Yankees: A best-case scenario Aaron Judge return timeline

yankees, aaron judge
May 16, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York Yankees designated hitter Aaron Judge (99) celebrates in the dugout after hitting a two run home run against the Toronto Blue Jays during the eighth inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

In the face of their continuing offensive struggles and underperforming veterans, the New York Yankees desperately need their superstar slugger, Aaron Judge, to return to the fold.

Judge’s Stellar Start and the Injury Setback

At 31, Judge had a phenomenal start to the 2023 campaign, placing him firmly in the MVP discussions. However, his second stint on the injured list, due to a torn ligament in his right big toe, has caused the Yankees considerable distress. The team has yet to confirm when he can return.

Both Judge and manager Aaron Boone stopped short of guaranteeing his comeback in 2023, adding to the growing concerns about the Yankees’ roster and their ability to compete without him.

When Judge had to leave, he was hitting .291 with a .404 OBP, a .674 slugging percentage, 19 homers, 40 RBIs, and a 16.4% walk rate. His impressive 188 wRC+ was the second-highest of his career, and he had accumulated a 2.8 WAR across 49 games.

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Aaron Judge’s Defensive Prowess and the Rehabilitation Path

On the defensive front, Judge continued to make significant contributions, boasting a .988 fielding percentage over 327.1 innings in the outfield this year, including one out above average.

The Yankees are hopeful that the forthcoming All-Star break, due in about two weeks, will greatly aid Judge’s recovery. However, as he continues to experience pain while walking, his return doesn’t seem to be imminent.

The Best-Case Scenario and Upcoming Games

Optimistically, the best-case scenario for Judge would see him return a few weeks post the All-Star break, likely around the trade deadline in early August. As per Jon Heyman of the New York Post, an executive from the Yankees’ front office expressed confidence that Judge would be back sooner rather than later. While the projection may be overly optimistic, it’s necessary for a team that’s struggling to score.

“One Yankees person…guessed Judge could be back a week or two after the All-Star break.” However, Heyman suggested that timeline “may be filed under the heading of wishful thinking.”

In a piece of good news, the Yankees are preparing to square off against the league’s worst team, the Oakland Athletics, in a three-game series starting Tuesday night.

Following this series, they’ll be up against the struggling St. Louis Cardinals. These match-ups offer an excellent chance for the Yankees to make up some ground in the AL East, where they’re currently trailing the Tampa Bay Rays by 9.5 games.