2016 Statistics: 93 G, 410 PA, .270/.366/.489, 19 HR, 11.5 BB%, 23.9 K% (AAA)
27 G, 95 PA, .179/.263/.345, 4 HR, 9.5 BB%, 44.2 K% (MLB)
2016 Roster Status: On the 40-man roster
Just three years after he was drafted, Aaron Judge reached the majors. In a brief amount of time, so much was expected from him. He would be part of the next core of Yankees greats, he was going to hit so many home runs, he would be the next starting outfielder. The 2016 season held a lot of promise for Judge, it’s just too bad it ended on a disappointing note.
When he was first drafted, everyone expected Judge to be a blind power hitter. Someone who would strikeout a lot, but hit a ton of home runs, and maybe walk a decent amount. It came as a surprise when Judge performed as more of a line drive hitter, forsaking the dinger for a nice, clean double instead. Three years in, and he averaged about 20 home runs a season. Some were worried that his power wasn’t developing enough, but they were missing just how good a hitter he was.
Judge might have seen some time in the majors last year if he hadn’t faltered in Triple-A. 2016 was different, and he performed well, for most of the season. His numbers were skewed a bit by a terrible month of May, but from June until his call-up in August, Judge hit .317/.444/.609 with 12 home runs. The only thing that could have slowed him down was a knee injury that cost him most of July, but he came out swinging in his return before his promotion.
He looked like he would be the next big thing. In his major league debut, he knocked a home run off the center field restaurant at Yankee Stadium. He had arrived. Unfortunately, the magic faded there, and for the rest of the season he struggled to adjust to major league pitching. Everything that we worried he could end up being looked true as he struck out 44 times in just 95 plate appearances. Even at his worst, he had Gary Sanchez to take the attention off of his woes. Thanks, buddy!
The good news is that it’s hard to really make any kind of judgement after just 27 games. While at first glance he might have looked overmatched, there is also evidence that he just wasn’t comfortable during his at-bats, often allowing strikes down the middle to go by and swinging at balls in the dirt. It was incredibly disappointing to see Judge do so little in the time he was allotted, but he is only 24, and he should get plenty of opportunities to prove himself going forward.
Brian Cashman mentioned Judge would have to fight for a spot on the roster next year, but that doesn’t mean anything. He would have said something like this no matter what Judge did. The Yankees don’t give their prospects anything. Unless you’re Gary Sanchez. Given his competition is Aaron Hicks and a few other depth guys, we should see Judge in the majors a lot next season. Hopefully he will take his experience and build off it like he has done after every new level he sees.