Aaron Judge

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Aaron James Judge
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Biographical Information[edit]

Outfielder Aaron Judge was selected by the Oakland Athletics in the 31st round of the 2010 amateur draft. He did not sign, opting to attend Fresno State University instead. He was then taken by the New York Yankees and scout Troy Afenir in the supplemental first round of the 2013 amateur draft, with the 32nd overall pick. He signed shortly before the deadline for a $1.8 million bonus. He was an outstanding all-around athlete in high school, also starring in basketball, where he averaged almost 17 points and 11 rebounds per game as a center, and as a wide receiver in football, where he set a school records for touchdowns and receiving yards in a season. Like future teammate Rob Refsnyder, Judge was adopted by a suburban white family, but he has never had any contact with his birth parents, as the adoption took place immediately after he was born.

Judge made his professional debut in 2014 with the Charleston RiverDogs of the South Atlantic League, and before the year was out, he had been promoted to the Tampa Yankees of the Florida State League. In 131 games between the two teams, he hit .308/.419/.486 with 24 doubles and 17 homers, 80 runs and 78 RBIs. He also drew 89 walks, showing an excellent eye at the plate. He continued his progression in 2015, starting off with the Trenton Thunder of the AA Eastern League and once again at the halfway point of the season he earned a promotion, this time the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders of the AAA International League. His numbers were not as glowing as in his first season, but were still good: a batting line of .255/.330/.448 in 124 games, 26 doubles and 20 homers, 63 runs and 72 RBIs. His numbers were brought down by a .224 average at Scranton, where pitchers began to pitch him off-speed pitches at the corner of the strike zone, after challenging him unsuccessfully with mostly fastballs until then. He played in the 2015 Futures Game that year.

In 2016, he began the season back at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and hit much better, putting up a .270 average in 93 games and displaying excellent power with 18 doubles and 19 homers. It was his luck that the Yankees were now undertaking a youth movement by getting rid of some of their older players, and the day after former superstar Alex Rodriguez played his last game in pinstripes, he was called up to the Show, making his debut in right field and batting 8th against the Tampa Bay Rays at New Yankee Stadium. Batting ahead of him was his Scranton teammate, Tyler Austin, playing 1B, and he got his big league ledger started by homering off Matt Andriese to open the score in the 2nd; not to be outdone, Aaron followed with a home run of his own, a monster shot that went an estimated 476 feet to dead center, one of the longest ever hit at the ballpark. It was the first time two teammates had homered in their maiden big league at-bat in the same game, never mind back-to-back. He then added another hit and run to finish 2 for 4 as the Yankees cruised to an 8-4 win. He hit another homer in his second game the next day to become only the second player in Yankees history to homer in his first two games, after Joe Lefebvre. In 27 games, he hit only .179 with 42 strikeouts in 84 at-bats. He hit two more homers after his opening burst to finish with 4 and 10 RBIs. On September 13th, he was removed from a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers with a right oblique strain, ending his season.

In 2017, he was the opening day right fielder for the Yankees and drove in the team's first run of the year with a double off Chris Archer of the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2nd inning on April 2nd. It was the start of an excellent month during which he hit .303, scored 23 runs, hit 10 home runs and collected 20 RBIs, helping his team to finish April in first place in the AL East. He was rewarded by being named the American League's Rookie of the Month. The turnover in the calendar did not slow him down at all, as on May 3rd, he hit his 13th homer of the year against Marcus Stroman of the Toronto Blue Jays to take over the major league lead in the category. It was another monstrous drive, as most of his long balls had been, but he did not only hit homers: his 7th-inning single off Joe Biagini started the game-winning rally as he came to score on Chris Carter's single before two more runs in the inning gave the Yankees an 8-6 win. He hit his first career grand slam on May 28th off Andrew Triggs in a 9-5 win over the Oakland Athletics. During that homestand, the Yankees had capitalized on his growing popularity by creating the "Judge's Chambers" at New Yankee Stadium, a special seating area in the bleachers where fans would don judge's robes and rise in unison every time he stepped up to the plate, in anticipation of the slugger sending a long ball there. The grand slam was his 16th homer of the year, giving a share of the major league lead with Mike Trout. He repeated as Rookie of the Month in May when he batted .347 with 17 runs scored and as many RBIs, in addition to 7 homers. On June 11th, he hit a 495-foot blast, the longest homer in the majors that season, as part of two-homer performance against the Baltimore Orioles in a 14-3 win. At the end of the game, he was leading the AL in all three triple crown categories with 21 homers, 47 RBIs and a .344 average. He made it 3 for 3 with Rookie of the Month awards in June, and also added the AL Player of the Month honors for the first time, after hitting .324 with 10 homers and 25 RBIs, also scoring 30 runs. Even though he was a rookie and a virtual unknown before the start of the year, his tremendous first three months resulted in his being voted to a starting spot in the AL's outfield for the 2017 All-Star Game; he received more votes than any other American League player too. On July 5th, he tied the Yankees rookie record for home runs, held by Joe DiMaggio, by hitting number 29 in a loss to the Blue Jays. Number 30 came two days later, on July 7th, in the 82nd game of the season. He was also selected to take part in the Home Run Derby, held on July 10th, and put up another amazing display, hitting a total of 47 homers, including four that traveled over 500 feet, to defeat Miguel Sano in the finals.

