NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 04: Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees hits during summer workouts at Yankee Stadium on July 04, 2020 in the Bronx borough of New York City.
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

While 60 games may be too few for a baseball season, New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge might truly benefit from the shortened year.

Allison Case

Hailed the Big Man on Campus, for obvious reasons, Aaron Judge has etched himself into New York Yankees lore after putting together an impressive 2017 rookie campaign. Now, entering 2020, questions loom over whether Judge can remain healthy.

Well, the odds are in his favor this season. If anything, this is the prime opportunity for Judge to increase his value and become a player who’s worthy of a massive deal in free agency.

Judge has two more seasons of arbitration before becoming an unrestricted free agent heading into the 2023 season at 31 years old. He’s also had two seasons cut short by injuries, both factors that play into arbitration meetings and future free agency.

This offseason has also been a struggle for the massive right fielder. He’s been battling a nagging rib injury that turned out to be a broken rib from a dive in September. If the season started per usual, the Yankees would’ve yet to see Judge man the short porch. That means the slugger would’ve already missed 80 games and, even if he played every single matchup thereafter, he wouldn’t reach over 100 games for the season.

Not only is this disappointing for the fan who pays to watch Judge do otherworldly things at the plate and in the field. But, it’s additionally disappointing for Judge himself, who is not helping his value with consistent injuries and missing time.

While the season this year is both unique and unprecedented, this might be the ideal opportunity for Judge to prove he can still put up impressive numbers and stay healthy.

It’s a small step for No. 99, seeing as how he just needs to make it through 60 games in order to complete a full season. That small step comes with its own challenges though. Judge now carries a reputation for missing out on large chunks of the season due to injury. It’s important to recognize that Judge’s two biggest injuries weren’t of wear-and-tear, but due to a diving catch along with a freak accident at the plate.

Judge is on the right track so far. While Yankees camp just opened up, Judge impressed early by taking Gerrit Cole deep in a simulated game. He also took massive cuts in the cage, resulting in multiple homers. He has fans back on his side, cautiously, as the concern still remains in regards to his injury history.

If Judge wants to earn a fair shot at free agency and arbitration agreements, now’s the time to perform. The shortened season gives him the benefit of completing an entire season quickly instead of suffering from fatigue later in the year and coming back down to earth.

Not only that, but Judge has quickly become a figure that many have determined as a captain-like character. His role with the team goes beyond his play on the field. If the Yankees want to ever consider him as their next captain, Judge will need to stay on the field and prove his value on all fronts.

Judge always starts the season off strong, batting .305 combined in the months of March, April, and May for his career. He doesn’t possess the chance to garner fatigue because the season has dwindled. Now all that remains is for him to stay healthy, bringing his A-game each time he steps onto the outfield grass.

With the season having been delayed and now shortened, it’s as though the baseball gods are smiling down on Judge. If there was ever a season made for the big man, it’s this one. And if he doesn’t take advantage of this sparkling opportunity, it’ll be his biggest regret.

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