NEW YORK, NEW YORK - AUGUST 03: Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees makes an out on a fly ball in the right field during the fifth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Yankee Stadium on August 03, 2020 in the Bronx borough of New York City.
(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge was one of the hottest players in baseball before his injury. Can he pick up where he left off?

New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge was on fire before a calf strain sent him to the 10-day injured list. Judge was named AL Player of the Week for the week of July 27-Aug. 2 and showed no signs of slowing down.

In Episode 9 of the Yankees-Mets Express podcast, I predicted that Judge would be named the 2020 AL MVP. He’d be on a mission after missing almost two months of action in both 2018 and 2019.

Judge also finished second in AL MVP voting during his rookie season in 2017, losing to second baseman Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros. Many felt as though Judge was robbed, especially after news of the Astros’ cheating scandal broke.

Judge is playing with a purpose and will look to capture the award that eluded him three years ago. The time off will certainly hurt his chances but with the season on hold as a result of Mets COVID-19 positive tests, he should be back in the lineup whenever the Yankees resume play.

Judge emerged on the scene in 2017, taking the baseball world by storm when he set a new record for most home runs hit by a rookie, capturing the AL Rookie of the Year Award in the process.

Judge had one of the greatest rookie seasons of all time. His rise also marked the end of the Yankees’ rebuild as he led his team to Game 7 of the ALCS.

He’s now a face of baseball, one of the best right fielders in the majors, and one of the best players in the world. Judge’s status was up in the air prior to the 2020 season and the delay due to the COVID-19 outbreak definitely worked to his favor.

He was dealing with soreness during spring training. It was revealed that he had suffered a stress fracture in his ribs in September 2019 and had still not recovered.

However, the postponement of Opening Day until July allowed him to heal and he looked good as new when he was on the field.

In 17 games this season, Judge is slashing .290/.343/.758 with a 1.101 OPS and 201 OPS+. He led the entire league in home runs with nine, RBIs with 20, total bases with 47, and in slugging percentage at the time of his injury.

Judge’s stellar defense in right will also help his case. He’s one of the best overall players in baseball when healthy.

Judge missed extensive time in the past two seasons, which is why fans were so worried about his rib injury during spring training. This current calf strain only appears to be a minor roadblock and while it will hurt his MVP chances, he’s not out of the running yet. Los Angeles Angels superstar Mike Trout is making a strong case for himself, as usual.

What makes Judge even more impressive is his clutch gene. On Aug. 3, when he hit six home runs in five straight games, he became the first player in MLB history to hit five go-ahead home runs in his team’s first eight games of the season.

He fuels the Yankees’ offense and will look to lead them on a deep playoff run. It’s going to be tough to win the MVP after missing some time, but it’s not impossible.

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