Aaron Judge gets first start in LF, 11 years after drafted by Yankees

Yankees' Aaron Judge started as a left fielder for the first time in his career on June 6, 2024.
Amanda Paula
Thursday June 6, 2024

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The New York Yankees announced a significant change ahead of their third game against the Minnesota Twins: Aaron Judge will be playing left field at Yankee Stadium for the first time in his career tonight.

Coincidentally, this change comes on the same day that Aaron Judge was drafted by the Yankees eleven years ago. In 2013, the Yankees selected a promising kid out of Fresno State named Aaron Judge, who has since become their captain.

Can 2024 be the best year of Aaron Judge’s career?

Aaron Judge holding a bat during a Yankees' training.
Yankees

This year has presented several challenges for Aaron Judge. He experienced his first career ejection and delivered MVP-caliber numbers last May, earning him the title of AL Player of the Month.

After suffering some struggles in March, Aaron Judge found comfort playing alongside Juan Soto, who came from the San Diego Padres in the offseason. The duo has been leading the Yankees offensively this season. The 2024 season has seen these two sluggers helping the team achieve an MLB-best record of 44-19 over the first 63 games.

Last year, Aaron Judge put up impressive numbers when healthy but lacked support from the lineup. To address this, general manager Brian Cashman acquired Juan Soto in a seven-player trade with the Padres in December. As a result, the Yankees now boast two of the best hitters in baseball.

Aaron Judge exceeds expectations with Juan Soto

Players of the new york yankees: Aaron Judge and Juan Soto
Yankees

Aaron Judge and Juan Soto have exceeded expectations. Judge, overcoming a slow start to 2024, is now hitting .293 with a .423 on-base percentage, .667 slugging percentage, and 21 home runs in 63 games. Soto, in his walk year, is hitting .319 with a .422 on-base percentage, .605 slugging percentage, 17 home runs, and 44 walks. Both players have not only excelled at the plate but also contributed defensively. Judge remains the primary center fielder, and Soto has shown improved defense in right field.

Currently, Juan Judge and Soto rank first and second (tied with Bobby Witt Jr.) in MLB in Fangraphs’ Wins Above Replacement (fWAR). This raises the possibility that they could finish one-two in fWAR for the full season. This feat has only been achieved nine times in modern baseball history, with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig accomplishing it five of those times.

If Judge and Soto maintain their performance, they could be the first teammates to lead the league in fWAR since Griffey and Rodriguez in 1996. Both Judge and Soto excel in quality of contact, as evidenced by their impressive expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA). Judge’s current wOBA is .449 with an xwOBA of .476, while Soto has a wOBA of .438 and an xwOBA of .468. These metrics suggest they can sustain their high level of performance.

Looking ahead

The Yankees have greatly benefited from Aaron Judge’s contributions. Coming off a disappointing 82-win season in 2023, they are now tied with the Phillies for the best record in baseball and are on pace for 113 wins and an AL East title.

The Yankees currently have a 69.4% chance of winning the AL East and a 99.9% chance of making the postseason, according to SportsLine. With reigning AL Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole working his way back, the Yankees have the potential for greatness at both the individual and team levels. Aaron Judge’s excellence is a significant factor in the Yankees’ success this season.

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

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