No Concerns With Judge

In his first year in the minor leagues, Aaron Judge has made himself known as a power hitter, a strong outfielder, and a supportive teammate. Coming off an injury that delayed his start with the Yankees, Judge has moved up to the high-A team and continued to do well. While some critics have pointed out the rather high number of strikeouts, none of Judge's coaches are concerned long-term.

“He has been a big part of our lineup and a big part of our offensive. He hasn’t seemed overmatched with the jump from low-A to here,” hitting coach P.J. Piliterre said. “He’s hit the ground running and he’s constantly striving to get better. I have been really impressed with him.”

Judge has managed to set himself apart by his patience and command at the plate, a quality that is not often seen in a young hitter. So while there was a 13-game stretch in early to mid-August that saw him strike out at least once in each game [21 times total during that time], nobody is too concerned about it being a long-term issue.

Coming in at 6-foot-7, Judge already has a larger strike zone than most hitters, but manager Al Pedrique feels that Judge’s mental command will continue to help him make contact with the ball.

“I think it is going to get better because he is going to be facing pitchers with better command. They are going to be around the strike zone almost 100 percent, and at the higher level, they throw almost all the pitches for strikes,” Pedrique said. "I think that once he realizes that, he is going to have more confidence and he is going see that ‘Well I just gotta be patient with a pitch to hit.’

“And the one thing that he will probably have to learn, and he will, is that at some point in his at-bat he’s going to get that one pitch. At some point, that pitcher is going to make a mistake and he’s going to take advantage of that mistake because he is a very smart hitter.”

There was a point in this past season where Judge had a streak of strikeouts, but neither the manager nor the hitting coach was concerned. It seemed normal for someone who was in the middle of his longest season to date.

“I think it is more specific of a reason, because he does not swing and miss. So if he is striking out, it is not because he is swinging and missing. I think it is because the pitches are borderline pitches, and probably half of them aren’t even strikes they are just called strikes,” Piliterre opined.

“He’s got such a good feel for the strike zone that he just refuses to swing at pitches he thinks are balls. We just constantly keep preaching that to him - if it is a ball don’t swing at it. The last thing I want him to do is swing at a pitch that is not a strike just because you think the umpire is going to call it.”

One of Judge’s unique qualities as a young hitter is his ability to be confident and swing even when the count may be against him.

“We are trying to embrace that skill that he has of really good strike zone discipline so he doesn’t lose that,” Piliterre added.

Coming out of Charleston, Judge has seen the increased competition and has been trying to stay focused on being able to stick to what works for him. With any misstep, Judge feels that it always goes back to deviating from the hitting plan he developed for himself.

“I just wasn’t sticking to my approach,” Judge said. “Just sticking to my plan is probably the biggest thing. When the game speeds up, you have to try and slow it back down and stick with what you do.”

During that rut, nothing changed for Judge coming on and off the field. Whatever the situation at bat may have been, his coaches saw him move forward in the game without the pressure shifting his stride.

“It showed a kid that for his young age, is very mature. He didn’t lose his composure, he stayed the same, he didn’t get too high or too down, and for me that is a sign that he has a chance to be a good major league baseball player,” Pedrique said.

It did not take long for Judge to move past the small dip in his season, coming back to end his first season on a high note. He refocused with his coach, Piliterre, in order to get back to the game that worked for him at the beginning of the year and has been doing well since.

“Everyone has those slumps you know, and just being able to get out of them quicker is probably the biggest thing that everyone is trying to fight with,” Judge said.

There still may be some adjustments for Judge to make going forward, but there is no room to debate whether the potential for a strong major leaguer is there. Based off of his size and athleticism, there have been come comparisons as to Giancarlo Stanton and questions to whether he has the same ceiling as Stanton.

“I think without a doubt that he has the same ceiling as Stanton does. It is funny because he watches a lot of Stanton’s stuff,” Piliterre said. “Granted, Stanton signed out of high school so he had a little longer time to develop in the minor leagues. But I mean, it’s hard to compare anybody to anybody.

“It is easy to compare him to Stanton because of the size but I think their games are similar. They are both very good outfielders, they both possess a really good arm, they both have big power, the both have good strike zone discipline. I think it is a good comparison and I think he can get there.

“I think potentially he might even become a better hitter than Giancarlo Stanton. Just because of how many walks and how he doesn’t swing and miss much. For me, I feel very comfortable in putting a high ceiling and comfortable with saying he can get to the point that Stanton is.”

The next step in Judge’s development may be the Arizona Fall League, something that has been discussed with him recently. Going forward, Judge is definitely a player to watch as he moves through the minor leagues if not for his pure ability, but just for being a fun guy to watch.

“It is just the way he walks on the field, the way he represents himself when he is at the plate, I don’t like to miss a pitch. I feel like sooner or later he is going to hit one and I’m going to go ‘Oh my gosh,’” Pedrique said. “Like the one he hit the other night, I tried hard to contain my emotion but it is fun to watch when a kid like him does well.”

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