clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Yankees prospect Aaron Judge has passed every test so far

New, comments

The Yankees rolled the dice with the 32nd pick of the 2013 draft. So far, their gamble has paid off, as Aaron Judge has raked his way to Triple-A.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

With the 32nd overall pick of the 2013 draft, the Yankees selected the Incredible Hulk Aaron Judge, a 6'7" outfielder from Fresno State. As a tall baseball player, the main concern was that he was simply too big to keep up with high velocity pitching. Here is what Kiley McDaniel had to say about him after he got drafted:

Note: when he says Judge excelled on Sundays, he is referring to the fact that most college baseball teams will use their ace on Fridays and progress through the rotation as the weekend goes by. So there were questions about Judge's ability to do three things: make contact, develop in-game power, and handle premium pitching.

After tearing the cover off the ball in spring training, Judge was sent to Double-A Trenton. He finished the 2014 season in High-A Tampa and went on to play in the Arizona Fall League. In Trenton, a couple of things happened. First, despite playing in a pitcher- friendly park, he set a career high in isolated power with .232. On the 20-80 scale, Fangraphs gave him a 70 in raw power, but understandably gave him just a 20 in game power. Judge's 12 home runs in 63 games suggest that he is finding a way to use his strength against live pitching.

Second, he continued to maintain a high BABIP, despite his lack of elite speed. During spring training, he reportedly met with former Yankee and Hall of Famer Dave Winfield. Winfield gave him a lot of solid advice including the following, as detailed in the New York Post:

"I tell people one out of 10 fly balls are hits, two to three out of 10 ground balls are hits, seven out of 10 line drives are hits, so get you a good level swing and use the whole field"

Judge has taken that advice to heart. According to Minor League Central, he put up a line drive rate of 25.7%, well above the league average of 18.4%. He has also shown the ability to use all fields, as shown by his spray chart at Trenton (courtesy of MLB Farm):

While he has pulled his groundballs, as all hitters are apt to do, he has shown the ability to hit line drives to all fields. But perhaps the most encouraging sign is the lack of flyouts to left field. Only two or three of his flyouts were pulled, probably because most of his flyballs to left field ended up leaving the yard. In other words, when Judge gets his pitch, he isn't very likely to miss.

Judge is going to strike out wherever he goes. But what matters are that he keeps his K's under control and continues to make quality contact. He hasn't let strikeouts derail his progress and is starting to recruit some of that raw power in games. With the Yankees outfield logjam lasting through 2016, he figures to have a year and a half to prove that he can handle the more advanced pitching at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. If he can do that, he will find himself in pinstripes sooner rather than later.