After his star turn at his first All-Star Game, Judge found the going rougher in his first few games after the break. He started off the second half 1-for-21, also having a sure homer taken away when the Boston Red Sox's Jackie Bradley Jr. reached into the stands in the centerfield triangle at Fenway Park to deny him. On August 3rd, he was hitting just .164 with 4 homers, 9 RBIs but 29 strikeouts since the All-Star Game, prompting manager Joe Girardi to bench him for a spell. The Yankees' offense had gone stone cold as soon as he stopped being its main engine, and Girardi realized the rookie needed a bit of a mental break at that point. During that slump, he was passed by Giancarlo Stanton for the major league home run lead. On August 16th, he set a new AL record by striking in his 33rd straight game, yet he also hit a huge home run that traveled an estimated 457 feet up to the third deck at Citi Field in a 5-3 win over the New York Mets. Stanton was running away with the major league home run lead, but Judge still led the AL. On August 19th, his strikeout streak reached 36 games, giving him a share of the major league record, held by Adam Dunn. He claimed the record for himself the next day and the streak ended on August 22nd, when he went 1 for 1 with 3 walks before being replaced by Jacoby Ellsbury in the 7th inning with New York holding a lead of 11-1 over the Detroit Tigers. It was clear that Girardi saw an opportunity to put and end to the distraction the streak was causing and jumped on it. He began to show some new life in his bat in September, and on September 10th, a two-homer game against the Texas Rangers gave him 41 for the season, making him only the second rookie ever to top 40 homers, after Mark McGwire in 1987. He had another great game on September 14th, confirming that whatever had been ailing him in mid-season was now in the past. Facing the Orioles, he homered twice - both tape-measure shots - and drive in 6 runs in a 13-5 win as the Yanks consolidated their hold on a wild card slot while breathing down the necks of the first-place Red Sox. The second of the long balls was his 27th at New Yankee Stadium that season, breaking the record set by Curtis Granderson in 2012. On September 25th, he broke McGwire's mark for most homers by a rookie when he hit #49 and 50 in an 11-3 win over the Kansas City Royals. It was his second consecutive two-homer game. He finished the season with 52 homers, but his record for most by a rookie lasted just two years, as he was passed by Pete Alonso in 2019. He was named the AL's Rookie of the Month for the fourth time, and its Player of the Month for the first time in September after hitting .311 with 15 homers, 29 runs and 31 RBIs. After the season, he was voted unanimously as the winner of the 2017 American League Rookie of the Year Award and finished second to José Altuve in the voting for the MVP Award. He underwent shoulder surgery after the season for removal of loose cartilage, although this was ot expected to have any negative impact on his future performance.

