Aaron Judge is already off to a blazing start this season in his encore year to the AL MVP. The Yankees as a whole have started off the year quite nicely, as they sit at 4-2 before heading to Baltimore for a three-game set this weekend. It’s not easy to repeat as MVP in this league, with all the elite talent that’s rotation yearly, but maybe Judge can do the improbable. Having Judge in this lineup truly equates to the Yanks being contenders year in and year out.
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Yankees are seeing another electric start from Aaron Judge:
Last season, Judge captivated audiences during his chase for Maris’ AL HR record, but he was also simply the best player in the entire league. He wasn’t some slugger that could only hit homers, like, say, Chris Carter, but he was, by far and away, the best player across the board. Even with the 62 HR, he also swiped 16 bags, walked 15.9% of the time, OPS’d 1.111, and posted the best wRC+ since Barry Bonds with a 207.
Simply put, Judge was levels above everyone else. Even Ohtani, who is a remarkable player in his own right, fell short of Judge’s stature. He posted an 11.5 fWAR and ultimately earned his lifetime contract with the organization. Judgey signed a 9/$360M deal in December, and now he’ll be a Yankee for life, and will certainly have his name in Monument Park when all is said and done.
This year, Judge has wasted no time getting off to a quick start, as he’s been on one these first few games. Through 6 games, he’s OPSing 1.032, with a pair of HR, and has a wRC+ of 190. Judge simply is a phenomenal player, and even with poor calls left-and-right, he’s still putting the ball in play at a crazy rate, and is working walks (11.5% BB%). He’s striking out at 38.5% of the time, but that’ll normalize as the year progresses.
Judge smacked a HR in his first AB of the year, and I truly wouldn’t be shocked if he hits somewhere close to 60 HR once more this season. His command of the strike zone, ability to put barreled balls in play, and hit the ball hard, makes it so he’s still the most feared hitter in baseball. I understand Yordan Alvarez is still clobbering baseballs, but Judge can do more than Yordan, and that’s a fact.
Judge is also handling himself like a true captain:
For Judge, I feel like this season is different for him. It’s no longer about proving your worth to everyone and betting on himself, but instead, delivering a championship to the fans that have been with him every step of the way. Baseball is a team game, of course, but having Judge in the lineup makes it so this team is much more fluent and dangerous top-to-bottom. He’s a phenomenal player with more to prove, even with his contract secured.
Now that he’s the captain, his role has increased, and he’s embracing it every step of the way. He’s already shown his leadership qualities since being called up, but now he’s taking players under his wing and leading by example. Hicks was boo’d when he struck out the other day, and Judge went right over to him and put his arm around him to comfort him. Judge later said that what he stated to him was private, and I respect that insurmountable.
Having a guy like Judge on the team makes this team one of the most feared in baseball, and thus far, the offense has been clicking. Additionally, it helps that he can man center field to help the Yanks bide their time until Bader returns from his oblique injury. Judge is simply an elite player with an elite mentality, and he knows what’s on the line this season.
I feel as though this Yankee team is different than years past, even if the lineup isn’t all that much different than last season’s. A healthy DJ and Stanton make a huge difference, and if Judge can keep up this trajectory, it’ll be a season to remember. The chase for 28 is already underway, and hopefully, Judge’s chase for a repeat MVP trophy is as well.