Before Thursday, there was a lot of speculation as to who would be the New York Yankees starting right fielder for the 2017 season in Aaron Judge or Aaron Hicks.
Then on Thursday morning, with 72 hours to go until the Yankees open up the regular season against the Tampa Bay Rays, Joe Girardi made his choice. And it was the one most fans were hoping for: Judge.
The one-time first-round draft pick and top outfield prospect for the Yankees will be the everyday right fielder when the season begins and will try to live up to the hype that has followed him since being drafted four years ago.
Less than 24 hours after the retirement of Alex Rodriguez, Judge got his chance to come up to the big league roster and get his feet wet with the Yankees. He smashed a home run to dead center field in his very first at-bat and he had his ups and downs before an injury kept him out for the final few weeks of the season. In the 27 games he was in the majors, Judge hit just .179 with four home runs and 10 RBI and had 42 strikeouts.
Part of the reason why Judge stayed so long in the minor leagues was his frequent strikeout ability and some wondered if he had what it took to stay in the majors and why there was some speculation this spring if he would be in the majors next week.
In the 23 games Judge played in this spring, it seemed like he made some of the necessary adjustments needed, as he’s hitting .345 (20-for-58) with three home runs and six RBI and only 13 strikeouts. While it’s only spring training numbers, Judge showed the Yankees that he was capable of getting better at the plate, especially at cutting the strikeouts down.
Now, most power hitters are going to strike out at the plate; a lot. It happens. So if Judge strikes out 150 times, don’t be alarmed. But if he can be the complete hitter that the Yankees saw when they drafted him, he could end up being a tremendous part of the lineup going forward.
For years, the Yankees avoided including Judge in trade offers from teams because they always felt that Judge would be a part of their future. That future begins now for the Yankees, as in the 2017 season, Judge, along with guys like Greg Bird and Luis Severino, will begin to be a part of a Yankees group that will re-establish the franchise as a top contender in the American League.
Making Judge the everyday right fielder over Hicks was the right move to make, as the Yankees aren’t just eyeing the present, but their future, which with Judge getting a chance to develop into an everyday player, should be a bright one and one with lots of home runs flying over the Yankee Stadium walls.