Yankees’ captain ranked as the best centerfielder in baseball ahead of 2024

MLB: 2023 Roberto Clemente Award presentation
Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Every season, MLB Network releases a top 10 list for each position group, and with centerfielders being released yesterday night. Mike Trout had held his spot as baseball’s best at the position for years, but the Yankees now hold baseball’s best centerfielder. Aaron Judge, who won the 2022 AL MVP, was ranked as their top centerfielder heading into the 2024 season, and with his numbers over the last two seasons, it’s hard to argue that anyone else deserved the top spot.

With his excellent bat and steady defense, the right-handed slugger has supplanted Mike Trout as the best player in centerfield.

The Yankees Set to Slot Aaron Judge Back in Centerfield in 2024

mlb: new york yankees at toronto blue jays, aaron judge
Sep 27, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) adjusts his batting helmet in the fifth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Judge has been nothing short of brilliant for the New York Yankees, anchoring the middle of their lineup for the last seven seasons and proving to be arguably the best player in baseball since his breakout year in 2017. Despite battling injuries that, in most cases, have been a result of misfortune on the field, the 31-year-old outfielder ranks second in WAR (42.0) behind Mookie Betts and second in wRC+ (168) behind the aforementioned Mike Trout.

No one has hit more home runs (253) or barreled more baseballs (422) than Aaron Judge, who is arguably the best power hitter in the sport on a talent and production basis. Steamer is projecting another excellent season from the team’s captain, as he’s projected to finish third in fWAR (6.2) and fourth in wRC+ (157), with a serious chance to overperform both of those projections.

He’s maintained all the skill progressions from his historic 2022 season, where he set the American League home run record (62) and posted a wRC+ north of 200, the first hitter to do so in a full season since Barry Bonds. When looking at Judge’s underlying metrics, everything suggests he’s still capable of having a 60-home run season again:

The bat is unquestionably elite, and he’ll now have a chance to hit in front of Juan Soto, who happens to be the only other hitter in the American League with a better-projected WAR and wRC+ than him. Aaron Judge’s offensive value since 2022 has been incredible despite missing a third of the year after crashing into the wall in right field. He ranks first in wRC+ (195), position player fWAR (16.9), Offensive Runs (129.0), home runs (99), and barrels (172) over the past two seasons, and it’ll be exciting to see what he can do in 2024.

Defensively, Aaron Judge held his own out in centerfield in 2022 and seems to love the position, posting +3 OAA out here in 932 innings in his career. His -1 DRS would suggest he’s more of an average defensive centerfielder, but average defense at a premium position is highly valuable when coupled with an elite bat. It’s unclear whether the Yankees will keep him out there full-time when Jasson Dominguez returns, but for right now, he’ll take everyday responsibilities in the center.

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MLB: New York Yankees at Pittsburgh Pirates
Sep 17, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) in the field against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the fourth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Winning a World Series is the only thing left on Aaron Judge’s ledger, who already had an MVP and won Rookie of the Year back in 2017. If he wins a World Series, it likely means that he had plenty of personal success in the regular season and October, and the slugger could see Hall of Fame chatter grow even larger if he plays to expectations in 2024. He’s projected for 6.2 fWAR and 46 HRs this year, and accomplishing both would put him across the 300-HR mark and 48 fWAR, which in your age-32 season could nearly guarantee a spot in Cooperstown.

All eyes are set on winning a World Series title next season, as it would finally ease the tension building up in the fanbase, but more importantly, it’s likely what Judge wants most at this point. He was incredibly displeased with how last season went, and the Yankees went all-in to acquire the perfect star to pair with him. It’s time to finally get over the hump, and perhaps this is the year they finally break through with Judge anchoring the Yankees’ lineup.