Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge was officially named a finalist for the American League Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards on Monday and has been named the cover athlete for "MLB The Show 18."
In his first full season in the majors, the 25-year-old Judge hit .284/.442/.627 with an American League-leading 52 home runs and 114 RBIs, which ranked second in the AL.
Judge ranked second in the majors with a WAR of 8.1, trailing only Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve (8.3), another finalist for the AL MVP award. The third finalist is Cleveland Indians infielder Jose Ramirez.
Altuve led the majors with a .346 batting average and hit 24 home runs and 81 RBIs for the World Series champion Astros. Ramirez hit .318 with 29 home runs and 83 RBIs. The results will be announced Nov. 16.
The three finalists for the AL Rookie of the Year award are Judge; Boston Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who hit .271 with 20 home runs and 90 RBIs; and Baltimore Orioles outfielder/first baseman Trey Mancini, who hit .293 with 24 home runs and 78 RBIs. The Rookie of the Year results will be announced Nov. 13.
Alex Rodriguez was the last Yankee to win the MVP award in 2007. No Yankee has been named AL Rookie of the Year since Derek Jeter in 1996. Catcher Gary Sanchez finished second last season after he hit .299 with 20 home runs and 42 RBIs in 53 games (229 plate appearances).
There was always a good chance that Judge would have a nice enough season to be among the finalists for the Rookie of the Year Award, but the MVP? I'm not sure anyone, including Judge, saw that coming.
After Judge's cameo in 2016, the Yankees would have been happy to see him simply solidify the role with some consistent power, understanding the strikeouts were part of the game. However, Judge was locked in quickly and played on an amazing level leading to the All-Star break. It was then that the Rookie of the Year was a lock and he should win it unanimously. It's also when the MVP became a possibility.
Judge then fell into a slump, one in which the power and then the hits did not completely coincide with the strikeouts. While Judge continued to take his walks, the narrative sat squarely on his wavering at the plate. Judge flipped the switch in September and went on an amazing run to finish the season, which helped push his name back into the MVP race that seemed to shift to Altuve's favor.
In my opinion, the season needs to be taken at full value vs. looking at it in stages. The inconsistency argument against Judge is ridiculous when Altuve had substantial peaks as well. Judge topped the league in more offensive categories than any player in the league.
That said, I envision some voters will use the consistency argument, past accomplishments (which shouldn't factor in, but always do) and the fact that Judge is going to walk away with the Rookie of the Year Award as reasons to vote for Altuve as the league's MVP in what will be a close finish.