There are a number of situations the Yankees have to deal with next year with their up-and-coming minor league talent. One of the more interesting ones is what to do with Aaron Judge. He is easily the top hitting talent in the farm system, a fact well-known among the Yankees scouts as well as scouts from other teams. It’s tough to ignore the power-hitting potential as well as the arm strength and accuracy that he brings to the table. Will he reach the majors in 2016?
At age 23, he has demonstrated a lot of success at the plate at the AA level. He averaged about one home run per 23 plate appearances, which is where Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran landed last year for the Yankees. Last Spring, Reggie Jackson compared his hitting potential to the abilities of Dave Winfield, Willie Stargell, and Willie McCovey. His arm strength is well above average, and most scouts predict he will be a corner outfielder, probably right field. He has played center, but likely lacks the speed to cover ground well.
Despite Reggie’s ringing endorsement, there are some question marks. Most notably, after being promoted to AAA, his batting average dropped from his .284 AA average to .224. It was noticeable enough that he was not on the list of September call ups. It wasn’t a total surprise, but it shows that the Yankees don’t believe he’s a finished product quite yet. The other thing about his hitting is that many scouting reports indicate his power comes from his size and not his bat speed (he’s 6’ 7”, 275 lbs.). That limits his ability to adjust to pitches. He also needs to extend his arms for power, so he is susceptible to the inside pitch. His actual power may not live up to the hype, which makes him great trade bait.
He turns 24 in April, and unless something very unusual happens, he will celebrate his birthday in a RailRiders uniform at AAA. I think he needs to prove that the drop in hitting was an aberration and not an indicator. I expect him to come up in July, right around the trade deadline. I also expect him to be named in every trade rumor under the sun. The jury is still out in my mind on whether or not the Yankees should keep him. Regardless, his name will be on the back page throughout the summer.
--Ike Dimitriadis, BYB Senior Staff Writer
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