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Yankees mailbag: MLB’s Arizona plan, and Aaron Judge vs. Pete Alonso and Mark McGwire

Get your answers to this week’s mailbag.

MLB: New York Yankees at New York Mets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Good afternoon everybody, it’s the end of another week, which means we are, at least in theory, one week closer to Opening Day. Here are the answers for this week’s mailbag. Remember to send in your questions for our weekly call by e-mail to pinstripealleyblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

Steve B asks: With all of the discussion about MLB playing the 2020 season in FL and/or AZ, including at open-air minor league facilities, has any concern been raised about the extreme heat in which teams would be playing during summer months? MLB teams residing in those states have enclosed or retractable-roof stadiums to avoid the heat, but others would be playing outdoors. Do you see this being a problem?

This has definitely been raised as one of the problems with MLB’s apparent plan to start up play in one or two states. Staging a season entirely from Arizona in particular could force players to suit up in dangerously high temperatures.

According to Weather Underground’s historical figures, the average high temperature in Phoenix in August of 2018 was 103.9 degrees Fahrenheit. On rare occasions did the temperature even drop below 80 degrees. Teams playing at the Diamondbacks’ Chase Field would be fine, but I find it incredibly difficult to envision players taking the field consistently with temperatures soaring into the triple digits.

Florida weather would pose less of a threat. The average high in August 2018 in Tampa came in at about 91 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s still a fair bit hotter than, say, a typical New York City summer, but seemingly less treacherous to the health of the players. Regardless, unless MLB can find a way to run a full season in facilities that can protect players from the sweltering heat, the prospect of an oppressive summer is a legitimate issue with the league’s restart plans.

J.A. Salazar asks: If you had to choose a rookie from the past to be on your team (not looking at career overall, just the rookie year) between Mark McGwire, Aaron Judge, and Pete Alonso, who would you pick, and who had the best rookie year numbers overall?

If I’m reading this question correctly, we actually have two prompts here: which of these three players had the best rookie season, and which player would you take for their career, based solely off their rookie seasons.

The reason J.A. has highlighted this trio is clear, as they are forever linked by their record-setting home run totals as rookies. McGwire hit a then-record 49 homers in 1987 for the Athletics, Judge smashed 52 dingers in 2017 with the Yankees, and Alonso quickly broke Judge’s record with 53 homers for the Mets last season.

I think the first question, about which rookie campaign was the best, is fairly straightforward. Judge’s rookie season might be the best non-Mike Trout debut campaign in the history of the game. In the past 100 years, Judge’s 8.3 fWAR in 2017 is topped only by Trout’s 10.1 fWAR mark from his 2012 rookie season.

While Alonso and McGwire kept pace with Judge in terms of homers during their rookie seasons, Judge’s overall campaign simply outpaces the other two. Judge backed up his prodigious power with a proclivity for getting on-base, running a stellar .422 OBP, compared to .370 and .358 figures from McGwire and Alonso, respectively. Moreover, Judge handled his right field position aplomb, while McGwire and Alonso each played the less valuable first base.

Because of that, I would argue Judge is also the answer to the second question regarding whose career one should take just based on these rookie seasons, but I don’t think the answer is as clear cut. The best argument for Judge is that his performance was the best, yet that’s not the only factor to consider when projecting a rookie’s future.

Age complicates matters. Judge was two years older than McGwire as a rookie, and a year older than Alonso. Judge also probably had more question marks regarding his long-term durability just based on his sheer size. At 6-foot-7 and 285 lbs, Judge has 40 pounds on Alonso’s listed weight, and 70 on McGwire.

All that said, based just on their rookie seasons, I’d still have taken Judge’s career going forward, even if he was older and had question marks regarding how well his enormous body would age. His rookie season was that good, and he contributed to winning baseball in more ways than Alonso and McGwire did, providing value with power, patience, fielding and baserunning. He was the more well-rounded player, one that will hopefully fend off age-related decline with his diverse set of skills.

Larry S asks: How about starting the season with the Yankees and Dodgers playing for the 2017 championship at Minute Maid Park in Houston?

My head says no, but my heart says yes.