Aaron Judge stands 6-foot-7 and weighs 282 pounds. His courtroom is the batter’s box and he casts an intimidating shadow over it. His gavel of choice is a baseball bat and he rules with stern objectiveness. All pitches are guilty and must be banished beyond the outfield fence.
The 25-year-old outfielder hit his Major League-leading 13th home run Wednesday night in the New York Yankees’ 8-6 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays. His torrid start has helped the division-leading Bronx Bombers to a surprising 17-9 start.
Judge is only the second right-handed batter to blast 13 homers in his team’s first 26 games (Willie Mays). He’s doing this with all of 27 games of experience coming into this season. Perhaps most impressively, he’s eclipsing the historic display then-rookie and teammate Gary Sanchez put on last year.
Sanchez hit 20 home runs and drove in 42 in 201 at-bats over 53 games after being called up to the majors. This was enough to earn him second place in American League Rookie of the Year voting. His outburst looks somewhat pedestrian compared to the numbers Judge is posting.
Sanchez hit .299 with an OPS of 1.032 and a socked a home run every 10.05 at-bats. Judge is hitting .330 with an OPS of 1.251 and is homering once every 6.76 at-bats. He leads the league in runs (28), RBI (27) and slugging (.818).
As scary as it is when Judge squares up a baseball, it’s what he does when he misses the sweet spot that’s truly terrifying for opposing teams. His ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark — especially batter-friendly Yankee Stadium — while being fooled or jammed on pitches is a trait not likely to go away. Judge isn’t getting any smaller or less strong.
Sure, there is no way he can keep up this torrid pace. But it’s size and athleticism never go into a slump. It’s naive to think Judge will continue to benefit from a greater margin for error when it comes to putting the right part of the bat on the ball.
Yankees brain trust gush with praise over Judge’s mental makeup in this thorough profile by Ken Rosenthal. Joe Girardi says Judge has a little bit of Derek Jeter in him. This is the kind of quote that could cause hysteria even in usually hysteria-numb New York.
What he’s doing is a big deal. And there’s reason to think it will grow into something more. Being the main man on the most glorified team in sports in the toughest media market takes broad shoulders. Judge has them.
It’s possible we’re witnessing the birth of the next Yankees great. If so, it’d be great for the sport. Judge has a unique look and marketability. It’s worth nothing, though, that only 12 players over 6-foot-6 have collected 1,000 career hits. Dave Winfield is the only one to have a Hall of Fame career.
But if the Yankees’ brass truly believe half of what they say about the guy, he could become the 13th member of that club and post huge power numbers.
No objections here.