Yankees projections: Aaron Judge in 2018

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /
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Yankees slugger Aaron Judge‘s name is now synonymous with record-breaking home runs, stellar defense and just to be fair, a strikeout rate that made the record books.

Aaron Judge of the Yankees is coming off a historic season where he hit 52 homers, earning American League Rookie of the Year honors while finishing second to the Astros’ Jose Altuve in the AL MVP chase.

As Fangraphs wrote of Judge’s 2017 performance:

"“Judge hits the ball the hardest. The point that’s less obvious: That means Judge gets to play by his own rules. Strikeouts don’t mean for him what they would for someone else, because Judge doesn’t need a low strikeout rate to be good. He doesn’t need a low strikeout rate to be terrific. He doesn’t even need a low strikeout rate to be a deserving league MVP."

After a year in which Judge was, in fact, “one of a kind,” where he did break out in an epic way, what is being projected for Judge in 2018 as the fate of the Yankees’ offense rides, to a large extent, on his wave of production?

Joshua Diemert of Pinstripe Alley describes the projection system used by most baseball thinkers:

"“ZiPS, for example, works with a variety of variables including player service time, past performance, recent changes or adaptions by weighing the most recent season first, and aging curves. A single value isn’t entered in any of the categories, but rather a range of values is run. This generates a list of potential values, and as we saw above, multiplying potential values against their probability.”"

Matt Provenzano of Pinstripe Alley notes that the ZiPS projection for Judge in 2018 is incredibly conservative, “despite posting a 173 wRC+ with 52 home runs in 2017, ZiPS projects a .253/.364/.552 triple-slash, good for what would “only” be a 139 wRC+.”

Yes, the projections take into account his rookie year, which was marred by a 44.2% strikeout rate, but as Provenzano points out, “Judge is a completely different player now than he was then. He made noticeable changes to make that a reality; he’s not going backward.”

Provenzano believes Judge will lessen in impact in 2018, but at the same time thinks he may prove the projections wrong and repeat his 2017 performance, solidifying him as a generational hitter of talent.

Fangraphs‘ Dan Symborski’s ZiPS projection for the Yankees, of course, has Judge and Stanton representing a strong foundation for the offense in 2018. According to Fangraphs, the core of the offense formed by Judge (621 PA, 4.7 zWAR) and Stanton (593, 6.4) projects to record just over 11 wins together, a feat which four entire teams failed to achieve in 2017.

According to Fangraphs, the core of the offense formed by Judge (621 PA, 4.7 zWAR) and Stanton (593, 6.4) projects to record just over 11 wins together, a feat which four entire teams failed to achieve in 2017.

Brian Hoch of MLB.com wrote that Reggie Jackson was recently on MLB Network and said:

"“You see two giants like that, whether it’s with their power or size and it’s exciting for you as a player.”"

Jackson has been among those in Judge’s corner since early in the slugger’s career, comparing him at times to Winfield, Stargell and McCovey.

Next: Why Gary Sanchez will make history in 2018

What remains to be seen is how the club builds on the foundation of Judge and Stanton and whether one or both together can lift the Yankees into the championship realm.