Yankees Aaron Judge the Early Favorite for 2017 AL Rookie of the Year?
One strange “benefit” of Aaron Judge’s oblique injury is he will retain his rookie eligibility next season. Is the New York Yankees right fielder the early favorite for the 2017 American League Rookie of the Year race?
To qualify as a rookie in MLB a player can’t have accumulated big league 130 at-bats in their career. Prior to being placed on the 15-day disabled list by the New York Yankees with a Grade II right oblique strain, Aaron Judge had only collected 84 AB since his August 13th promotion, meaning that he will keep his rookie status through the 2017 season.
While that is just a technicality, it does mean that Aaron Judge will be in consideration for the 2017 American League Rookie of the Year award. Assuming catcher Gary Sanchez doesn’t take home the honor this year because of his limited playing time, it will have been two decades since any Yankee won the award following this season, so it would be fun to get that hardware back in the Bronx.
After seeing Judge strikeout in 44.2% of his first 95 plate appearances, fans may be rightfully skeptical about the big man’s ability to break out next season.
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Although it might sound a little sad that this was an improvement, Judge “only” struck out five times in his final 15 at-bats, collecting three hits, three walks, and a homer in that span.
Judge finished with four homers in his first career 27 games played and there is definitely reason to think many more could be on the way next year. When he connected with the ball this year, he sent it a loonng way. Just the day before he was injured, he crushed the hardest-hit ball of any Yankees player this year according to Statcast date.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, who is generally brutally honest about performance, sounded impressed with the 24-year-old’s recent adjustments and approach at the plate, telling NJ Advance Media:
"The strikeout rate declined considerably recently and I think he’s got some plate discipline. I think he’s had some tremendous paths at the ball and he’s got some good swings and he’s just been missing and he’s just been off a little bit. But I think that he was improving and getting better."
Those following the Railriders this year saw what can happen when things finally click for the big man. In June, Judge went on an incredible tear, hitting .343/.477/.686 with nine homers in 128 plate appearances, earning him International League Player of the Month honors.
If Judge does make a run at AL ROY, he could face tough competition from within his own division with Yoan Moncada and Andrew Benintendi of the Boston Red Sox possible rivals for the award. Even his future teammate Clint Frazier could challenge him if he manages to crack the big league lineup early enough.
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In addition to keeping his status as a rookie, Judge remains eligible as a “prospect” for the various preseason lists going into next year. That should help the Yankees system ranking at the very least, although Judge’s status among evaluators has probably taken a hit given his recent struggles.