Scott Thompson, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Yankees OF Aaron Judge didn't need much time to make his stamp on this franchise, and the MLB as a whole. In just two full seasons, he collected a Rookie of the Year trophy, showcased success in the postseason, and most importantly, became the new face of the Yankees.
So, as the slugger walked into camp down in Tampa, it's no surprise the 26-year-old looked extremely comfortable. And that cool demeanor resulted in an easy .316/.447/.947 slash line with six homers and 15 RBI in 17 games of Spring Training.
Judge's production caught the eye of many, including former Yankees 1B Tino Martinez who also took note of a key change he made this offseason.
"He crushed the ball," Martinez told SNY at Grand Central Terminal's Vanderbilt Hall, which was transformed into the "Judge's Chambers" in return of the Pepsi Zero Sugar "Judge for Yourself" campaign. "He was hitting home runs, doubles. He made a conscious effort to cut down his strikeouts coming into Spring Training this year and he's going [with] a no-stride, two-strike approach which is great for him because he has the power to hit the ball out of the ballpark with no stride."
Paul O'Neill also noticed Judge's changed approach when the count isn't in his favor.
"You saw things from Day 1, he is evolving into a better hitter," he said. "Much better idea of the strike zone and he has made an adjustment especially with two strikes."
Judge clearly brought his hot bat up north to the Bronx after posting a 2-for-3 day with three runs scored and two walks as well. He did collect his first strikeout of 2019, but that number is expected to be lower than the 152 times he walked back to the dugout last year.
So, as Judge continues to mature as a hitter, is Year 3 when he truly hits his stride and takes over the league by storm? Bernie Williams doesn't see how any team can stop that from happening.
"He's just way too powerful to be contained and if he finally manages to put everything together -- not only his physical but his mental - put it all together in one package, I think he can be one of the scariest hitters that you have seen in a long time," Williams told SNY.
Williams has seen many power hitters during his time with the Yankees, but he believes Judge can be compared to a Hall of Famer that had the same stature as No. 99.
"He reminds me a lot of Frank Thomas," Williams said. "He probably has a little bit more mobility than Frank did, but I think he has that imposing personality..."
The "Big Hurt" was certainly imposing at the plate, crushing 521 homers over his 19-year career. But Judge will likely beat Thomas' home run total over the first three full seasons of his career, as Thomas tallied 97 and Judge comes into 2019 with 79 over the past two seasons.
And while Judge's bat gets most of the love on the highlight reels, he's an above-average fielder out in right. On Thursday, Dwight Smith roped a ball down the right-field line that might have been a double with another outfielder chasing it down. But Judge took the hop off the wall perfectly and delivered a laser to second base that Smith didn't even think about attempting to challenge.
Judge has garnered respect both at the plate and in the field in such a short period of time. The only way to gain even more respect would be to capture his first Most Valuable Player award, and there is no reason not to believe that won't happen in 2019.
"Oh, yeah," Martinez said when asked if Judge could win the trophy. "He's got the potential to be the MVP and in the running for it every single year. Had he not gotten hurt last year, he would've een right there with it. But, if he stays healthy, he's going to hit his 35-45 home runs every year and drive in 100 runs and play great defense. I think his defense skills are underrated. He's got a great arm out there, runs down balls. So he's an all-around player."