Prospect Profile: Aaron Judge

2014 Stats:

Level: A/A+

.308/.419/.486  16% BB%  23% K%  .178 ISO  .393 BABIP  1/1 SB  +4 DEF

Judge ranked #3 on my Yankees top 100 list.

Background:

The Yankees took 6’7″ outfielder Aaron Judge out of Fresno State in the supplemental round in 2013’s amateur draft, but a torn quadraceps kept him from getting into any professional games in his draft year.

What he did in 2014:

Judge started his pro career with Low-A Charleston, where he destroyed the competition by slugging .333/.428/.530, before doing more of the same — .283/.411/.442 — at High-A Tampa. With 17 bombs, Judge hit for a decent amount of power, which was somewhat expected given his incredible strength. What wasn’t really expected, though, was his .308 batting average. As with any player that size, there were legitimate concerns about his ability to make consistent contact, but Judge’s performance quelled those concerns for the time being. Still, it should be noted that his high average was largely BABIP-driven (.393 BABIP), which somewhat masks the fact that he struck out a slightly concerning 23% of the time. Judge finished off his season by turning in an impressive .278/.377/.467 showing in the Arizona Fall League.

What Kiley says:

I put his hit/game power grades at 5 and 6, but if Judge can continue this performance at the upper levels, both grades may be a notch light. He’s making adjustments and Yankees’™ personnel are all praising his work ethic, makeup and ability to know what’s necessary for him to succeed. The phrase “œwe just stay out of his way” was thrown around by a couple sources and it seems to be working so far.

Judge will head to Double-A next year at age 23 and should be challenged, but likely will also get a taste of Triple-A, where he’ll be age appropriate for a top prospect after taking a little while to get going at the plate. If he keeps hitting, he should be in line for an extended big league look in 2016, with a chance for a 2015 September look or a slower path with him sticking by 2017. We haven’t yet found the limits of what Judge can do and he hasn’™t even really tapped into his raw power in games yet, so he could struggle at the upper levels or just keep proving scouts wrong.

What KATOH says:

Judge

KATOH’s not a fan of Judge. But regardless of what KATOH says, I don’™t actually think Judge has just a 50/50 shot of cracking the big leagues over the next six years. Professional scouts, who actually have watched him play, think he has the tools to be a middle-of-the-order power threat, and I don’t doubt they know what they’re doing. I do, however, think KATOH might be on to something and that some evaluators may be putting a little too much stock in Judge’s seemingly impressive A-ball numbers.

For one, KATOH dings Judge for being a 22-year-old in A-ball, which makes him older than much of his competition. Believe it or not, he’s also older than Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, who already are starting to feel like established big leaguers at this point. Still, even after accounting for his age, a .905 OPS is nothing to sneeze at.

But it’s how Judge arrived at that .905 OPS that’s reason for concern. He hit for a solid .308 average with modest amount of power, but a big chunk of his value came from his impressive 16 percent walk rate. Walks are cool and all, but the data suggest that walk rates mean next to nothing for hitters playing in the lower minors. Take away Judge’s walks, and his stat line suddenly looks like that of a nondescript minor leaguer with something of a strikeout problem. Keep in mind, though, that KATOH doesn’t know that Judge has a tremendous amount of raw power that hasn’t really translated into game power; and if Judge starts hitting dingers like his batting practice displays suggest he can, KATOH will surely change its tune.

Future Outlook:

There’s plenty to like about Judge, and its easy to see why he’s such a highly-regarded prospect. Not only does he have tremendous power, but he also runs very well for his size, making him a non-zero both defensively and on the base paths. Baseball Prospectus estimates he was 10.6 runs better than the average right fielder in the minors last year, and had him just slightly below-average on the bases — not bad for a guy who’s built like a small forward.

Judge’s upside is pretty clear, but his height and strikeout rate make him unlikely to hit for a high average, and might even be enough to prevent him from being a useful player altogether. In other words, he has the tools to be Giancarlo Stanton lite, but could just as easily turn into the next Billy Ashley. Its still too early to say for sure which path Judge will take, but until he starts tapping into his raw power and shows he can avoid the strikeout in the high minors, I’m a bit skeptical. Hopefully he puts my suspicions to rest this year with a monster performance in Double-A Trenton.

About Chris

Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, and is an occasional user of the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell
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