All we think of is power, but New York Yankees rookie right fielder Aaron Judge has been so much more than clobbering the baseball.
When you think of New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge, you often think of long home runs with a really fast exit velocity. Why wouldn’t you?
The 25-year-old leads the American League in home runs with 15 and among the 28 baseballs that have been hit with an exit velocity of 115 mph or greater, Judge is responsible for eight of them, according to Statcast. That includes the fastest (119.4 mph) baseball hit in 2017 — a 435-foot bomb off Kevin Gausman on April 28.
Judge, however, is much more than hitting the ball out of the ballpark. Coming off a season in which he posted a wRC+ of 63 while striking out in 44.2 percent of his total plate appearances, one of the newest faces of the Yankees is displaying athleticism beyond anyone’s expectations.
In 326 total innings in right field, Judge is leading all qualified American League right fielders with seven defensive runs saved and is tied with Josh Reddick and Max Kepler with the most outfield runs saved, which evaluates an outfielder’s throwing arm based on how often runner advance on base hits and are thrown out trying to take extra bases, per FanGraphs.
During Sunday’s 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, the 6-foot-7, 282-pound outfielder did his best superhero impression by robbing Evan Longoria of a game-tying extra-base hit in the sixth inning by making a full-extension diving catch in the right-center field gap. It will not only be played on Sports Center’s Top-10 plays, but it could be an early candidate for Catch Of The Year, for sure.
“I thought it was a double for sure,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “He laid out. It’s an unbelievable play and he saved the game for us.”
According to Statcast, Judge needed 79 feet to get to that ball and used his 28.5 feet-per-second sprint speed to get there. In the midst of an airborne dive, he snared the tailing line drive despite a catch probability of only 26 percent. All in all, it was a four-star play that left many speechless.
“Judge just kind of came out of nowhere on that ball,” reliever Chad Green said. “I was just as surprised as you guys, I think. He covered a lot of ground on that and it was a huge play.”
“I just took a couple of steps and I got there,” Judge said. “I wasn’t doing it on offense (Judge finished his afternoon 0-for-4 with four strikeouts), so I had to do something on defense to help the team.”
Judge has made stellar defensive plays in 2017 before Sunday. There was the epic diving catch into the seats in Boston, a leaping catch up against the wall in Pittsburgh and even a diving catch to cap off a victory at Camden Yards.
“His defense is really good,” Girardi said. “As big as he is, we talk about the power, we can talk about the little things he does really well. And defense is not a little thing. But getting a jump on a ball, that’s a big thing, and sometimes it’s underestimated how important that is. He has the ability to throw. He just does a lot of things right.”
He might not be the most graceful-looking outfielder at 6-foot-7, but his value to the New York Yankees has been unmatched both at the dish, on the field and even on the basepaths. Aaron Judge is more than just tape measure home runs and that versatility may lead him to the AL Rookie of the Year honors.