The Yankees announced their Arizona Fall League contingent this week, as reliever Brandon Pinder, outfielders Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin, and infielders Greg Bird and Eric Jagielo will play with the Scottsdale Scorpions.
This list will likely be added to with a catcher – likely Gary Sanchez or Luis Torrens – and perhaps another pitcher.
But the man they want to see in Arizona is Judge, one of three Yankees 2013 first-round draft picks, signed to a $1.8 million bonus by scout Troy Afenir. The 6-foot-7, 255-pound native of Linden, Calif., has accorded himself quite well in his first season of professional baseball, batting .307 (142-for-462) with 17 home runs and 78 RBIs in 129 games between Class-A stops Charleston and Tampa.
He recovered fully from a torn muscle in his right leg, which precluded an appearance in the GCL or Staten Island in 2013.
“I feel good,” Judge said earlier in the 2014 season, just prior to his promotion to Tampa. “I’m just getting used to how they pitch mr and playing a full professional season for the first time.
“Otherwise, I just want to work on improving and contribute to whatever team I’m on.”
Some have asked, with his size, is Judge’s swing long? Perhaps a bit, but he compensates. He has good plate management as well. Certainly a power hitter will ring up his share of strikeouts – he has fanned 131 times – and has drawn 86 walks and hit 24 doubles. And, for the sabermetrics side, his OBP is .416, SLG .487 and OPS .903.
By the numbers, if he records an OPS of .903 on the big-league level, he;d be labeled a star. Let’s not put the cart before the horse, however.
As he says, Judge is still a player looking to get better. He works hard. After the AFL, there is little doubt, playing at age 23, he’ll start at Double-A Trenton in 2015 if all goes well.
Having only seen Judge play live twice, I have to rely on the numbers as well. One can say the future Yankees outfield star – he has enough speed and ability in route-running and tracking the ball to perform in center field. As a corner, Judge, who played his college ball at Fresno State, is a potential star, with a plus-arm.
At the plate, he knows it’s not all hitting home runs.
“You have to take what they give you sometimes,” Judge said. “Get the hits first, and the home runs will come.”
This also is no future Adam Dunn. Judge is being compared by some scouts to Giancarlo Stanton. If the Yankees can develop something close to Stanton, nobody in their corner would complain.
Nobody knows what will happen with a top pick. This is a man who both drew football-scholarship offers out of high school and was drafted in the 31st round by the Oakland Athletics. On the basketball court, he is compared to Blake Griffin.
The athleticism was there, but would it translate into baseball potential and success?
Over 129 games this season, Judge has shown he has an advanced approach in a few areas. His effort his season, along with Greg Bird’s performance at Tampa and Trenton, allowed the Yankees to trade Peter O’Brien to Arizona for Martin Prado.
Judge is just one of several Yankees farmhands to emerge in 2014. This was an excellent season as far as development is concerned for the Yankees system, something we will discuss in-depth shortly – capped off by pitcher Shane Greene filling a spot in the Yankees rotation.
Meanwhile, a certain Judge is ready to prepare opening arguments to a desert jury in a few weeks.