Yankees Judge Might Be The Next Stanton – But Don’t Get Excited

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /

Yankees Baby Bomber Aaron Judge has already impressed this spring with a massive blast off the scoreboard during last Friday’s game against the Phillies. The talk immediately turned to comparing Judge’s power to Giancarlo Stanton. The comparison might be valid, but don’t get excited because that’s where the good news ends.

The Yankees roster has the “look” of most rosters in the major leagues today, especially in one area that is often overlooked when it comes to the usual physical appearance of a ballplayer. Three of the tallest position players on the Yankees, and they’re all 6’4″, are Greg Bird, Chris Carter, and Matt Holliday. The other thirty-five have body types more typical in the sport of baseball, 5’11” – 6’2″ being the most common.

Aaron Judge exceeds them all soaring to 6’7″ tall, a body type that is atypical in baseball. These are the other former major leaguers who also registered  6’7″ on a height chart:

Frank Howard,  Tony Clark, Walt Bond, Billy Ashley, Ron Jackson, Ryan Minor, Damon Minor, Desi Wilson, and Bill Davis.

Do you notice anything about this list? Other than Howard and maybe Clark, is there a name you even recognize? Again, with the possible exception of Frank Howard, did any of them have great careers in the sport of baseball?

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It’s tough to be adept in baseball when you reach these heights. The same, of course, is not true for pitchers. For them,  the taller, the better in many cases. Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez are two pitchers, for instance, who made the Hall Of Fame counting height as an intimidation factor when facing hitters.

And Dellin Betances comes in at a dominating 6’8″. But for a position player, it’s a world of difference. Giancarlo Stanton stands in the batter’s box at 6’6″ tall.  He intimidates too.

But, in seven full seasons in the big leagues, he is averaging less than 120 games played per season. And he’s only averaging that many because he’s a gritty type of guy willing to play at less than 100% and because he’s making a gazillion dollars and needs to be on the field.

But also like Stanton, it’s the challenge of reproducing that swing without all the swings and misses, together with the reoccurring injuries, that remains to be surmounted.

Now, before the Yanks Go Yard family goes bonkers on me, I do not wish the same fate on Aaron Judge. And I hope he proves to be the exception to the rule that suggests his height will prove to be both a bane and benefit throughout his career with the Yankees.

According to the Wall Street Journal, only eleven other position players have taken a major league field at Judge’s height. And when Judge appeared for his first season at Fresno State, their pitching coach, Steve Rousey, was almost drooling at the prospect of converting Judge to monster on the mound.

Simple logic explains the potential for physical injuries. The more mass, the more area that is susceptible to pulls and twists that lead to nerve-wracking short stays on the disabled list. But, the other factor might be even more challenging.

A ballplayer’s “swing” is a work of art that resembles a ballet when done right. Moving parts count. And they count even more when additional “space” in the hitting zone needs to covered. Alan Cockrell, the Yankees hitting coach, has been working with Judge on that all important leg kick that propels the timing of a batter’s swing. How high, how low, it all matters.

And much like Giancarlo Stanton, when it all comes together, and the brute power of those 79 inches produces a majestic blast (like the one Judge delivered below), everyone sits in awe.

But also like Stanton, it’s the challenge of reproducing that swing without all the swings and misses, together with the reoccurring injuries, that remains to be surmounted.

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No one has ever conquered the feat before. Aaron Judge has a chance to be the first. Here’s hoping he can.