With one of their three first-round picks Thursday night, the New York Yankees selected monstrous outfielder Aaron Judge out of Fresno State University at no. 32.
Before the draft, Judge was ranked 17th by Keith Law at ESPN, 24th by Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com, and 30th by Baseball America.
Judge, who stands at a towering 6-foot-7 and 255 pounds, has a very high ceiling and has been compared to Miami Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton. At an NFL tight end size, Judge is actually bigger and more athletic than the freakish Marlins phenom. As a Bulldog, Judge stole 35 bases in 40 attempts and played center field. You don’t often see a player of Judge’s size, period — but in center field? Never.
However, with his strong arm and as his body continues to develop, he’ll slide over to right field in the Yankees minor league system. While Judge’s athleticism is nice, it’s his power bat potential which enticed the Yankees to pull the trigger on him in the first round.
It took time for his power to catch up to his frame. In his freshman and sophomore seasons, despite hitting .332, he hit just six home runs in 113 games, with two of them coming off no. 1 overall pick Mark Appel. Many scouts wondered when Judge’s elite power would begin to show itself more consistently.
As a junior, Judge began to answer those questions. In 2013, he smashed 11 home runs in 52 games, almost double the production from his previous two seasons combined. He did this while also improving his average over 65 points from his 2012 season, up to .373. Combine this with great plate discipline (career .450 on base percentage), speed and athleticism, and you have a very special player on your hands.
With all these tools at such a rare size, many can’t help but wonder just how high the ceiling is for the 21-year-old. This is where the comparisons to Stanton come in. While Stanton is obviously an established MLB All-Star, Judge’s skill set is very comparable.
Judge projects to be a better base runner and similar defender. When it comes to the bat, his elite plate discipline and approach, combined with his quick-compact right-handed swing, compares favorably to Stanton when he was in the minors. What obviously made Stanton so special was the power he showed at such a young age. To this point, Judge hasn’t put up the home run totals as consistently as Stanton had.
However, with his size, he could eventually. Once Yankee coaches are able to get their hands on Judge, his power numbers should continue to improve as they did in his final season at Fresno.
If his bat ever reaches the Bronx, with his strong right-field stroke, the sky is the limit for Judge.