The Yankees’ outfield in 2018 most likely will be a puzzle that rookie manager Aaron Boone will have to reshuffle day in and day out. That puzzle became a lot more interesting thanks to a report from MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch about 2017 AL Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge.
That report reads:
While Brett Gardner is expected to serve as the Opening Day left fielder, there has been some discussion about having Judge or [Giancarlo] Stanton take reps in left field. Boone also recently asked the Yankees what Judge would look like in center field; Judge was drafted as a center fielder out of Fresno State University but moved to a corner spot as a professional.
Judge in center field certainly would not be an everyday situation, but it makes sense in certain scenarios. When the Yankees play in National League stadiums, it would allow Boone to play both of his gargantuan sluggers rather than being forced to rest one without the designated hitter. It would also allow the Yankees to give Aaron Hicks a breather without moving Gardner or inserting Jacoby Ellsbury into the lineup.
In his first full season, Judge was fantastic in right field. He was +9 in Defensive Runs Saved, and had an Ultimate Zone Rating of +6.1. This performance let him to be named as a finalist for a Gold Glove award in right field, though he eventually lost to the Red Sox’ Mookie Betts.
The 25-year-old has almost exclusively played in a corner-outfield spot since debuting professionally in 2014. He got back at his old position for eight games in 2015, and three in 2016 (all in Triple-A). In that 2016 season, he also started seven games in left field for the RailRiders. Every other professional inning has been spent in right field.
Mike Petrello of MLB.com wrote a piece detailing whether Judge or Stanton should get more repetitions in left field in Spring Training. He concluded that though the job is Gardner’s, Judge’s advantage in age (25 vs. 28) and sprint speed (27.7 ft/sec vs. 27.5 ft/sec) makes him a better fit than Stanton in left.
But, playing center field in the big leagues requires next-level athleticism. Come Spring Training, we may see Judge in center field, but he’ll have to show that he can really handle the position if he expects any playing time there in the regular season.