Despite a recent improvement, the Yankees offense still ranks second-to-last over the last 30 days with a 78 wRC+. That will need to change soon if the team wants to have any chance of making a real run at the division, or even the playoffs. Injuries have not helped the matter, as key pieces of the offense and rotation have gone down with various ailments, and now the team has been called out by their owner. Brian Cashman already said that nothing drastic will happen...yet, but if things continue, something will have to change. It appears that the Yankees are preparing for that possibility as we speak.
ESPN writer Andrew Marchand reported that outfield prospect Aaron Judge is being prepared for a big league role, if he's needed. The big right-hander has been groomed as a future big league right fielder, but now the Yankees are preparing him for anything by putting him in both left and center field as well. Despite his size, Judge is surprisingly nimble in the outfield and played center field in college, so he should be at least serviceable out there. He has a strong arm, and having both Aaron Hicks and Judge in the outfield would be a welcome change over the noodle arms of Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury.
Eligible for the Rule 5 Draft in the winter, it was likely that he would have made the majors at some point just like Greg Bird did last year. There's no telling how aggressive they will be with Judge from here, but he's already started appearing in left and center for Scranton. If things don't turn around at the big league level, expect the Yankees to try anything they can to stay afloat before the trade deadline–no one is ready to talk about selling yet. Judge made sense as a September call-up, but we could see him in a matter of weeks, depending on what happens from here.
He doesn't necessarily fit onto the roster as it is constructed right now, but things could change if more injuries strike or someone gets the boot. The Yankees would likely only call him up if he could get regular–or even semi-regular–playing time, so given how their outfield depth currently works, Hicks would have to go down for Judge to get a chance. Both can play all three outfield positions, and as another right-hander, Judge can easily fit into Hicks' role. It's unlikely he would be called up so early into the season, but the Yankees must be preparing him for a reason.
If they plan to get rid of someone, I nominate Dustin Ackley because he doesn't really have much of a role on this team, hasn't hit much, and can't seem to play any of his FIVE positions very well. He's supposed to be the backup first baseman, but there's no reason they can't have Chase Headley or Brian McCann be that guy. Judge would at least give them a better bat, and another right-handed one at that.
According to Marchand, Judge is "concentrating on going the other way so he can stay back on off-speed pitches, which could cut down on his 39 strikeouts." As a six-foot-seven monster in the batters box, strikeouts are going to happen, but he has yet to have a strikeout rate lower than 20% in his three professional seasons. Right now, Judge has vastly improved his numbers in Triple-A, hitting .257/.311/.459 with seven homers on the year already.
A call-up isn't imminent, but he's getting closer. We should see him sometime this year, but it all depends on this adjustment period (so far so good), and what the big league club needs. Judge has his flaws, so fans will need to be patient with him, but if all goes well we could have a valuable homegrown player on our hands.