In this weekly column, we spotlight the New York Yankee who has made the most positive impact on the team during spring training for the week. It will spotlight one pitcher and one hitter that excelled beyond the rest. So far in spring training, both startersâ€™ and relieversâ€™ pitching has generally been better than the Yankee hitting. But one Yankee is standing out from the rest, and that is Aaron Judge, who had his first homer of the spring this week. The pitcher spotlight is on Aroldis Chapman.
The player spotlight is on Aaron Judge
Last night in Clearwater, Florida, Aaron Judge got his first home run of the spring that reportedly traveled 440′. Judge has gotten off to a relatively slow start this spring training. But that homer reminds us of the power that he has and what impact he can have on the New York Yankees when healthy.
Judge in 2017 looked like the next Micky Mantle or Derek Jeter. In his breakout year, he had 52 home runs with 157 hits and a batting average of .284. Since then, he has disappointed due to various health issues that have dogged him. The 6′ 7″ hulk of a man just hasn’t been able to stay on the field. He has missed at least 50 games since 2017. Last year he played in less than half the games. He started the season hot, hitting nine home runs in just eighteen games. After an injury, he never regained form.
This season he is totally healthy and could regain his 2017 form; it will depend on if he can stay healthy. After a slow start, he is finding his timing. If he gets on a tear, he could hit a homer every three or four games. Another good sign this season is that Judge seems to be more patient at the plate. He also seems to be striking out less. He has struck out only 12 times in 15 games. Also, having him on the field simultaneously as Giancarlo Stanton could be big for the New York Yankees.
The pitcher spotlight is on Aroldis Chapman
Aroldis Chapman is not Mariano Rivera; we all know that, but he is a hell of a closer even though he has given up the lead causing the Yankee’s early exit from the postseason two years in a row. If you remember Arizona, Mo could do the same. This season could be a big surprise for fans as he has always relied on his 100 mph fastball, but he has developed a new pitch over the past year that could make a huge difference in his success.
Chapman relies on that fire fastball but also throws in a slider and seldom a change. But now he has a splitter, and he will be using it more. The looks he can have will keep opposing batters even more off balance. On the YES Network last Saturday, Boone was being interviewed when Chapman was on the mound. He struck out the first hitter he faced on three pitches. His last pitch was his new splitter. Boone chuckled and said, “that’s gross.” Chapman’s splitter comes in at about 90 mph falls off sharply down and away from right-hand hitters.
“It’s been great,” Boone said in a Zoom call. “Even going back to last year, we felt like it was real and something that he could certainly incorporate.” Now that Zack Britton will not be available for at least two or three months while recovering from bone chip removal, it will be even more important for Chapman to perform now that Boone won’t have the option of mixing and matching. This new pitch could be just what the doctor ordered. So far this spring Champman has pitched in four games and has not allowed a hit.