The Big Baby Bomber Who Breaks Baseballs
The New York Yankees have been undergoing a revolution of sorts over the last couple of seasons.
It seems it’s been a long time coming, but they are finally cultivating a farm system, and avoiding the path of recent struggles by not throwing big money long term contracts to over the hill free agents.
This season, it’s starting to pay dividends. We got a good look at the future during Spring Training, and Yankee fans have something to be really excited about. One man stands head and shoulders above all else, and it’s not just because of his play.
Aaron Judge is built like a Mack truck. He stands 6’7”, and tips the scales at 282 lbs, and I’m no doctor, but it appears to be all muscle.
He looks exactly like you created a player in MLB the Show who’s 99 in everything (credit goes to this twitter guy):
Aaron Judge is that create-a-player you'd make with maxed-out everything pic.twitter.com/VHy1VytLzg— Rich (@RAKcity27) March 1, 2017
Standing next to fellow Yankee Ronald Torreyes, who’s 5’8”, and 150 lbs soaking wet, Judge’s size is comically exacerbated.
One would think that with that hulking stature comes the ability to obliterate baseballs. One such example would be that of Giancarlo Stanton (6’6’’ 245 lbs).
Stanton, we all know, is the champion of all things hitting baseballs great distances. He’s hit most of the longest home runs the last few seasons, including several over 480 ft, and put on an amazing show in the 2016 Home Run Derby in San Diego.
Judge has been receiving a lot of comparisons to Stanton, and now people are starting to see why.
First thing to look at is their swing styles: Stanton has a compact, yet lengthy swing, that starts with his lower body, getting massive hip torque, and the torsion continues through his midsection and his massive arm extension.
He doesn’t over-reach, and nothing falls out of place when he’s squaring a ball up. The result of this when he gets the meat of the bat on the ball is devastating.
Exit velocity on the baseball after contact frequently reaches 110 mph and above. If he gets just a little under it, the ball will probably leave planet Earth.
Judge has a similar approach, but it’s more compact. Judge also currently employs a more open stance, leaving the outside of the strike zone somewhat more vulnerable.
This leaves more holes in his swing path, but can lead to harder hit balls, due to his larger frame putting more energy behind the swing, and a more locked in zone on the inner half.
This leads to the next thing to look at. When you have these kind of big power swings, you’ll more often than not have higher strikeout rates, especially as a younger hitter.
Stanton does have a good eye at the plate, but his affinity to swing big can lead to more swings and misses. This was especially apparent in the early stages of Stanton’s career, where he had a more volatile swing, similar to Judge’s look now.
Judge is a couple of years Stanton’s junior, and developed a lot slower than Stanton, but leads us to believe that if Judge can put it together like Stanton has over the last couple of years.
Add a little refinement, sugar, spice, and everything nice, and Judge can become the behemoth Stanton is now.
In the 2016 season, Judge had a horrendous strikeout rate, striking out exactly half of his AB’s. He had massive holes in his swing, and had a less than stellar approach at the plate.
From my scouting report, which is admittedly amateur at best, he wasn’t aggressive enough on get-me-over first pitch strikes, and he suffered from what I call Pedro Cerrano Syndrome (from the classic film Major League), which is defined as “straight ball I hit very much, but curveball, bats are afraid.”
Over a small sample size of Spring Training, and the first week plus of the 2017 season, Judge is starting to figure it out. His approach is dramatically improving, and his plate coverage is getting better.
He’s laying off more pitches that are falling out of the bottom of the zone, and when he hits the ball, it’s a either a screamer or a moon shot.
His line drive single on April 12th that nearly decapitated Rays’ pitcher Jumbo Diaz was clocked with an exit velocity of 116.5 mph, which is the hardest hit ball in this season’s infant stages.
There’s some aspects to improve on, undoubtedly.
Judge is still young, and still rough around the edges. But perhaps he’s found his Jobu, and will continue to improve and put on a display of power few have seen before.
Many Yankees come early to watch the big kid take batting practice, and claim they’ve seen few if any hit the ball as far as Judge can. With the future coming soon in the Bronx, the Bombers and their fans hope they found a big bat to lean on for years to come.