It’s always been funny to me as a long time New York Yankees fan when it comes to prospect talk. Yankees fans seemingly automatically think the next big name prospect they hear about is the answer to all of the problems on the big league level. Remember when Jesus Montero was the next Jorge Posada?
It’s understandable. Since Gene Michael left the Bronx the Yankees haven’t had much of an elite farm system. They haven’t had many high draft picks to hang the future hopes upon. They have had elite prospects, so when you heard about them, you instantly began thinking that they were a can’t-miss, future All Star.
Aaron Judge is going through this right now. Carlos Beltran is struggling, and at 39, it shouldn’t be unexpected. Thus, the entire Yankees Universe is calling for Judge to replace Beltran in right field and to move forward with the youth movement.
The question is, what has Judge done in the minor leagues to warrant a promotion?
He has definitely exhibited big league stuff. We all know the skinny on Judge by now. He is a monster, garnering comparisons to Giancarlo Stanton since the day he put on his Tampa Yankees uniform. He stands at 6 foot 7 and weighs 275 pounds and he swings his bat like a caveman swing his club.
That’s the exciting part of Judge. He has a real pretty, balanced swing, which enables him to actually use his power very well to all fields. He shifts his weight beautifully into the pitches he likes and he launches moonshots. When he gets a hold of one, there is little that is more fun and exciting to watch.
The problem is when he doesn’t get a hold of one, which has been more often than not. Judge has been in two Major League spring trainings, he has tagged big league pitchers for home runs. There is no denying his raw power. The question arises in whether Judge will be the next Chris Carter or indeed the next Giancarlo.
Judge has the swing mechanics to succeed. He has surprising speed for someone of his height to be a successful base stealer in the bigs. That speed and his arm help him in right field as he is a very underrated and solid outfielder. The problem is his contact.
Judge dominated lower level pitching as a well-rounded hitter. He launched his signature home runs while batting .280 to .300 in doing so. His arrival in Triple-A last summer right up to the now has not been the same story.
Judge’s Triple-A debut at the end of 2015 did not go well. He slashed .224/.308/.373, well below both his career levels and expectations. More alarming, he struck out a career high 28.5-percent of the time (74 times in 260 plate appearances). This season, has been more of the same. His batting average is a bit deceiving sitting at .284 (heading into this weekend), considering he currently has a nice .354 BABIP compared to last seasons .289. His plate discipline is troubling.
Perhaps the lofty expectations of Judge have him pressing. You simply can’t overlook the fact that his strikeout rate is nearly identical to the small sample size of last season’s Triple-A numbers (27.2-percent). It has to be at least a slight bit worrisome that this is a trend and not a slump. His walk right is dropping daily to a new career low (6.8-percent or eight walks in 103 plate appearances).
Again, I get it. The Yankees are an old team and for the first time in a long time, they have some hope on the farm. Judge is 24-years old and not your typical 21-year old young stud, but his age should not determine his arrival date.
Judge has the tools to succeed in the bigs today. He could be a solid right fielder and be able to raise Yankees fans to their feet with monumental long balls. But if the Yankees exhibit patience, and let Judge learn how to hit advanced pitching, his potential is limitless. He could be that All Star they have long been searching for as one of the more well-rounded outfielders in the game with just a little more work.