals. There should be several 40 home runs seasons in his future and a few home run crowns. An entry into the 500 home run club is certainly a possibility for the young Yankees slugger. Bellinger feels like more of a low to mid-30’s type of home run hitter annually. All things considered, the edge hear goes to Judge.
One area that neither player will be a big contributor in is speed. Both Bellinger and Judge were given speed grades of 50 by Baseball America, which is considered average. While neither player will ever be a stolen base asset, they won’t put up goose eggs in that category either.
Judge routinely stole a handful of bases each year throughout his minor league career and already has three this year. Bellinger on the other hand, had more success stealing bags in the minors. In each year from 2014-2016, he stole between eight and ten bases. Before his call-up in late-April, Bellinger already had seven steals in just 67 at-bats. Not too shabby for a big first baseman. Each player is fast enough to steal a handful of bases annually, and Bellinger could even have a few double-digit totals in his future. Slight edge here goes to the Dodger’s new 1st baseman.
[mks_one_half]What makes these guys attractive fantasy baseball commodities is that they’re not just power-only players. They won’t be winning any batting titles or anything, but their averages should be respectable throughout their careers. When you look at their minor league batting averages and strikeout rates, you can see how close they are.[/mks_one_half]
[the_ad id=”384″]The current major league strikeout percentage sits at 24%, so both players are below average there. That’s not all that uncommon for sluggers of their caliber though. The batting averages Bellinger put up earlier in his minor league career along with his slightly better strikeout rate are what lead me to believe he’ll be the better average hitter in the long run. He hit .328 as an 18-year-old in rookie ball during the 2014 season. His average has gone down as his power has grown, but he’s talented enough that he should be able to find a nice middle ground.
After not hitting for any average at all last season, Judge has hit well over .300 in the first quarter of the 2017 season. That’s been a nice added bonus to go along with his power, but it shouldn’t last. Judge’s minor league resume suggests he should be a .260-.280 hitter in the majors. The downside of being a very tall baseball player is the larger strike zone that goes with it. Just ask Richie Sexson.
Judge and Bellinger look like they’re going to be stars in this league for a long time. Both players could see their names called in the first couple round of fantasy baseball drafts before too long. In dynasty leagues, they’re even more appealing due to how well they’ve performed at their young age. With all things considered, I’m going to give the edge to Aaron Judge. What puts him over the top will be the lineup around him. The Yankees already have several talented young hitters either already in the lineup or on the cusp of joining it. Hitting in the middle of a good lineup will help Judge’s runs scored and runs batted in totals to be in triple digits more often than not.
Power is the name of the game in fantasy and these guys have plenty of it. I’d love to have both players on my fantasy teams, but if forced to pick one, give me Judge.