Draft Day Decision: Does Aaron Judge Deserve First Round Grade?


The title of this article says it all…  When you look at the numbers over the past two seasons wouldn’t you think that the Yankees’ Aaron Judge is a locked in first round selection:

  • 2017 – .284 (154-542), 52 HR, 114 RBI, 128 R, 9 SB
  • 2018 – .278 (115-413), 27 HR, 67 RBI, 77 R, 6 SB

The 2018 numbers were a step back, even if he had played a full season.  However if you project out the power for 550 AB (and let’s be honest when it comes to Judge it’s all about the power) you get 36 HR and 89 RBI.  As an OBP monster with the potential to go 100/100 in a strong lineup that HR total would be enough.

However Judge looked to be a similar player in the first half of 2018 to his breakout rookie season as he hit .276 with 25 HR and 60 RBI over 351 AB.  His 30.4% HR/FB is close to the 35.6% mark he had put up in 2017 and he continued to hit the ball extremely hard all season long (45.3% Hard% in ’17, 48.1% in ’18).

The difference was a drop in his fly ball rate:

  • 2017 – 43.2%
  • 2018 – 35.0%

It’s an interesting development, as opposing pitchers didn’t particularly flip the script against him as he saw about the same number of hard pitches (57.69% vs. 56.37% in ’18).  It was also two por months that dragged down the overall number, with a 25.9% groundball rate in June and 25.0% in September.  The September mark can be written off as a small sample and it being his first month back from injury.  June is a different story, but it was also the only full month he played that was below 38.9%.  With his power that’s more than enough to hit 40+ HR regularly, with another 50 HR campaign very realistic.

Strikeouts are going to be part of his game, but with his power, Hard% and a willingness to use the entire field (28.6% Oppo% in ’18) he’s proven capable of maintaining an average of .270+.  Throw in that in a deep lineup he could go 100/100 even hitting second and what exactly is the problem?

How many .270/40/100/100 players are there, especially ones who could also chip in 10+ SB?  The fact that he could be even better across the board, and as long as he’s healthy you could argue that line is his floor not ceiling, and things become more puzzling.  Does the missed time really justify his current NFBC average ADP of 18.35?  Judge should be a first round selection, but if you have the ability to grab him in the early second it’s an easy decision.  Don’t let last year’s injury cause you to overlook him and not make the selection, even at the tail end of the first round.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, NFBC


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