Yankees legend insists strategic DH role for Judge to maximize his impact

Bernie Williams with Yankees stars Aaron Judge and Juan Soto at Tampa, FL, in March 2024.
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Once a key cog in the Yankees’ center field, Bernie Williams is keeping a keen eye on the team’s modern-day outfielders at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Aaron Judge, Juan Soto, Alex Verdugo, and Trent Grisham displayed their skills, navigating the dewy warning track and padded right-field wall with practiced ease under his watchful eyes.

The Yankees legend was quick to note the laser-like focus of the outfielders during practice. Communication and a shared pursuit of excellence were evident as the unit worked cohesively. He singled out Judge and Soto, known primarily for their offensive prowess, but also expressed confidence in their defensive abilities.

“These guys practice with a purpose,” the Yankees legend said. “We talk before and after about communication, about trying to be the best unit out there. I think guys like Judge and Soto, who are better known for their offensive prowess, these guys are going to cause some damage.”

Having spent six weeks back on familiar ground, his legendary status secured in the Monument Park, Williams holds a unique perspective on the 2024 Yankees outfield. This view gained even greater significance with the December acquisition of slugger Juan Soto. The trade necessitated a shift for Judge, placing him in center field – a position where Williams himself excelled, garnering four Gold Glove Awards. Williams admitted to keeping a watchful eye on Judge’s transition this season.

While acknowledging the increased demands of center field, requiring more proactive movement and leadership, Williams expressed confidence in Judge’s ability to handle the challenge. The additional responsibility might put a strain on his joints, but Williams believes Judge’s talent and dedication will prevail. The Yankees legend is likely to be Judge’s biggest supporter as he navigates the new defensive role.

Williams offers insights into Judge’s center field challenge

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Center field beckons Aaron Judge, and the Yankees’ slugger eagerly answers the call. His return to Grapefruit League action against the Pirates wasn’t just about offense; it showcased his defensive prowess. Judge’s agility and focus were on full display as the Yankees’ captain tracked down a deep drive by Jack Suwinski with precision, leaving no doubt about his ability to handle center field duties.

Even a legend like Bernie Williams acknowledges the importance of workload management for Judge. Given Judge’s imposing stature, Williams finds it fascinating to see how the balancing act of playing center field and receiving strategic rest days will impact his offensive output. Can Judge maintain his dominant hitting while taking on the additional defensive responsibilities? This is a question that will likely dominate conversations throughout the season.

Williams is impressed by Judge’s dedication to his training. He points to Judge’s noticeably trimmer physique as a testament to his commitment and believes it will benefit him defensively. Furthermore, Williams highlights Judge’s consistent hitting performance, suggesting that his offensive production won’t suffer despite the new defensive role. But he wants the Yankees to regularly slot Judge as DH to keep his peak production.

“Trying to get to every ball and making sure you’re the captain out there, it’s going to demand a lot more movement and a lot more wear and tear on his joints,” he said. “It’s going to be a challenge, but I don’t think it’s something he can’t handle.”

However, Williams emphasizes that Judge won’t be a lone wolf out there. Teammates like Trent Grisham, known for his defensive skills, will play a crucial role in supporting Judge’s transition. By providing valuable rest days for Judge, Grisham will ensure both outfielder health and continued strong defensive coverage in center field. This collaborative approach will be key to maximizing Judge’s overall impact on the team’s success.

“When you see a guy his size, it’s going to be interesting to see how much time he’ll have to take [off] from playing center so he can stay the offensive power that he is,” Williams said.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone fully backs Aaron Judge’s transition to center field, highlighting his impressive performance in the role during the 2022 season. Despite battling injuries and minor setbacks throughout the year, Judge thrived in center field, even achieving the remarkable feat of surpassing Roger Maris’ single-season American League home run record.

Boone emphasizes Judge’s remarkable ability to navigate these challenges while maintaining a high level of play. His resilience and dedication were evident as he balanced his offensive dominance with the defensive demands of center field. This successful stint in center field last season gives Boone and the Yankees confidence in Judge’s ability to flourish in the position again in 2024.

