2015 Statistics: 124 G, .255/.330/.448, 26 doubles, 20 HR, 7 SB
2015 Level/Roster Status: Triple-A/Non-40
There are few physical specimens in baseball quite like Aaron Judge. The man who looks like a giant on the baseball field would look more at home in a football or basketball uniform. For that reason, he has drawn comparisons to Hall of Famer Dave Winfield who was selected in the NFL, NBA, and MLB drafts before eventually settling on baseball. Those comparisons didn't seem far-fetched when the Fresno State product tore through the low levels of the Yankees' minor league system with relative ease in 2014. He displayed a keen eye with solid power during stints at low-A Charleston and single-A Tampa and was nearly as impressive in 24 games during the Arizona Fall League. That earned him a well-deserved promotion to double-A Trenton out of spring training to begin the 2015 season.
Against Eastern League pitching Judge picked up right where he left off the season prior. While his raw slash line dipped a bit it still sat at an impressive .284/.350/.516 at Trenton, good for a 147 wRC+ which was right in line with what he was doing at the lower levels. By the end of June he earned another promotion to triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and just a few weeks later he represented the Yankees organization at the All-Star Futures Game during MLB All-Star game festivities in Cincinnati. With his promising play and national exposure, it was looking like Judge was on the fast track to a major league debut by season's end.
However, adjusting to triple-A proved to be a bit more difficult than anticipated for Judge. In the 61 games he played at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to end the season, his strikeout rate was a career high and he put up an unimpressive .224/.308/.373 slash line. Combine that with the fact that the Yankees had no obvious need in the outfield for the stretch run, and Judge was not called up to the Bronx in 2015. Still, he showed some pop at triple-A, homering eight times, and may have unveiled a new wrinkle to his game. He stole six bases at Scranton/Wiles-Barre after stealing only two in his minor league career to that point. If he can become a threat on the base paths it will only add to his intrigue as a freakishly athletic prospect.
No matter how he finished his 2015 season, at just 23 years old Judge still remains one of the Yankees' top prospects heading into 2016. He'll spend another spring getting plenty of at bats and learning from the veterans in Tampa and will likely open the season back at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to work on his plate approach and get the seasoning he needs. When the inevitable injury happens to one or all of Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Brett Gardner, Judge will be one of the first names mentioned as their replacement on the big league roster. Even if the injury bug doesn't hit the outfield, Judge will likely get an audition in the Bronx by the end of 2016. With Beltran's contract expiring, he'll be given every chance to take over as a key part of the Yankees' bright future.