From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:
It seems hard to imagine that eight years ago Aaron Judge began his ascension in the Yankees’ farm system.
The periodical Baseball America had listed the raw outfielder as the organization’s sixth-best prospect. The 6-foot-7 gentle giant was ranked behind No. 1 Gary Sanchez (C), No. 2 Slade Heathcott (OF), No. 3 Mason Williams (OF), No. 4 J.R. Murphy (C) and No. 5 Eric Jagielo (3B). Other notable on the Yankees’ top-10 prospects list back then were No. 8 Greg Bird (1B) and No. 9 Luis Severino (SP).
Here was a partial scouting report on Judge in 2014: “He is a physical beast and has earned physical comparisons with Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton. He shows impressive batting-practice power thanks to his strength and leverage, though some scouts are worried about how well it will translate into games.”
The script has been filled out and, with maturation thrown in to complement his easy-going personality, Judge is obviously the most feared hitter in the major leagues and unequivocally the front-runner for the AL MVP award.
In 2022 when Judge comes to the plate, it’s high alert, camera phones are out, fans are on the edge of their seats and it’s not the time to go to the kitchen to make a sandwich.
Just look at what Judge has accumulated to date through July and the following are all Yankees’ franchise records:
■ 12 home runs over a recent 14-game span;
■ 42 home runs, even passing the immortal Babe Ruth’s record in 1928;
■ 9 multi-homer games, breaking the mark previously set by Ruth in 1927, Mickey Mantle in 1961, Alex Rodriguez in 2007 and Gleyber Torres in 2019.
Judge, who leads the majors in homers, also has delivered three walk-off home runs this season and smashed four grand slams over his MLB career that began six seasons ago.
Judge reached 200 homers this past weekend in his 671st career game. The only player to get there quicker was Ryan Howard, whose 200th career homer occurred in the first baseman’s 658th game in 2009.
Judge’s ultimate mission will be to catch former Yankee Roger Maris’ franchise and AL single-season record of 61 homers in 1961.
In case you are curious, the record for home runs prior to August is 45, shared by St. Louis’ Mark McGwire (1998) and San Francisco’s Barry Bonds (2001). Bonds was the fastest to the 40-homer mark, getting there in 89 games in 2001.
When Judge hit No. 40 Friday against the Royals, it was the Yankees’ 101st game of the season. At his current pace, Judge would hit 67 homers. I think it would be a surprise if he doesn’t break Maris’ record.
Times sports copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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