Judge Slowing The Game Down

TRENTON, NJ - Outfielder Aaron Judge is once again off to another great start in 2015 just like he had in his professional debut season last year, only this time he's doing it at the Double-A level and not all that far off from the big leagues. He and his coaches credit his ability to slow the game down and take everything one step at a time.

Following a debut season where Aaron Judge batted .308 with 17 home runs and 78 RBIs, the top prospect has continued to improve his stock with a .333 average, five home runs and 14 RBIs through the first few weeks at the Double-A level.

Prior to the season, Judge had the chance to flash his ability during major league camp, crushing a home run and knocking in five, while surrounded by Carlos Beltran, Brett Gardner and Alex Rodriguez.

“With A-Rod, I talked a little bit about hitting and what his approach was, what he’s tried to do,” Judge said. “Beltran and Gardy [talked about] the way they line up in the outfield and what they do in certain situations. That was the biggest thing, those are some future Hall-of-Famers there, and just picking little pieces of what they do in their game and just try to add to my game.”

With that advice Judge has been able to elevate his game with the Trenton Thunder after an already eye-opening debut season. Standing a well-built 6-foot-7, Judge has displayed power to all fields. Perhaps most impressively driving an 0-1 pitch over the right field wall in a 9-3 loss to Akron on May 3.

Although Judge has moved up a level and acknowledged that the game has become quicker, he has been able to improve on last year’s batting average.

“The game speeds up a little bit,” Judge said. “Just making sure you prepare — watching film, know what the starter has, know what relievers have. That’s probably the biggest thing that a lot of guys miss. The game starts to speed up, but if you prepare the right way, everything should start to slow down.”

Adjusting to the advance level hasn’t been difficult for Judge, and he credits the powerful lineup surrounding him for the seamless transition to Double-A.

“I’ve had a great lineup around me and people don’t have to worry about me,” Judge said. “I’m batting second, they have Greg Bird batting third, you’ve got Jake Cave leading off, I’ve got it pretty easy. I kind of have no pressure at all when I’m hitting.”

Although his frame may suggest that he is an all-or-nothing power hitter, Judge has 34 base hits to just five home runs, which manager Al Pedrique attributes to the approach they want their 23-year-old slugger to take.

“We’re not worried about the power numbers right now,” Pedrique said. “We just want to make sure that he stays short with his swing. If they pitch him inside, his hands are quick enough that he’s going to react, and he’s going to start hitting some balls out of the park.”

Judge’s approach has led to an increase in strikeouts in the early going, as he has 26 strikeouts to just five walks. However, the slugger clarified that the decrease in walks is not because of a free-swinging approach.

“I try not to swing at pitches I don’t think are strikes, and if the umpire is going to call them strikes, I just have to stick with my approach,” he said. “Strikeouts are going to happen, walks are going to happen, but it’s just going out there and trying to get your pitch.”

Hitting coach P.J. Piliterre does not believe the strikeouts are anything out of the ordinary, and is confident that it’s not a problem to monitor moving forward.

“We’ve only played 24 games, and it’s a long season,” Piliterre said. “I know people can see that he’s walked five times and struck out 25 times, I’m not alarmed. The way I like to put it with him is look at the strikeouts, it’s not like he swings at bad pitches, so I’m not worried about it.”

For Judge, he doesn’t stop to think about the past or bother worrying about potential promotions, he’d rather enjoy the team he’s playing with and take it one day at a time.

“I’m just trying to go out there and be the best overall guy I can be, get on base and just try to drive guys in,” he said. “I haven’t really looked at myself back then to now.”

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