The New York Yankees announced this morning that rookie Aaron Judge has won the right field job and will man the position on Opening Day. Judge beat out Aaron Hicks for the job, thanks to an excellent spring training performance (.345/.406/.569 in 58 at-bats).
Judge ranked 10th on the pre-spring training Minor League Ball New York Yankees Top 20 prospects list with the following comment:
10) Aaron Judge, OF, Grade B/B-: Age 24, first-round pick in 2013 out of Fresno State University; hit .270/.366/.489 with 19 homers, 47 walks, 98 strikeouts in 352 at-bats in Triple-A, then .179/.263/.345 with four homers and 42 strikeouts in 84 at-bats in the majors until going down with oblique injury; massive power (at least a 60, some say 70) in 6-7, 275 pound frame, but strikeout problems are equally massive; had made progress with his swing in Triple-A but major league hitters exposed more holes; may struggle to hit .230 but will crush mistakes; ETA 2017.
As noted he had serious contact problems in his MLB debut last summer but appears to have made necessary adjustments this spring. Locking down the swing mechanics was his main goal when training camp began, as noted by Mike Mazzeo in the New York Daily News back in January.
There was some confusion early about whether he had eliminated a leg kick or not (per Parker White at 12up), but the need for adjustments wasn’t only mechanical. He was vulnerable to soft pitches outside the strike zone as well as fastballs inside, as noted by Ben Diamond in early March, but those issues have improved as well.
Can he sustain it over a full season? The objective projection systems, which know nothing about spring swing adjustments, give mixed results. Steamer projects him at .248/.324/.446. ZIPS is pessimistic on batting average and OBP but likes his isolated power at .229/.301/.473. Baseball Prospectus posits a .236/.324/.436 line.
There’s really no question about Judge’s power. Can he hit .250 and post a reasonable OBP? Spring training implies “yes,” but we’ll have to see if major league pitchers agree in April and May.