Is Aaron Judge the next face of baseball? You be the jury.
Back in July at a Baseball Writers Association of America event during the all star break, Major League Baseball commish Rob Manfred was quoted as saying that Yankee rookie outfielder Aaron Judge is a player “who can become the face of the game.” Going further to say that Judge was a “tremendous talent on the field, and really appealing off the field”.
At the time Judge was tearing the cover off the ball (batting .329 with 30 home runs, 66 RBI, with an OPS. of 1.139), capping off the first half of his season by winning the 2017 home run derby. He was hitting a homerun at a rate 11.3* times higher than the daily rate that the average New Yorker showers. (*Entirely fabricated statistic)
To say that Judge has come back to earth since the all star break would be an understatement on par with saying that Kanye West kind of likes himself. He came back to earth faster than my dog comes at me when I open the bag of snausages.
Since the all star break Judge has batted a prodigious .161, with 5 home runs and 12 RBI. His OPS has been a staggering .664, and has tossed in 43 strikeouts. His current streak of consecutive games with a strike out is at 29 games.
Now, do I believe that Aaron Judge is the next Kevin Maas? Blasting onto the Yankee Stadium stage only to fade into obscurity almost as quickly. Not really. Like any rookie, the pitchers have adjusted to him, and its now his turn to make adjustments. He will, and he’ll be fine. He’s likely to hang around the middle of the Yankees batting order for the next decade or so.
But his precipitous drop off in production brings into question the validity of commissioner Manfred’s comments regarding Judge possibly being the face of the game. If you were to ask who many considered to be the last faces of baseball, I’m sure you’d get many answers, but two guys likely to be involved in any legitimate conversation on the matter would be Derek Jeter and David Ortiz.
Two guys with charisma. Two guys that shone brightest when the biggest moments were upon them. Two guys playing for historic franchises in big baseball markets. Two team leaders. Two champions. So talented and classy that its easy to find Red Sox fans who will begrudgingly provide Jeter respect, and easy to find Yankees fans who will reciprocate for Ortiz.
So if Aaron Judge isn’t the future face of baseball, then who is? Well, lets take a look at 10 of baseball’s best young hitters. Even though Judge is a rookie, a lot of these players are significantly more accomplished than Judge is, and all but one is actually younger than Judge.
Cody Bellinger – Los Angles Dodgers – First Baseman – DOB: 7/13/95
All the rookie Bellinger has done is pretty much match Judge’s production for the season. He’s also younger, also plays for a historic franchise in a large market, and is the feel good story of the Dodger’s 2017 season. A season that currently is on pace to become the best version of the Dodgers that the league has seen since da bums left Brooklyn.
Carlos Correa – Houston Astros – Short Stop – DOB: 9/22/94
All the former number one overall pick has done is bat .320 with 20 home runs this year while battling injuries. His Astros have the best record in the American League, and in 6 career post season games the young face of the Astros franchise already has 2 home runs.
Andrew Benintendi: Boston Red Sox – Outfield – DOB: 7/6/94
After a brief cup of coffee last year, Benny Biceps (already has a cool nickname) maintained his rookie status coming into this season. He’s on pace for a 20/20 season. The former Arkansas Razorback plays for a rabid fan base, is skilled, and charismatic.
Corey Seager: Los Angeles Dodgers – Short Stop – DOB: 4/27/94
The former Uber-prospect has not disappointed. The 23 year old shortstop is playing a premium position, for the Dodgers, and winning. He’s currently batting .308 with 19 home runs and 57 RBI’s, while maintaining a .920 OPS. The casual baseball fan may not be able to tell you much about him. I suspect they’ll take notice in October.
Francisco Lindor: Cleveland Indians – Short Stop – DOB: 11/14/93
Speaking of making their presence felt in October, Lindor is arguably the best player for the defending American League champions. Only 23, he’s been a member of 2 all star squads, and batted .310 during last season’s world series run for the Indians. If he played in New York, or Boston he’d be considered the next big thing for baseball.
Gary Sanchez: New York Yankees – Catcher – DOB: 12/2/92
Meet Aaron Judge’s spirit animal. During the dog days of summer last year Sanchez burst onto the scene for New York. In just 53 games he batted .299 with 20 home runs while knocking in 42. His numbers this year are outstanding for a 24 year old playing baseball’s most grueling position, though not quite as explosive as his debut figures. If Judge can level out like Sanchez did, the Yankees will have a potent pair in the heart of their line up for years to come.
