Aaron Judge is a titan of a man. But the remarkable thing about him isn’t his size––it’s his athleticism.
Unlike behemoth power hitters such as Mark McGwire, Judge isn’t hidden defensively at First Base or Designated Hitter. He has the range and flexibility to play outfield.
Early in the baseball season, he’s doing something truly remarkable.
Judge is absolutely crushing the ball like a Home Run Derby contestant getting soft tosses over the middle of the plate.
Judge says he hadn’t been this hot at the plate since “maybe tee-ball.” It was not supposed to be this easy, and maybe it never will be again.
Judge is a Statcast darling—eight of the 23 hardest-hit balls this season have been his—and his towering home runs make him the most fun player to watch in baseball. But it’s so much more than entertainment. It’s May, and right now Aaron Judge just might be your MVP.
Judge leads the AL in home runs, and is tied for the lead in RBIs. He leads the league in slugging percentage and OPS. He’s fourth in OBP and seventh in batting average—he has not just been a one-dimensional slugger. He has, not for nothing, also played an excellent right field.
The Yankees took Judge at No. 32 overall in the 2013 draft, a compensatory pick for Cleveland signing Nick Swisher. He wasn’t an obvious pick—his size a mark against him. Now listed at 6-foot-7 and 282 pounds, if Judge can merely stay in the majors for a couple of seasons he’ll join some elite company. Only 12 hitters in MLB history 6-foot-6 or taller have recorded more than 1,000 career plate appearances. But eight of them were All-Stars.
A big man’s swing is going to take longer, and his strike zone is going to be bigger, and he’s going to be prone to getting busted inside. But the Yankees gambled that Judge’sathleticism could make up for some of those natural holes—the fact that Judge played center field in college was their first piece of evidence that this wasn’t some hulking stiff.
“It wasn’t just Herman Munster out there,” said Yankees scout Brian Barber. “This was a super-big, super-strong athletic guy.”
Judge has made impressive diving catches and leaping catches at the wall, reminding fans this isn’t your routine Frankenstein-monster slugger. He isn’t 40 lbs. overweight, wheezing around the bases, finally yanking a fastball out of the park after numerous undisciplined plate appearances.
Judge has a chance to stand out as baseball’s physical freak the way LeBron James has the last decade-plus. Big guys just aren’t supposed to move like that.
At only 25 years old, Judge has a chance at a special career. Luckily, fans get to be along for the ride.