The midseason Top 50 Prospects lists have been rolling out over the past few weeks, and as Jason reported awhile ago, pitching phenom Luis Severino broke through to make Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America's top 50. ESPN's Keith Law released his own midseason list this morning, and it has a different take. Severino did not make it, but another high-flying Yankees prospect did, at number 45: Aaron Judge.
Apologies on the Selig pic, but it's always amusing to see how much the 6'7'" Judge towers over most people around him. Some people were unsure what to expect of Judge in 2014 since he didn't play in the organization at all last year after his first round selection due to a quad issue. However, the talent that made numerous prospect evaluators like him at Fresno State prior to the draft has burst through in 2014.
The 22-year-old began the year with the Low-A Charleston RiverDogs, where he destroyed Sally League competition. He hit .333/.428/.530 with 15 doubles, nine homers, and a 165 wRC+ in 65 games. For as awesome as those numbers look, they were even more ludicrous on the road away from the pitcher-friendly Joe Riley Park: .407/.481/.637 in 30 games. That, uh, doesn't suck. Around this time, Yankees on Demand did a nice feature on him:
For his efforts, Judge was rewarded with a promotion to the High-A Tampa Yankees after the Sally League All-Star Break in mid-June, and he has continued to mash in the Florida State League. In 25 games, he's batting .287/.426/.506 with nine extra-base hits and a 172 wRC+. He's struck out around a 22% clip thus far, but he's also demonstrated impressive plate discipline with a 15.4% overall walk rate that's only jumped up since his promotion to Tampa (18.5%).
I'm not going to include all of Law's comments since it's an ESPN Insider piece behind the paywall and has tons of great information on other prospects, but here's a sample:
Judge is a beast at 6-foot-7 and 230 (or more) pounds, but with a surprisingly short path to the ball for a guy his size and plenty of loft in his finish for power. He's also quite mobile for someone his size and should be an above-average or better defender in right, with plenty of arm to stay there as well.
Although we've heard plenty about his bat, it's good to see some words on his defense, and the fact that Law appears to think highly of it is definitely refreshing. Additionally, while Peter O'Brien and probably Gary Sanchez have more pure power than Judge does, his overall game at the plate arguably makes him the best hitter in the system. Given his college pedigree, it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility to see Judge make one more jump this year to Double-A Trenton later on, if not only at the very end of the Eastern League season, as Tyler Austin did a couple years back. The key difference between Judge and Austin of course is that Judge's minor league success has not been too surprising.
The Yankees have seen plenty of hitters rise to prospect prominence over the past several years for their feats in the low minors, so Judge's success should still be taken with an air of caution. Nonetheless, it's been excellent to watch him meet the high expectations from last year head on and catch the eye of an acclaimed prospect evaluator like Law. Here's to Judge continuing his superb performance as the minor league season winds down.