Reggie: Judge has Winfield's athleticism, Stargell & McCovey's strength

Reggie Jackson compared Yankees prospect Aaron Judge to Hall of Famer Dave Winfield. USA TODAY Sports

SARASOTA, Fla. -- In the course of talking about top Yankees outfield prospect Aaron Judge, Reggie Jackson ticked off names like Henry Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell and Willie McCovey, in one fashion or another. Mr. October, seemingly relishing the opportunity to go into detail about potentially "the next great Yankee," settled on one of his Hall of Fame teammates as the best comparison for the 6-foot-7 Judge.

"[Dave] Winfield was a big 6-6," Jackson told ESPN New York. "He was an athlete. This guy has that kind of athletic ability."

Winfield slammed 465 major league homers, while the 22-year-old Judge has hit 17 as a pro, none yet above Class A. Jackson, with a cool 563 career MLB homers, watches Judge, the future of the Yankees, and sees the past.

"He's got power like Stargell, McCovey," Jackson said. "Opposite-field power, which is the best power you can have. That allows you to wait on the ball. He has power like a guy from the '60s and '70s."

Winfield's success is something of a variable, though, because it is hard to think of too many extremely large star outfielders. A quick survey in the Yankees' clubhouse brought up the 6-foot-6 Giancarlo Stanton in current times, while the 6-foot-4 Jermaine Dye was mentioned from the recent past.

No matter the talent, no matter the expectations, there are no can't-miss prospects. Every few years, new players are hyped and more times than not the excitement doesn't match the major league production.

What can be measured at this point is how hard a player works. Judge is a player the Yankees' executives rave about for his leadership qualities, both with his charisma and his effort. Judge talks like a guy who is aware of the hype, but not intoxicated by it.

"One guy can't win a ballgame," said Judge, who plays right field. "That's always been my mindset. It takes nine guys. Having the team be my main focus has always been my main focus. It is nice, compliments and everything, but I try not to think about it."

Judge, the adopted son of two schoolteachers, comes across as genuine, polite and earnest during interviews. He seems like a good student.

"A gentle giant," Jackson said. "A sweetheart. A nice young man. He has significant inner strength and confidence. He has a humble presence.

The 270-pound Judge grew up in Linden, Cali., which is 20 minutes from Stockton and nearly two hours from San Francisco. He liked Albert Pujols as a kid, watched the Giants on TV, but always kept an eye toward the Bronx in late fall.

"The thing was whenever I turned on the TV in October, you always saw the Yankees," Judge said. "So I always had a love for the Yankees."

Judge knows about the Winfield comparisons. Though Winfield stopped playing when Judge was a 3-year-old, Judge has seen old No. 31's highlights.

"I've seen videos of Dave Winfield play," Judge said. "He was bigger than life. He was a superstar. He had a big arm. He hit just rockets, laser missiles. That is one thing I try to do when I hit now. I don't try and go for the big home runs that are 500 feet in the air. I just try and hit hard line drives and sometimes a few of those will sneak out."

Jackson advises Judge to let the game come to him, complementing what the team's hitting coaches preach. For Yankees prospects looking to absorb knowledge, spring training can be like a fantasy camp.

"My dad talked about him all the time, 'Mr. October,'" Judge said. "Just getting a chance to meet him and talk about hitting, defense and even stuff off the field has been huge."

Jackson said Judge is "built like a tight end," and Judge did, in fact, play high school receiver and defensive end well enough to receive letters from major football programs. Judge's first love was baseball. though, so he went to Fresno State to hit, not be hit.

He is wearing No. 99 in camp and, he said, friends are saying he should keep it for good, which he is considering.

At the plate, he has a good eye, as evidenced by his .400-plus on-base percentage. On Tuesday, he showed some of his athleticism, making a diving catch on a ball that was just foul down the right-field line.

Judge should start this season at Double-A Trenton. If he masters that level, he could bump up to Triple-A by midseason. If he has a good enough year, Judge could be a big part of the 2016 major league plans.

"He can miss the ball and hit the ball over the fence," Jackson said. "He hit a homer the other day in Clearwater. It was a fly ball for him. It was a routine fly ball. His routine fly balls are 380. He hit a 400-foot fly ball and missed it. He hit a 400-foot fly ball and missed it for a homer. He can do that if he is swinging late. He can hit the ball out of the ballpark from line to line. All he has to do is square the ball."

Really, all Aaron Judge has to do is keep working. Maybe one day he'll really belong with all those Hall of Fame names Mr. October listed.