Despite Mixed Results, Aaron Judge’s Debut Was a Win for the Yankees

While Aaron Judge‘s production may not have lived up to the hype in his rookie year, getting him into the big leagues in 2016 was a major victory for the New York Yankees.

At this point, all indications are that Aaron Judge has played his last game for the New York Yankees in 2016. He suffered a strained right oblique in the fourth inning of Tuesday night’s 3-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers and on Wednesday Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told Zach Braziller of the New York Post that he didn’t think Judge would return.

These things usually take awhile, so we’ll get a better feel for it, but regular season, I don’t see how it’s possible. Right now, in the short term, I don’t think he’s coming back.

With just 17 games remaining, New York has no real reason to rush the youngster back. Rob Refsnyder and Mason Williams are both available to handle right field duties, and Aaron Hicks is expected back next week as well. 

Judge may have set the bar a little high for himself by homering in his first two major league games. He couldn’t keep up with fellow rookie Gary Sanchez during his teammate’s historic start, and all anyone could talk about was the mounting tally of strikeouts on his Baseball-Reference page.

When it comes down to it though, Aaron Judge played in one month’s worth of games. The 95 plate appearances he accumulated during that time tell us very little about his future in the major leagues. Yes, he will need to cut down on his strikeout rate, but he has already shown the ability to work hard and effectively make adjustments following his uneven first year in Triple-A.

There were plenty of positives for Yankees fans to take away from Judge’s first stint in the majors as well. The day before suffering the injury, Judge absolutely walloped the hardest hit ball by any Yankees player all season. He has tremendous strength, so the bar for his contact rate is pretty low for him to be a real offensive weapon. 

Although he made a few rookieish errors, Judge was also impressive in the field, especially compared to the work of his predecessor, the husk of Carlos Beltran.

Brian Cashman also sounded satisfied with Judge’s progression this year, telling reporters:

Obviously, he’s struggled with strikeouts, but part of the process is to get him up here and get these growing pains out of the way, speed up the adjustment process. We saw that take place last year in Triple-A in the second half. I’d be concerned more if this year he came back and those struggles continued at Triple-A. They didn’t. He obviously came through it all and came out as very prolific back in the International League. Therefore he earned his way up here.

The fact that Aaron Judge made it to the majors at all in 2016 is the real victory for the New York Yankees this season. On Opening Day few would have predicted the 24-year-old establishing himself as a regular in the second half after his tough first trip through the International League in 2015.

This was a valuable learning experience for Judge and it will help him become the star we all know he can be in 2017.