After many questions surrounding how Aaron Judge will follow up a dismal cameo in 2016, the New York Yankees surely love the answers.
For the 6-foot-7 Aaron Judge, one of the faces of the new generation of New York Yankees baseball, there isn’t a ton of weight on his gigantic shoulders.
He has batted towards the bottom third in manager Joe Girardi‘s order for the bulk of the first two weeks of the 2017 regular season and has also supplied a spark to an offense without Gary Sanchez or Greg Bird.
Through eight games, the 24-year-old owns a .308/.379/.692 slash line while walking three times and striking out just six times in 26 at-bats. Sure, it’s a small sample size, but the monstrous rookie has cut down on the strikeouts and has absolutely mashed so far this April.
In Wednesday’s 8-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, that power was on full display. With his club trailing 3-2, Judge squared up a 98.4 mph fastball from Jumbo Diaz and basted it back where it came from for a game-tying single. The ball left the bat at an unbelievable 116.5 mph — the fastest hit in major league baseball this season, according to Statcast.
Judge’s display of power wasn’t done there. Facing Erasmo Ramirez in the bottom of the seventh, the rookie out of Fresno State sealed the Yankees’ third straight win with a two-run, 437-foot bomb into Monument Park in center field.
Overall, Judge went 2-for-3 with two runs, that towering moonshot and three RBI’s. He has now gone yard in three straight contests and is promptly verifying that his strength in the minor leagues can translate quite nicely to the bigs.
While we don’t expect 162 homers this season nor anticipate his current 23 percent strikeout rate to stand pat over the course of the regular season, his aggressive approach is currently making the slugger a difference-maker in a Yankees’ lineup that hasn’t seen much pop over the last few years.
No Yankees’ right fielder has hit 30 or more since Gary Sheffield hit 34 dingers in 2005, a year in with the Yankees won 95 games. The player to do it before Sheffield? Reggie Jackson back in 1980, when New York emerged as victors in 103 games.
No, Judge continuing at a 30-homer pace won’t confirm a postseason spot (although it does help), but continuously coming through with timely hits in stress-filled situations certainly will.
In two of the last three games, Judge has come through with three long balls, two game-tying hits and six total RBI’s — earning him the sixth-best Clutch rating in the American League.
How important is this surge of timely hits and booming power? Well, just imagine what the lineup will look like when Sanchez, Bird and Didi Gregorius return to a lineup that includes Judge making Statcast history. The Yankees may once again live up to their “Bronx Bomber” nickname.