Heading into the 2018 season, he received one more honor: his likeness was portrayed on card number 1 of the 2018 Topps baseball card set. This was the result of a fan vote. He got himself in trouble on March 14th with an off-the-cuff remark to reporters, stating that the Baltimore Orioles' Manny Machado would be a great addition to the Yankees. Had a similar remark been made by a team official, the Yankees would have likely faced a fine or worse for tampering; in this case, the Commissioner's office contacted the Yankees, and after having ascertained that Judge's remarks were not authorized, asked the Yankees to tell him not to express such thoughts in public. He started in right field on Opening Day, March 29th, but in the team's third game of the year, on March 31st, he played center field for the first time of his career, a move necessitated by injuries to Jacoby Ellsbury, Aaron Hicks and Clint Frazier, the three players expected to handle the position. With Brett Gardner taking a rest, he tied Walt Bond for the tallest centerfielder in major league history at 6' 7". On April 16h, he became the fastest player to hit 60 career home runs, doing so in 197 games; Mark McGwire, the previous record holder, had needed 202 games. On May 26th, he became the fastest to 70 homers as well, having needed 231 games to do so, two fewer than Ryan Howard. On June 4th, he set a record for most strikeouts by a player in a doubleheader, as he was fanned 8 times in 9 at-bats as the Yanks split a pair of games against the Detroit Tigers. he got to wear the Platinum Sombrero for the first time of his career in the nitecap. Shortly after starting his second All-Star Game, he was hit by a pitch by Jakob Junis of the Kansas City Royals on July 26th and suffered a chip fracture of his right wrist, putting him out of action for three weeks. On August 15th, the Yankees announced that his recovery would take longer than anticipated. His absence was having a significant effect on the team's performance, as they were just 9-9 since his injury and by the time he returned, on September 14th, they had been just two games above .500 and had fallen far behind the Red Sox. In his return, he played two innings on defence in right field in an 11-0 win over the Blue Jays but did not come to bat, and it was not clear yet when he would appear in the batter's box. However, he did return to playing regularly before the season ended and he finished at .278 with 27 homers and 67 RBIs. He quickly shook off doubts about his physical form in the Wild Card Game on October 3rd when he hit a two-run homer off Liam Hendriks of the Oakland Athletics in the 1st inning, sending the Yankees on their way to a convincing win. In the Division Series, he was 6 for 16 with 2 homers, but the Yankees still bowed out to the Red Sox in 4 games.

On April 20, 2019, he had to leave a game in the 6th inning because of what was described as a "pretty significant oblique injury". It came at a particularly bad time for the Yankees, as their injured list was already filled to the brim, with fellow outfielders Stanton and Hicks already there. He was off to a good start, hitting .280 with 5 homers and 11 RBIs in 20 games. He returned to action on June 21st, but surprisingly the Yankees managed to overcome his and all sorts of other injuries to have a great season. In fact, he was well down the list of principal contributors to the team's success and received only limited press coverage, in contrast to his first few years. On August 27th, however, he reached a significant milestone with his 100th career home run, coming in his 371st game; he was the third fastest to the mark, trailing only Ryan Howard (325 games) and teammate Gary Sanchez, who had reached the mark in 355 games only a week earlier. He ended up playing 102 games that year, hitting .272 with 27 homers and 55 RBIs. He went 3 for 9 in the Yankees' sweep of the Minnesota Twins in the Division Series, all his hits being singles, and then 6 for 25 with a homer in their loss to the Houston Astros in the ALCS.

There were more injury worries in spring training in 2020 after he complained of nagging discomfort early on, before tests finally discovered he had a stress fracture in one rib, an injury likely dating back to the previous season. He was prescribed rest, although if that did not work, the next option was to have the rib surgically removed. For him, the forced suspension of baseball's activities due to the coronavirus pandemic came at an opportune time, as it allowed him to take extended rest to take care of the problem. He was thus in the starting lineup when the season finally started on July 23rd. He went on a tear shortly after that, homering in five straight games starting on July 29th, including a pair of long balls against the Red Sox on August 2nd; the second of these was a two-run shot off Matt Barnes in the bottom of the 8th that broke a 7-7 tie and gave the Yanks a 9-7 win. Not coincidentally, the Yankees won all five of these games to get off to an excellent 7-1 start. He was hitting .290 with 9 homers and 20 RBIs after 17 games when he was placed on the injured list with a "very mild" calf strain on August 14th. But when he returned on August 26th, he played just one game before heading back to the IL, and finally came back healthy on September 16th. He did not hit another homer during the regular season, finishing with 9 in 28 games. Because he had had such a hot start, his OPS+ was still an excellent 142, but there was concern heading into the postseason. He went just 4 for 30 in the two rounds of the postseason that the Yankees played, but three of the hits were long balls and he drove in five runs. Still, it was a disappointing season overall.

