Yankee fans have already elevated rookie outfielder Aaron Judge to a Paul Bunyan–sized mythic figure—and now the rest of the country is catching on to the slugger’s enormous potential.
At 6-foot-7 and 280 pounds, he certainly looks the part of a Bunyanesque figure. But he lasted to the 32nd pick of the 2013 draft in part because scouts thought he was too big and would be prone to low batting averages and high strikeout rates. In his debut last year for the Yankees, Judge did little to disprove those naysayers, whiffing 42 times in 84 at bats.
But this season is an entirely different matter. Now, 25, Judge has been named the AL Rookie of the Month for April and is batting .317 with a Major League–leading 13 home runs through Sunday. He’s shown a much more patient eye at the plate, cutting his strike out rate to a more manageable 26 percent.
The Washington Post ran a pretty thorough analysis of just why those numbers aren’t misleading. Citing Elias statistics, WaPo points out that no other rookie in major league history ever hit 13 home runs in the first 25 games of a season, and that Judge’s home run–to–plate appearance ratio of 13 percent is on pace to be the highest in the expansion era (since 1961), ahead of even Barry Bonds’ steroid-tainted record season.
Adding to his legend, Judge recently set the record for speed of a batted baseball at 119.4 mph, beating the previous mark set by Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins (119.2 mph).
And he’s swung that big bat without seemingly getting a big head.
“I just feel like I’m in the right place at the right time,” Judge told the Chicago Tribune during this weekend’s series between the Yankees and Cubs.
Besides hitting, Judge can flash some leather, too. Watch an incredible catch he made last month at Fenway Park.