Bryce Harper: Washington Nationals – Outfielder – DOB: 10/16/92
People forget how young Harper is. Only 24, Harper has accomplished so much in his short career that it feels like its been forever. The #1 overall pick in 2010. Rookie of the year in 2012. Unanimous National League MVP in 2015. 150 career home runs, over 500 runs scored, over 400 RBI, oh, and he’s 24. Considered by some to be kind of a dick, there is no questioning that the kid plays hard. When he becomes a 26 year old free agent after the 2018 season, he will likely set records with his new contract.
Mookie Betts: Boston Red Sox – Outfield – DOB: 10/7/92
A terrific glove in fenway’s treacherous right field. Charismatic, strong, fast, and accomplished. Betts is a world class bowler. In only his 2nd season last year Betts submitted what would be considered a career year for many. He batted .318 on the strength on 218 hits. Coupled with 31 home runs, 113 RBI, 122 runs, and 26 stolen bases. Betts is so good that the people of Boston now embrace the name Mookie (Mookie ducking Wilson damn you)
Manny Machado: Baltimore Orioles – Third Baseman- DOB: 7/6/92
At 25 years old Machado already has some impressive career statistics. Especially when you consider how snake bitten he was with injuries the first three years of his career. To have amassed 813 hits, 126 home runs, 379 RBIs, and 414 runs this young is impressive. Combine it with gold glove caliber defense at the hot corner and its easy to see why Machado was so highly touted at such a young age.
Kris Bryant: Chicago Cubs – Third Baseman – DOB: 1/4/92
Bryant hasn’t accomplished much in his young major league career. As he entered the 2017 season, in what is his 3rd season at the major league level he didn’t have many accolades. Unless you wanted to count the 2015 National League Rookie of the year award. Or his 2016 National League MVP trophy. Or how about leading the Cubs to their first World Series Championship in 108 years? But who’s paying attention right?
That’s 10 players right there, all with probably as equal, if not more (significantly more in some cases) stake to the claim as being the next face of baseball. Nine out of the ten are actually younger than Judge as well (Bryant is 3 months older than Judge). So with those facts as presented, I ask you the readers, the jury, is Aaron Judge really the best person to be the next face of baseball as proclaimed by the game’s czar?
Did you really think I would end on that note? That I’d spend 1200+ words talking about baseball’s great young hitters and not talk about the guy who is clearly the face of baseball? Its downright insulting that the thought of Aaron Judge being baseball’s poster child was even tossed out there. I mean, I know chics dig the long ball, but this is foolish.
Especially when there is a guy playing in the nation’s second largest media market. A guy just 26 years old. A player with no discernable character flaws. If you dug up Norman Rockwell and asked him to create a portrait of the guy you’d want your daughter to bring home to dinner, a guy destined to be a professional athlete, someone you can just picture taking the head cheerleader to prom dressed in a high school letterman’s jacket, a man who has perfected the all American high school quarterback look. A combination of keeping up his boyish charm good looks while sculpting a body designed to dominate whatever athletic endeavor he seeks to assert himself in. He’d draw a picture of Mike Trout.
As outstanding as Bryce Harper’s feats are for such a young age. As prodigious as Judge’s power potential appears to be, Mike Trout is on pace to be talked about in the same breath as Mickey Mantle, and Willie Mays as one of the greatest to ever play the game of baseball.
As we stand here, less than a week past his 26th birthday, during a season that has already seen Trout miss significant time with an injury, we are watching him charge back into the MVP conversation. In 73 games this season, he is batting .345 with 23 home runs, 55 RBI, 13 stolen bases, with a 1.167 OPS.
For his career his numbers for his age are stunning: 656 runs, 191 home runs, 1006 hits, 552 RBI, 156 stolen bases, a .309 batting average, and a .979 career OPS.
Awards? How about the 2012 American League Rookie of the Year award. Or his American League MVP awards in 2014 and 2016. Or his back to back All Star MVP awards in 2014 and 2015. Toss in being awarded the Silver Slugger Award every years since his 2012 rookie campaign. His 2014 Hank Aaron award, or being a 5 time all star (only missing his 6th selection this year due to being injured)
The bottom line is this. Mike Trout is hands down the face of baseball moving forward for the next 10-15 years. If he played for the Red Sox, or the Yankees, or the Cardinals, Cub, or Phillies this wouldn’t even be a discussion. But he doesn’t, he plays in Los Angeles.
If someone in the league office could please check on Rob Manfred’s late night dealings. I’m an educated man, but I’m afraid I can’t speak intelligently about the travel habits of William Santiago. Nor can I speak about the commissioner’s sleep routine. But may I suggest that someone show him how to work his DVR because there is some historically great baseball being played in SoCal right now. If he’d just drop a line, I’m sure he could catch some Trout on the TV.
- Jason Sullivan
- Find me on Twitter at @TopDucker