In 2021, Judge was back in All-Star form and was clearly his team's best player as the Yankees struggled with inconsistency and injuries in the first half. His production was one of the main reasons they were still in contention at the trading deadline, when they acquired Anthony Rizzo and Joey Gallo to add a couple of left-handed bats to a line-up that was overwhelmingly right-handed. For a few games after the trade, he formed a giant-sized outfield playing alongside Stanton in left and Gallo in right, while manning centerfield among a trio of players all 6' 5" or taller. He had a great game, albeit for naught, in the "Field of Dreams Game" played on August 12th in a temporary ballpark erected in a cornfield near Dyersville, IA. He blasted two homers into the corn stalks, the first a three-run shot off Lance Lynn in the 3rd, and the second a two-out two-run blast against closer Liam Hendriks in the 9th. That brought the Yankees within one, and after a walk to Gallo, Stanton hit a two-run blast of his own to give the Yankees an improbable 8-7 lead over the Chicago White Sox, but the Yankees were unable to nail it down as Tim Anderson ended one of the most thrilling games in recent memory with a two-run homer of his own against Zack Britton in the bottom of the 9th.

Because of his large size and outstanding power, he has been compared to Hall of Famer Dave Winfield and to contemporary and teammate Giancarlo Stanton.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 2017 AL Rookie of the Year Award
  • 2017 Topps All-Star Rookie Team
  • 3-time AL All-Star (2017, 2018 & 2021)
  • AL Silver Slugger Award Winner (2017)
  • AL Runs Scored Leader (2017)
  • AL Home Runs Leader (2017)
  • AL Bases on Balls Leader (2017)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 3 (2017-2019)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 1 (2017)
  • 40-Home Run Seasons: 1 (2017)
  • 50-Home Run Seasons: 1 (2017)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 1 (2017)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 1 (2017)

AL Rookie of the Year
2016 2017 2018
Michael Fulmer Aaron Judge Shohei Ohtani

Records held[edit]

  • Strikeouts by a rookie: 208, 2017
  • Strikeouts in a doubleheader: 8, June 4, 2018
  • Most consecutive games with a strikeout by a non-pitcher: 37, New York, July 8-August 20, 2017
  • Bases on balls by a rookie: 128, 2017

Further Reading[edit]

  • Ted Berg: "Yankees' Aaron Judge makes powerful opening statement in playoffs", USA Today Sports, October 3, 2018. [1]
  • David Fischer: Aaron Judge: The Incredible Story of the New York Yankees' Home Run–Hitting Phenom, Sports Publishing LLC., New York, NY, 2017. ISBN 978-1683582366
  • Bryan Hoch: "Judge makes adjustments to accelerate path: Yankees' top prospect hopes to make Major League debut in '16", mlb.com, February 15, 2016. [2]
  • Bryan Hoch: "All(-Star's) rise! Judge rules in Derby debut", mlb.com, July 11, 2017. [3]
  • Bryan Hoch: "Judge places 2nd for AL MVP behind Altuve", mlb.com, November 16, 2017. [4]
  • Bryan Hoch: "Judge going into '18 with plenty to prove: Despite AL ROY honors, slugger says he has to continue to produce", mlb.com December 26, 2017. [5]
  • Bryan Hoch: "Cashman: Judge may return 'at full capacity'", mlb.com, May 14, 2020. [6]
  • Bryan Hoch: "Judge ready for 'ultimate goal' with Yanks: Slugger enters offseason healthy, likes club's direction", mlb.com, November 6, 2020. [7]
  • Bruan Hoch: "Judge 'playing a little smarter' to stay on field: Team leader: 'Every year, I put my heart and soul into this game'", mlb.com, February 23, 2021. [8]
  • Andrew Joseph: "Aaron Judge's epic Home Run Derby performance left the baseball world in awe", "For the Win!", USA Today Sports, July 10, 2017. [9]
  • Carter Karels: "6 things you need to know about Yankees star Aaron Judge", USA Today, July 3, 2017. [10]
  • Bob Klapisch: "Seriously, can anyone stop Aaron Judge?", USA Today Sports, June 12, 2017. [11]
  • Bob Klapisch: "Yankees' Aaron Judge never forgot his roots", USA Today Sports, June 23, 2017. [12]
  • Bob Klapisch: "Aaron Judge is back in a New York groove", USA Today Sports, September 15, 2017. [13]
  • Mike Lupica: "Year 2 of Judge-Stanton combo may be historic: Yankees' biggest bashers out to challenge Maris-Mantle mark", mlb.com, March 27, 2019. [14]
  • Howard Megdal: "Aaron Judge's early power surge a big deal for the Yankees", USA Today Sports, August 17, 2016. ¸[15]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Aaron Judge at 50: A worthy king of rookie home runs", USA Today Sports, September 25, 2017. [16]
  • Kevin Santo: "Aaron Judge's rookie exploits seem destined for the record books", USA Today Sports, June 9, 2017. [17]

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