New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge has officially broken out. The 6-foot-7, 285-pounder is arguably the best power hitter in baseball.
He is continuously setting MLB Statcast records, most recently hitting a home run that recorded an exit velocity of 121.1 MPH, which broke his former record for hardest hit home run that measured 119.8 MPH. Judge holds nine of the top 15 hardest hit balls recorded in 2017.
His first MLB action came in August of 2016, where the slugger struggled mightily. In 27 games, he batted just .179 with only four home runs. The most alarming observation from his first stint in the majors was his atrocious 44.2 percent strikeout rate.
Clearly, after an offseason of adjustments, Judge has significantly improved his approach at the plate. His strikeout rate has dropped to a serviceable 29 percent, which is still considered “awful” according to fangraphs.com, although it is still lower than many current premier power hitters, including Khris Davis (31.5 percent), Cody Bellinger (32 percent), Miguel Sano (36 percent) and Chris Davis (38 percent).
Judge currently leads the entire MLB in home runs with 22, while ranking second in the American League in both batting average at .335 and RBIs with 49. He is dangerously close to being in position to win the AL Triple Crown, which is an accomplishment that has only been done 17 times, most recently by future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera in 2012 (.330/44/139).
Currently on pace for about 58 home runs and 130 RBI, it is time to question whether Judge’s success is sustainable.
His current BABIP, or batting average on balls in play, of .433 suggests that he is getting incredibly lucky. BABIP measures how often a ball in play goes for a hit. A ball in play is considered any outcome other than a strikeout, walk, hit batter, catcher’s interference, sacrifice bunt or home run.
According to fangraphs.com, a BABIP of .350 over a sample size of 4,000 plate appearances would be considered a mark that only the best hitters in the league will reach. An example of a player who falls into this category is Joey Votto, who over the course 5,719 plate appearances has a career BABIP of .354.
The highest BABIP registered in a complete season since 1945 was by Hall of Famer Rod Carew in 1977, in which he finished the year with a .408 BABIP and .388 batting average. In the 2000’s, only one player managed to finish a season with a BABIP over .400, which was Manny Ramirez in 2000 (.403).
This shows that Judge’s BABIP is sure to plummet from its current .425 mark, as not even the greatest hitters of all time would be able to sustain a BABIP this high.
Judge’s home run to fly ball rate is at 41.5 percent. To put that in perspective, when Judge has been hitting a fly ball, there has been over a 40 percent chance of it leaving the yard.
According to fangraphs.com, “good home run hitters typically have HR/FB ratios anywhere from 15-20 percent”.
Unfortunately, this analytic was not created until 2002, so we cannot compare Judge’s current HR/FB rate to Barry Bonds’ 2001 marks, although we can look at other more contemporary players instead.
Chris Davis hit 53 home runs in 2013 with a 29.6 percent HR/FB rate, Chris Carter hit 41 home runs in 2016 with a 23.8 percent HR/FB rate and Miguel Cabrera hit 44 home runs in consecutive seasons in 2012 and 2013 with 23 and 25 percent HR/FB rates respectively. It is clear that Judge’s HR/FB rate will drop significantly, but by how much we cannot be sure.
I think we can all agree Judge is the real deal, although for fantasy purposes, this seems like the optimal time to sell high on the superstar. His value could not be any higher and is sure to drop as his BABIP and HR/FB inevitably will fall.
Trading Judge now could result in the addition of a bonifide ace, like Clayton Kershaw, Chris Sale, or Max Scherzer, opposed to in a month were his value may only be able to garner a Chris Archer, Yu Darvish, or Carlos Martinez.
To all my fellow fantasy baseball owners, good luck to your teams moving forward.
Featured Image by Sports Illustrated
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