With the New York Yankees Aaron Judge playing so well to start off the 2020 season, many are wondering how he stacks up to the likes of Ruth, Mantle, Jackson, and other famed Yankee greats.
First, how Aaron Judge got to where he is today. On April 27, 1992, an African American biracial baby was adopted by Wayne and Patty Judge a day after he was born, that baby was Aaron Judge. When Judge was
old enough to understand, his parents told him he was adopted. Growing up in California, Judge was a San Francisco Giants fan.
Judge attended Linden High School, where he was a three-sport star. He played as a pitcher and first baseman for the baseball team, a wide receiver for the football team, and as a center for the basketball team. He set a school record for touchdowns (17) in football and led the basketball team in points per game (18.2). In baseball, he was part of the Linden High School team that made the California Interscholastic Federation Division III playoffs.
You can imagine with this sports record that Judge was heavily recruited by teams like Notre Dame, Stanford, and ULCA as a tight end, but Judge wanted to play baseball. He was selected in the 2010 draft by Oakland but wanted to attend college instead. He played for Fresno State, where he was named a Freshman All-American. In 2012 he won the TD Ameritrade College home run Derby. During the summer of 2012, he played for the Brewster White Caps of the Cape Cod League. This is where I may have seen him play and when he was drafted #1 by the New York Yankees.
In his junior year with Fresno, he led the team in home runs, doubles, and RBI’s. In 2013 the Yankees selected him in the draft, and he signed with
the Yankees for a 1.8 million signing bonus. He joined the team but was injured in running drills that kept him out of the season.
From 2014 until late in the 2016 season, Judge worked his way through the New York Yankees minor leagues very successfully, even though he had a few injuries along the way. He made his major league debut during August. In his first at-bat, he hit a home run. He also hit a homer in his second game, becoming the only player to do that since 1980. But again, Judge found himself on the DL, this time with a right oblique strain the same injury that him to miss so much of 2018.
In 2017 he was named right field starter for opening day. 2017 was filled with firsts, like the first multi-home run game, first grand slam, and the MLB Rookie of the month award. Judge was named the AL Player of the Month for the month of June, batting .337 with 10 home runs, 25 RBIs. Judge broke Joe DiMaggio’s record for most home runs hit in a Yankees’ rookie season with his 30th on July 7. He became the second rookie to hit 30 home runs before the All-Star break after Mark McGwire in 1987, the first Yankee to do so since Alex Rodriguez in 2007 and the first player in baseball since Chris Davis and Miguel Cabrera in 2013.
Before the All-Star break, Judge hit .329 with 30 home runs and 66 RBIs. Judge won the 2017 Home Run Derby, besting Minnesota Twins third baseman Miguel Sanó 11–10 in the final round to become the first rookie to win the Derby outright. He finished the season second in the voting in the AL MVP behind Altuve of the Astros (who may have cheated). During the 2017-18 offseason, he underwent shoulder surgery to repair cartilage.
As the 2018 season opened, Judge found himself making his first start in
Centerfield and, by doing so, becoming the heaviest player in the history of
the MLB to play the position. Judge is 6 ft. 7 and weighs 282 pounds. On
April 16, Judge became the fastest player in MLB history to reach 60 home
runs, doing so in 197 games compared to Mark McGwire’s 202 games. The accolades go on and on when speaking of Aaron Judge. He is a huge fan favorite in more ways than one. The Yankees think so much of him that they have set aside an area in the right-field called the Judge’s Chambers. But for all the fanfare, there are some cracks in the armor. Judge, mostly due to his size and musculature, is subject to injury. He also is subject to the strikeout. He became the first MLB player to record eight strikeouts in a doubleheader. It’s the most in a doubleheader since strikeouts for hitters were first recorded in 1910.
Judge started the 2019 season off strong with a .288 batting average, five home runs and 11 RBI’s in 20 games played. However, on April 20, Judge suffered an oblique strain while hitting a single in the sixth inning against the Kansas City Royals. He was immediately placed on the IL without a timetable on when he’d be back. That timetable ended up with him missing two months of the season. Even with all this time on the IL, he hit .272 with 27 home runs and 55 RBI’s. He hit a 462-foot blast against the Seattle Mariners on Aug. 27 marked the 100th of his four-year career. He also has 110 and his lowest OPS since 2016. Last season was pretty much on par with his best season, considering that he missed two months.
Fast forward to New York Yankees spring training 2020, Judge showed up for training with a cranky shoulder that turned out to be a fractured rib that was supposed to make him miss the beginning of the season. But the delay in the season allowed him to heal enough to play on opening day.
As astounding as his 2017 season was as of today, he is set up to far surpass those numbers if this was a regular season. But it isn’t a regular season. This year Judge will play in 60 or fewer games, but he already has seven home runs in just eight games. In the regular season, that equates to 24 home runs with 154 games yet to be played. As a writer, I am reluctant to heap praise on a player until they truly deserve it. But in Judge’s case, I have no superlative that is grandiose enough to describe the way he has started off this season. Although this is unlikely, he is on track to beat his 2017 52 home runs in just 60 games.
Compare Judge to the great Joe DiMaggio’s home run rookies season, Judge beat him. Babe Ruth used to amaze those who watched his batting practices, so does Aaron Judge. It’s surprising to compare Judge to Mickey Mantle, but Judge hit a 495′ home run only second to Mantle. Also, Mantle was looked at as Paul Bunyon, and he wasn’t 6-foot-7 and 282 pounds. Judge is.
It may to too early to compare Judge to the famed Lou Gehrig, but Judge has already hit more home runs in a season than Gehrig did. Judge has more home runs in his first four years than Gehrig. Judge also has more runs scored in his first four years. But to be fair to Gehrig, he had his best years after his first four years. Whether Aaron Judge can do that or not is all about if he can keep his body healthy. Gehrig never had a problem with that until the very last year of his seventeen-year career.
It’s not ridiculous to compare New York Yankees Aaron Judge to Reggie Jackson. Jackson was a home run leader in the postseason. Judge hit 52 homers in 2017, Jackson never came close to that, and Judge hit 17 RBIs in just three postseasons. Maybe the most remarkable comparison is that of Derek Jeter. Judge is a quiet, humble guy who is more about the team than himself. Like Jeter was, Judge is set up to be the face of the Yankees for the next decade.