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Yankees Prospect Profile: Aaron Judge

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The pride of the Yankees' 2013 draft class had a tremendous first professional season in 2014, but can he do it again?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Background

The top position player prospect in the Yankees' system, Aaron Judge was selected by the Yanks with the 32nd overall pick in the 2013 Draft, the compensation for the Yankees losing Nick Swisher to the Indians in free agency. (There's a delightfully weird roster tree dating Judge's spot all the way back to 1990.) Judge was a star at Cal State-Fresno, where he hit .346/.451/.528 over three seasons for the Bulldogs, and his power potential took off during his junior year, when he mashed 31 extra-base hits in 56 games.

The 6'7" slugger was imposing but impressive, displaying a potent bat that could generate more line drive bullets than expected. However, Judge was a bit of a mystery heading into the 2014 campaign since he didn't play a game for the Yankees after the draft due to a lingering quad injury. There were high expectations, and Judge more than lived up to them.

2014 Results

Tampa (A+): 66 G, .283/.411/.442, 9 2B, 8 HR, 72 K, 149 wRC+, 2.9 WARP
Charleston (A): 65 G, .333/.428/.530, 15 2B, 9 HR, 59 K, 167 wRC+, 3.1 WARP

Some scouts thought the Yankees were playing it a bit too safe with Judge by starting him in Low-A with the RiverDogs. Sure enough, he tore up the competition in the Sally League, making their All-Star team and earning a promotion to High-A Tampa after just two months. Judge generated crazy statistics in Low-A, but my favorite one by far was the fact that away from the pitcher-friendly Riley Park in Charleston, he hit .407/.481/.637 in 30 games. That is... not normal.

The Florida State League didn't really fare that much better when Judge was at the plate. He still hit well above league average while also demonstrating above-average defense with a strong arm in right field according to Keith Law. Judge followed his great year by hitting .278/.377/.467 with 9 extra-base hits in 24 Arizona Fall League games, another fine performance. All year long, evaluators like Law were also pleasantly surprised by his swing. Although he struck out quite a bit, his swing was compact and quick to the ball, leading to not only some power, but also high contact. Unlike Peter O'Brien, he can work a walk in addition to hitting long balls. Since he's so big, the strikeouts come with the territory--just ask 6'6" Giancarlo Stanton and his 28.1% strikeout rate (Judge fanned 25.3% of the time in High-A). It's hard to not be excited watching him swing the bat.

Judge swing

2015 Outlook

It seems like Judge is a shoo-in for a spot in the Double-A Trenton outfield. The far superior pitching in the high minors and another tough home park for hitters will certainly offer him a challenge. Of course what's scary is that even though he belted 21 homers overall last year, the scouts think that he has yet to truly tap into his power potential. He only turns 23 in late April and he's still maturing as a prospect. According to Kiley McDaniel at FanGraphs, the Yankees have let Judge develop his swing on his own, often telling McDaniel that they "just stay out of his way."

We'll see if Judge's way works in Trenton and possibly Scranton in 2015, but the early returns have been overwhelmingly positive. He's a Top 50 prospect in baseball and arguably the best in the Yankees' system.

Judge law