Aaron Judge: What Should the Yankees Do With the OF?

Aug 17, 2016; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) reacts during an at bat against the Toronto Blue Jays during the sixth inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 17, 2016; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) reacts during an at bat against the Toronto Blue Jays during the sixth inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports /

Since being called up on August 13th, Aaron Judge has gone from a powerful threat to a strikeout machine. What should the Yankees do with him?

It was quite the story. Aaron Judge was inserted into the New York Yankees’ starting lineup at home on August 13th. Rookies Tyler Austin and Judge did the impossible when they became the first players making their big-league debuts to hit back-to-back homers. Since both have struggled tremendously.

For years now, Judge has been seen as someone in the organization that will be the future of the Yankees’ outfield. At 6-foot-7, 275 pounds, Judge clearly has the natural strength to be a prolific home-run hitter and have an arm in the outfield that can get outs with consistency.

Yet a hot start that saw five hits in his first three games, Judge is currently in and out of the lineup with a batting average of .222. He’s in a slump where he’s had only one hit in his past 18 at bats.

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Fortunately for Judge, the Yankees are going to ride out their youth movement and keep inserting him into the starting lineup. Despite being four games back in the wild card race, the Yankees are committed to the future and that’s where Judge can find some solace.

With about 35 games to go in the season, Judge is going to continue to get at bats and improve upon some of the issues he’s dealt with in the past two weeks.

I never expected Judge to hit over .300 every year, but he will need to find a way to hit around .250 if he wants to make an everyday contribution going forward.

For Judge, fastballs have not come at a premium. Instead, the 24-year-old has been given curveballs and off-speed pitches that have resulted in his power being put to the side.

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Hitting coaches Alan Cockrell and Marcus Thames are going to need to work magic with Judge. Obviously with a player like Judge, there is so much untapped potential. Every time he makes contact with the ball, it feels like his strength can rope anything over the fence.

But when Judge’s bat fails to connect with the ball, he can often find himself looking silly. In 36 at bats since his call-up, Judge has struck out 15 times. He nearly has double the amount of strikeouts than hits.

What always doesn’t help Judge’s case is that his name seems to always be considered with Gary Sanchez. To be completely frank, Sanchez has been the hottest hitter in baseball over the course of the past week. I fully believe that Sanchez will be a special hitter in the MLB, but there is no way he can keep up his near .400 batting average. 

Because Sanchez is playing so well both hitting and behind the plate, it’s making people a little frustrated with Judge and his struggles. However, it’s worth noting that Sanchez signed with the Yankees as an international free agent in 2009. Judge was drafted by the team in 2013.

The fact that Judge is even in the majors right now is very impressive. His struggles have been noted, but it’s worth noting that each time Judge struggled in the minors, he found a way to bounce back.

Judge was flying through the Yankees’ organization, on his way to get to the big leagues late last season. After he was called up to Triple-A however, he experienced a ton of growing pains. In 61 games there, Judge hit .224 with eight home runs.

The Yankees wisely decided to leave him off the 40-man roster. He started the 2016 season in Triple-A, hoping to rebound on what was a difficult finish to the 2015 season. Judge hit .270 with 19 home runs and 65 RBIs in 93 games.

Each player improves when they get consistent at bats. The best way to get out of a slump is to simply keep batting. The more chances a player gets, the more opportunities that player gets to break out of a slump.

And in baseball, slumps happen often, even to the best of the best. In 1983, Reggie Jackson had a slump where he was 77 for 397, which gave him a batting average of .183. Craig Biggio was once 0-for-30. Cal Ripken Jr. was once 0-for-33.

Even Robin Ventura had multiple streaks of at least 0-for-39. These things happen and it’s no surprise that Judge is already dealing with some adjustment problems at the professional level.

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The good news is that Judge is nowhere near a finished product. As he gets older and gets more MLB at bats, things will click with Judge. Again, I don’t expect Judge to put up numbers like Giancarlo Stanton, where he can hit 30 home runs and hit for an average of .300. However, the raw talent and potential is there for Judge to be a consistent power hitter in the future.

Things may click in 2017 after Judge goes through another spring training. But Judge is here to stay in the MLB and it has to be known that Judge’s recent struggle is just that of a struggle. It’s not something we should expect to see from him all the time.