NEW YORK -- Everything about Aaron Judge is big. His size? He is 6-foot-7, 230 pounds. The expectations? He is the most likely prospect to become a star in the Bronx.
Even his personality is large.
"He is really a magnetic personality," Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler said. "He is one of those guys in a food room, around his teammates, he is interacting with everybody and everybody is interacting with him. So you might see him one day sitting with one group of guys and the next day sitting with another group of guys. He is a really genuine, good person."
Another official with knowledge of the Yankees' plans described Judge as a potential cornerstone right fielder with 30-homer power and the charisma to go with it.
Just this week, Keith Law ranked the 22-year-old Judge the best prospect in the Yankees' system and the 23rd in all of baseball.
The Yankees selected Judge with the 32nd pick out of Fresno State in the 2013 season. In his first full season, Judge mashed in A-ball, hitting .308 with 17 homers and 78 RBIs in 131 games. His OPS was .905. He's a power hitter with a precise eye, walking 89 times.
Eppler wouldn't say where Judge will start this year, but high-A or Double-A Trenton seems like a good bet. Very optimistically, he probably won't make it to the Bronx until later in the summer. More likely, after being a September call-up, he could be in the outfield mix in 2016 and he projects as an everyday right fielder in 2017. (All ETAs, of course, are subject to change.)
So what can trip him up? Well, the obvious item is how we started. He is so big that the speed of the major league game could be too much for him. Still, there is no solid evidence of that being true, at least to this point. From Law:
Judge's size was expected to be an impediment to his ability to hit, but so far it hasn't proven to be an obstacle at all. He showed outstanding plate discipline and ability to make contact in his first full year in pro ball while giving glimpses of the huge raw power you'd expect from someone of his build. Judge shouldn't have started his professional career in the low-A Sally League since he was a 22-year-old college product, but the Yankees got him to the Florida State League midyear, and he continued to rake while proving he can get on base and hit a few balls over the fence.
Judge has a short swing, surprisingly so given the length of his arms, and very strong command of the strike zone (which is partly why I didn't like seeing him in low-A to start the year). The challenge for him will be to learn when he can uncoil and turn on a ball without losing that compact stroke, which keeps his contact rate up.
Judge is as tall as a tree, but he doesn't move like one. Eppler describes Judge like one would describe an elite athlete. Fresno State supposedly wanted Judge to play football after he starred as a high school receiver in the small town of Linden, which is about two hours from San Francisco.
"You see that body and you probably think, 'He is a below average defender,' but that is definitely not the case," Eppler said. "He can run and he can throw. He can really throw. He has tremendous feel in the outfield. ... I think he'll play a solid average to maybe above average corner outfield."
He could be the leader of the next generation of Yankees. He seems to have it all -- the size, the strength, the ability, the drive and the personality. Now, he must do the biggest thing yet -- put it all together.