Bernie sees Soto in mid-season form

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Juan Soto has become a must-watch attraction in batting practice, consistently launching rockets over the outfield wall with each swing. The 25-year-old phenom, widely regarded as one of baseball’s best young hitters, appears primed for the upcoming season according to Yankees legend Bernie Williams.

Williams noted that Soto looked like he was still in mid-season form, even after spring training concluded. He praised Soto’s exceptional swing mechanics, relentless work ethic, and meticulous approach at the plate. Williams even highlighted specific exercises Soto incorporates into his routine to maintain his hitting prowess.

Soto himself exudes excitement about playing in New York City, particularly with its large Dominican population. He anticipates an electric atmosphere at Yankee Stadium. Williams agrees, suggesting fans will quickly embrace the young star. However, Williams also offers a word of caution, emphasizing the importance of a strong start.

“New York fans are passionate,” Williams explained. “They expect excellence, and that applies to every player.” While acknowledging the potential for immediate adoration if Soto performs well from the beginning, Williams also advises patience if he experiences early struggles.

This isn’t lost on Soto, who understands the demanding nature of playing in New York. Yet, Williams expresses confidence in Soto’s ability to handle the pressure. He believes Soto’s quiet demeanor on the field combined with his flashy bat-flips will resonate with the fans and ultimately win their hearts. Time will tell if Soto can become an instant New York hero, but based on his talent and dedication, Williams expects him to be a key contributor to the Yankees’ success.

Verdugo poised for impact with Yankees

Alex Verdugo and Aaron Judge are at Yankees 2024 spring training camp.
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Despite his flamboyant pre-game attire featuring diamond-studded chains and bold gold jewelry, Alex Verdugo has flown under the radar during most spring training sessions. This low-key approach might surprise some, considering his outgoing personality.

Verdugo recently cited disagreements with manager Alex Cora as his reason for requesting a trade from the Red Sox. Yankees legend Bernie Williams believes the change of scenery will benefit Verdugo. Williams highlights Verdugo’s exceptional defensive skills and his ability to deliver clutch hits in key situations, suggesting he’ll be a valuable asset to the Yankees.

Williams anticipates that Verdugo’s laid-back demeanor will positively contribute to the team’s chemistry. He sees Verdugo as a positive addition to the clubhouse environment.

However, Williams acknowledges that Verdugo’s early-season performance will be crucial. A strong start will help him gain the fans’ approval and solidify his role within the team. While Verdugo might not be the center of attention during spring training, his performance on the field will ultimately define his impact on the Yankees.

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One thought on “Yankees legend insists strategic DH role for Judge to maximize his impact

  1. Monty will not sign until after opening day because, if he’s not on the roster for the entire season, he can’t be hit with a Qualifying Offer at the end of the 2024 season, if he has an opt-out at the conclusion of the 2024 season.

    Unless his (potential) contract with the Yankees is larger than expected or doesn’t include a 1st year out-out (which is unlikely), he’d be foolish at this point to sign until after the first game is played. (I believe that’s
    the minimum requirement to avoid the dreaded QO.)

    Frankly, I still find it hard to believe that Hal is going to pay roughly $44-50 Million for, very likely, one partial year of Monty**; and I’m saying that as a big Monty fan. (Monty NEVER should have been traded by that incompetent fool Brainless Brian Cashman.)

    **I said “one partial year of Monty” because it’s likely Monty will need a few starts (3?) at AAA to get ready to join the rotation. So, the Yankees (theoretically) could end up paying $2 Million a start for approx. 25 starts if Monty signs for $25MM. The $25MM would then be taxed at 110% ($27MM), bringing the total cost of signing Monty for approx. 25 starts to $52MM.

    Luis Gil & Will Warren have looked pretty impressive this spring, which will make it even harder for Hal to swallow the idea of spending $50MM or more for Monty, when the ?Yankees have 2 options at the league minimum.

    So, be realistic fans: If it was YOUR $$$, would you rather gamble on two young, good-looking pitching prospects at $740,000 a piece or about $52,000,000 on one pitcher.

    Hey, I love Monty, but there’s no way I’d do that if it was MY $$$, given how good Warren & Gill have looked this spring.

    And it’s likely that any fan who says HE would pay the $52MM is a Liar or Delusional, and Hal would love to talk to you about setting up a payment-installment plan for you for that $52,000,000.

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