Yankees’ Aaron Judge gearing up to switch positions full time

mlb: new york yankees at toronto blue jays, aaron judge
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees‘ 2024 outfield is set to look a lot different after the acquisitions of Juan Soto, Alex Verdugo, and Trent Grisham. They may not represent the best defensive unit in baseball, but they certainly have one of the best offensive combinations a team could ask for.

Soto is one of the worst defensive outfielders in the game, and Judge carries his own but doesn’t put together great defensive stats. He’s been more than adequate in right field for years, but he’s preparing to transition to centerfield full-time, according to manager Aaron Boone.

The Yankees Need to Be Careful Overextending Judge

The Yankees will likely rotate in the outfield to keep everyone fresh, but Judge will be the team’s primary centerfielder when Soto and Verdugo are in the lineup — which will be every day. Soto will take over in right field to minimize his defensive liabilities, and Verdugo will feature in left, where he can make an impact.

Judge played only 573.1 innings in the outfield last year due to his toe injury. He finished with -4 defensive runs saved, 0 outs above average, and a .992 fielding percentage. He played 632.2 innings in centerfield back in 2022, collecting one defensive run saved and one out above average. He’s capable of being a solid piece there and not representing a liability, but it is essential to note the increased physical toll the position has.

Keeping Judge healthy is paramount to the Yankees’ World Series aspirations, and playing centerfield does expose him to injury concerns.

With Giancarlo Stanton hogging the designated hitter spot, it will be challenging to manage the rotation in the outfield, but having too much talent is certainly a good problem. They will be losing the defensive nature of Harrison Bader in center, but Judge has good range and is a fantastic communicator. He should have no problems long-term, but the Bombers need to be careful asking him to do too much, so expect plenty of Grisham in center during the 2024 season.

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