Yankees considering playing Aaron Judge in a new position

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Sep 18, 2022; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Aaron Judge (99) gestures after hitting an RBI double during the ninth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at American Family Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

While Aaron Judge is the starting right fielder for the Yankees, they could mess around with his defensive alignment this season. According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, Aaron Boone has considered putting Aaron Judge in left field, and that’s with the goal of getting Giancarlo Stanton in the outfield more. As it’s been documented before, the Yankees do not like putting Giancarlo Stanton in the spacious LF of Yankee Stadium, opting to place him in LF in ballparks like Boston or Houston, where it’s a lot more shallow. Judge is naturally an excellent defender, playing CF last year in a pinch and holding his own at the position.

With this new development in mind, the Yankees could potentially open up the DH spot to get LeMahieu, Torres, Donaldson, or even Cabrera in the lineup more often during the season.

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How Will Aaron Judge Hold Up in Left Field?

The Yankees are notorious for their spacious left field, and while Judge is used to playing the smaller RF, it’s a much less difficult position than CF. Aaron Judge posted a positive OAA (1) in 2022, also adding a +2 rARM due to his incredible arm strength and accuracy. If he was able to contribute positive defensive value in CF, it’s hard to imagine he couldn’t do the same in an easier position out in left. While unfamiliar with the position, I imagine the Yankees will trot him out in LF more often in Spring Training to help him get comfortable with the position.

aaron judge, yankees
Sep 22, 2022; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) walks to his position in right field during the fifth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

In an attempt to generate more offense, the Yankees could frequent a red-hot bat in the infield more often or potentially give a shot to one of the bats in the farm system. Judge hasn’t played left field since 2016, when he did so with the Scranton Railriders, and due to the presence of Brett Gardner and the stigma that left fielders have worse arms than right fielders, it never made sense to throw him out there. With Gardner gone and the Yankees realizing their LF side is actually more difficult to play defensively than their RF side, it’s clear that the occasional start in LF is in line for 99.

It’s hard to imagine that he would struggle heavily there, especially considering his tools are incredible defensively. He gets great routes to the ball, isn’t slow, and has a rocket for an arm that’ll allow him to hold runners from advancing in key situations. This won’t affect that Judge is going to be penciled in at RF for Opening Day, barring an unforeseen injury, as they seem rather keen on Stanton being the primary DH. With that said, Judge is an amazing defender and should do well with a defensive change.

While we can’t know for certain how he’ll hold up in LF until he actually plays the position, I can say that there aren’t many better defensive outfielders in baseball. This could also open the door for some creative lineups later in the season, ones that’ll raise the ceiling of this team’s offense come October.

Who Can Step In at DH?

One of the biggest benefactors to an open DH come October would be Gleyber Torres, who has #1 prospect Anthony Volpe right behind him at 2B. Torres clubbed over 20 HRs with an OPS+ north of 110, and he currently projects to be one of the best power-hitting 2B in baseball. He’s shown off a higher ceiling at times, and if he can maintain a wRC+ of ~120, we could be looking at a great hitter for the 5th or 6th spot. Torres’ plate discipline is significantly better than many people give him credit for, and his power would serve this Yankees’ lineup well.

gleyber torres, new york yankees
Sep 27, 2022; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres (25) reacts after the final out as the Yankees defeat the Toronto Blue Jays to win the American League East division at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees could also look internally, and one of the guys that have stood out is left-handed slugger Austin Wells. He’s consistently torn up Minor League Baseball, and many in the organization rave about his bat. His glove needs work, but is there a world where he could potentially be in the Yankees lineup as their DH in August? They could also move Wells to RF occasionally and play Judge in LF, or they could give Wells reps at 1B or even LF if need be. Judge could also play CF when Bader needs a day off and open a spot in RF/DH or Wells, keeping his bat in the lineup.

Chris Kirschner of The Athletic raved about Wells’ bat path and how it fits Yankee Stadium perfectly, something that should allow him to hit plenty of HRs. He doesn’t chase much either, and while he can have some strikeout issues, they haven’t climbed to alarmingly high rates. Austin Wells could be the left-handed power bat the Yankees have desperately been searching for all offseason, without the cost of a trade or free agent signing. He was a Non-Roster Invite in Spring Training, so it’s definitely worth considering during the summer. He had some rib issues this Spring, but imaging reveals it’s just a bruise.

A dark horse for this job could be 1B/3B Andres Chaparro, who lit up Double-A last season in spite of some injuries and has monster power. His biggest detraction as a prospect is his defense, being seen as someone who can’t reliably field his position, but since when has defense mattered at DH? Playing Oswaldo Cabrera in LF against RHP and then Andres Chaparro at DH, Judge in LF, and Stanton in RF against LHP could serve as an elite platoon that generates a ton of HRs. Chaparro absolutely demolishes baseballs, and he’s a nightmare for left-handed pitching.

Last season, he had a 158 wRC+ with the Somerset Patriots with 19 HRs in 64 games, striking out under 20% of the time. If the bat is able to translate at the Triple-A level this season, we could see him in a larger role during the summer. Wells has the edge as a left-handed hitter, but Chaparro has the edge in performance last season. It’s clear that Wells is the better prospect, but it’ll be an interesting development this year. He was also given an NRI, so we’ll see him with the Major League team this Spring.

While the Yankees may end up finding external outfield help and keeping Stanton at the DH spot, this could be an interesting matter to evaluate as the Yankees play on in 2023.