Few rookies ever have had the kind of season that Aaron Judge had for the New York Yankees in 2017, the kind of season that made him an easy winner of Baseball America’s Rookie of the Year award.
A 2013 first-round pick out of Fresno State, Judge broke Major League Baseball’s record for most home runs by a rookie, hitting 52 to rank second in the major leagues this year and first in the American League. Judge also led the AL in runs scored (128) and walks (127) while powering the Yankees back to the playoffs in a 91-win season. Judge batted .284/.422/.627 overall, ranking second behind only the Angels’ Mike Trout in on-base and slugging percentage among AL players.
Judge’s 127 walks is the most ever by a big league rookie, breaking a record Ted Williams set in 1939, and his slugging mark ranks second all-time. Judge, whom AL managers ranked as the Best Power Hitter in BA’s Best Tools survey, is the first Yankee to win BA’s award since shortstop and future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter was the top rookie in 1996.
“You watched him in the minor leagues and you saw the raw power and athletic ability,” one pro scout told BA during the season. “You saw a big swing and high strikeout numbers. Then you have to ask yourself does he have the ability to make adjustments and shorten the swing. The answer was yes.’
“If anybody says they expected this I would have to call them a liar. Nobody in their right mind expected this.”
Here is Kyle Glaser’s story from May about Judge and the swing changes he undertook to unlock his power.
By John Manuel