Aaron Judge was selected by the Yankees in the first round of the 2013 First Year Player Draft with the 32nd overall pick out of Fresno State.
Judge was originally drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 31st round of the 2010 draft out of Linden High School, but opted to attend college instead. In three years with the Fresno Bulldogs, Judge finished with a .353 batting average, earned First Team All-Western Athletic Conference honors each year, was named an All-American twice, won the 2012 TD Ameritrade College Home Run Derby in 2012 (where he hit 16 total home runs), and led the Bulldogs in home runs, doubles, and runs batted in his junior season.
Judge decided to forego his senior season and signed with the Yankees for $1.8 million.
After being drafted by the Yankees, Judge reported to Tampa. During base running drills, Judge tore his quadriceps femoris muscle and was shut down for the remainder of the 2013 season. At that time, Baseball America listed Judge as the Yankees sixth-best prospect.
Judge made his professional debut with the Class-A (Low) Charleston River Dogs to start the 2014 season. In 65 games with Charleston, Judge broke out in a big way, hitting .333/.428/.530 while mashing nine home runs, 15 doubles, and two triples. He batted in 45 runs over that time in just 234 at bats, and was promptly promoted to the Class-A (Advanced) Tampa Yankees.
In 66 games with Tampa to conclude the 2014 season, Judge posted a .283/.411/.442 slash line while hitting eight homers, nine doubles, two triples, and he knocked in 33 RBIs over 233 at bats.
Judge’s combined numbers in 2014 put him on the Scottsdale Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League after the regular season had ended. Judge appeared in 24 games with the Scorpions where he hit .278 and added hour home runs.
Judge was named to the South Atlantic League All-Star team.
The Yankees invited Judge to Major League Spring Training as a non-roster player. In 17 games with the big league club, Judge compiled 22 at bats and finished hitting .273/.429/.455 with a home run, a double, and five RBIs.
At the end of spring training, Judge reported to the Double-A Trenton Thunder. After just 63 games though, Judge earned another mid-season promotion – this time to the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. While with the Thunder, Judge continued his dominance at the plate, hitting .284/.350/.516 with 12 homers, 16 doubles, three triples, and 44 RBIs.
Judge appeared in 61 games with the RailRiders to conclude the 2015 season, and he struggled at the plate there. Judge hit .224/.308/.373 with eight homers, 12 doubles, and 28 RBIs. The Yankees opted not to include Judge in their September call-ups in 2015, but he was chosen to represent the Yankees in the All-Star Futures Game in Cincinnati where he went 1-for-4 and scored a run.
Judge got his second invitation to Major League Spring Training, but his offensive struggles continued. In 19 at-bats, Judge hit .053/.143/.211 and opened the season back at Scranton. However, in 93 games with the RailRiders, Judge found his groove again and hit .270/.366/.489 with 19 home runs, 18 doubles, a triple, and drove in 65 runs.
On Aug. 13, 2016 Judge made his Major League debut at Yankees Stadium and hit a home run in his first major league at-bat off of Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Matt Andriese. Judge went yard again in his second Major League game, and he finished his debut season with the Yankees hitting .179/.263/.345 with four home runs, two doubles, and 10 RBIs in 84 at bats where he also fanned 42 times.
Judge was shut down Sept. 13, 2016, after suffering a Grade 2 oblique strain.
At 6-foot-7 and 275 pounds, the first thing that jumps out about Judge is his size. Judge looks more like a football player than a baseball player, and he actually received offers to play college football as a tight end. But do not be fooled, despite his frame Judge can move around the outfield swiftly and is an above-average defender with a cannon throwing arm.
On a 20-80 scouting scale, MLB.com gave Judge a 60 for arm strength and accuracy, as well as a 60 power and 55 overall hitting grade. MLB.com also has Judge currently listed as the No. 45 prospect in all of baseball and No. 4 in the Yankees organization.
The right-hander, who will turn 25 on April 26, has been praised for his ability to hit for power, but his willingness to expand the zone in his brief stint with the Yankees last year was to his detriment as he compiled 42 strikeouts in 84 at bats. Judge, however, possesses an outstanding work ethic and has dedicated himself to cutting down on his strikeouts and the results of that work have been apparent this spring.
Judge has all of the physical tools to be a complete Major League outfielder and the intangibles to be a great leader in the clubhouse. He should get his chance to prove that sooner than later.
If spring training to this point is any indication, Judge looks primed to have a monster season with the Yankees. In his second at-bat of the spring on Feb 24, Judge sent a moonshot off the top of the 40-foot scoreboard in center field at George M. Steinbrenner Field that still may not have landed.
In eight games so far this spring, Judge is 7-for-18 with a slash line of .389/.476/.667 including a home run, a triple, and two runs-batted-in. He also has put an emphasis on cutting down on his strike outs and early indications are positive as he has fanned only three times.
Back in November, Yankees principal owner and managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner told the YES network in an interview that he expected Judge to be the team’s starting right fielder this season. However, General Manager Brian Cashman and Manager Joe Girardi later did not echo that sentiment. Cashman and Girardi have each said they believe the starting right field job will be an open competition between Judge and Aaron Hicks – a switch-hitter who batted .217 in 123 games in his first season with the Yankees last year.
Still, the clear favorite for the starting right field job has to be Judge, and his power and overall improved play ultimately support that. Expect Judge to break camp with the big league club and start the season in right field at the Trop against the Rays Sunday, April 2.