With the lack of offensive power the New York Yankees have experienced over the last few years, Aaron Judge could illuminate the blackout.
The New York Yankees have always been an organization driven by two things that go hand in hand: championships and power. Hence, the Bronx Bombers.
In every season New York has hit 200 or more home runs, they have entered the postseason. In six of those seasons, they used the power as a fuse to spark a World Series run.
Recently, however, that has not been the case and it is a primary cause of the Yankees lack of success — something the organization demands on an annual basis.
Since 2000, the Bombers have hit over 200 total home runs in 13 seasons. In all 13 of these seasons, the Yankees tasted the champagne that was popped to honor a postseason appearance. In the four sub-200 home run seasons (’08, ’13, ’14 and ’16), they hung their heads in defeat as they knew they had to hit the golf course a little early.
In 2016, Carlos Beltran, a man traded to the Texas Rangers on August 1 and only played in 99 games with the Yankees, led the team with 22 home runs.
It marked just the third year since 2009 that no Yankee reached the 30 home run plateau. The other seasons? 2014 and 2013. What do all three years have in common? Those were years in which major league baseball’s postseason didn’t include the Yankees.
Everyone will acknowledge that home runs aren’t the only source of runs. However, you can’t deny the trend New York has encountered. And one man who can most definitely help change the narrative is Aaron Judge.
Even before he lifted a 449-foot moonshot during the Yankees 9-4 win over the Phillidalphia Phillies on Friday, we knew that Judge, at his greatest potential, could help the Yankees’ lineup become an inexhaustible one.
— Elite Sports NY (@EliteSportsNY) February 24, 2017
The strikeout total was a concern during the 6-foot-7 slugger’s first stint in the majors, but when he made contact, NASA had to worry about a new comet flying through the atmosphere.
Judge’s average exit velocity on batted balls, according to Statcast, was 96.82 mph. That was good enough for the highest average exit velocity in baseball ahead of Nelson Cruz (96.2 mph) and Giancarlo Stanton (95.9 mph).
The average distance his batted balls traveled was 249.67 feet while the average in baseball was 218.08. His average generated velocity was 8.00 mph. League average was 1.45.
He has the ability to make the scoreboard at George M. Steinbrenner Field one of many scoreboards that his home runs reach in 2017. But the one hindrance that many will point to is that Judge struggled mightily after destroying a pitch for his first major league home run in his first at-bat.
From Aug. 22, 2016, on, the monstrous outfielder slashed .121/.212/.241 and hit just two home runs in 20 games while striking out in half of his total at-bats. So, while exit velocity and spring training bombs are fun to watch, setting the Yankees’ record for the most strikeouts (42) within a player’s first 27 games is certainly a cause for concern.
However, Judge’s track record provides a silver lining that yes, he’ll strike out a ton, but his power translates well to higher levels when given time to adjust.
Upon his promotion from Double-A Trenton to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2015, Judge saw his OPS drop from .866 to .680 while also watching his strikeout rate climb from 28 percent to 32. He bounced back the following year by smashing 19 home runs in just 93 games and bringing his OPS back up to an impressive .854.
In the majors, his OPS dipped to .608 while the major league curveball seemed impossible for the 24-year old to figure out.
Thanfully for the Yankees’ 1st round choice of the 2013 draft out of Fresno State, he’s projected to maintain the narrative and develop into the player scouts have anticipated.
FanGprahs’ ZiPS projection is calling for a .229/.301/.473 with 30 home runs, 83 RBI’s and an OPS of .774 in 467 at-bats. They are also predicting a strikeout rate of 34.3 percent, which isn’t ideal, but overall, that production is something the Yankees would love to see.
Those 30 home runs and 83 RBI’s would have led the 2016 team. That home run total would also make Judge the first Yankees’ right fielder to hit 30 or more since Gary Sheffield hit 34 dingers in 2005.
The player to do it before Sheffield? Reggie Jackson back in 1980.
That mixed with the potential of Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Matt Holliday and Chris Carter could bring the Yankees back to what they’ve grown accustomed to as an organization: slugging their way to the postseason.
Obviously, Judge can’t do this all by himself. New York will require harmonious pop from all sources in order to affect the win column in the positive direction. But, there is a power outage in the Bronx, and Aaron Judge will have an enormous bearing on bringing light to the end of the tunnel.