Despite missing 45 games after getting hit in the right wrist resulting in a fracture, Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge made good on avoiding the sophomore slump last season. Judge's performance in his second full season proved his rookie campaign was no fluke.
Now, Judge, who turns 27 in late April, is primed for an MVP-caliber season. Here is why:
The exit velocity king's approach never varied
It's no secret that Judge swings and misses at a good deal of pitches, resulting in strikeouts. Yet he sees 4.27 pitches per plate appearance, possesses a strong walk rate and does absolute damage when a pitch is in his hot zone.
Judge's average exit velocity in 2018 -- 94.7 mph, according to Baseball Savant -- was just 0.2 MPH off his 2017 Rookie of the Year mark and ranked No. 1 in the majors. Judge also topped the league in percentage of balls hit over 95 mph (54.1 percent). Exit velocity numbers like this tend to lead to magnificent results.
Provided that Judge maintains an even keel in his approach and the ball continues to jump off his bat, positive outcomes should follow.
It is not a necessity to have a player or two that hit behind the MVP candidate as protection to allow for MVP-type statistical requirements to accumulate. (Look at Mike Trout.) However, it certainly helps a players cause.
Judge has the benefit of Giancarlo Stanton hitting behind him, and a strong middle of the lineup after him aids Judge further. The moment Stanton and the rest of the Yankees' offense show signs of weakness, Judge's ability to maintain his aforementioned approach and the number of sweet pitches he will receive go downhill as well.
Stanton should feel more at ease in his second season in the Bronx, and given he will serve primarily a designated hitter, it will him to put up some serious production of his own and assist Judge's performance. If the remainder of the lineup can do the same damage as it did last season, it's gravy for Judge's MVP chances.
Judge is an absolute specimen and maintains excellent physical health. Assuming Judge's overall health regimen remains the same, he possesses the ability to play in 150-plus games.
Judge's wrist is deemed to be fully healed, and there are apparently no ill-effects remaining. He did endure an understandably slow build up to 100 percent upon his return from the wrist injury last September. However, Judge demonstrated the power he's expected to produce last postseason, and the early returns this spring are promising.
Judge has the 'look,' and Yankees' success matters
Statistics matter, but having the "MVP look" does as well. Whether fair or not, the perception of the player's work ethic and attitude with the voting body most certainly comes into play, especially when the stats are close. Judge is seemingly loved by the media and possesses an overall "good guy" persona, which can go a long way to tipping the scales.
Finally, the success of the club plays a part in the voting process as well. That debate can go on forever where it concerns the standing of a player's team, but the Yankees should be a postseason contender making Judge's path smoother.
Judge has done more than enough in his two seasons as a regular to establish himself as a productive star in the game. Playing in his prime, maintaining a solid approach at the plate, receiving protection from his teammates, physical strength and the necessary intangibles put Judge in a perfect spot to win MVP in 2019.