Aaron Judge

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Aaron James Judge
(All Rise)

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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 tremendous 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 Oriolees, 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.

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

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • AL All-Star (2017)

Records held[edit]

  • Most consecutive games with a strikeout by a non-pitcher: 37, New York, July 8-August 20, 2017

Further Reading[edit]

  • Bryan Hoch: "Judge makes adjustments to accelerate path: Yankees' top prospect hopes to make Major League debut in '16", mlb.com, February 15, 2016. [1]
  • Bryan Hoch: "All(-Star's) rise! Judge rules in Derby debut", mlb.com, July 11, 2017. [2]
  • 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. [3]
  • Carter Karels: "6 things you need to know about Yankees star Aaron Judge", USA Today, July 3, 2017. [4]
  • Bob Klapisch: "Seriously, can anyone stop Aaron Judge?", USA Today Sports, June 12, 2017. [5]
  • Bob Klapisch: "Yankees' Aaron Judge never forgot his roots", USA Today Sports, June 23, 2017. [6]
  • Bob Klapisch: "Aaron Judge is back in a New York groove", USA Today Sports, September 15, 2017. [7]
  • Howard Megdal: "Aaron Judge's early power surge a big deal for the Yankees", USA Today Sports, August 17, 2016. ¸[8]
  • Kevin Santo: "Aaron Judge's rookie exploits seem destined for the record books", USA Today Sports, June 9, 2017. [9]

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