Tuesday, September 6, 2016
Posted by el duque at 7:53 AM
Judge has now fanned 32 times in 62 at bats. That stat belongs in eighth grad girls softball. If it were Rob Refsnyder, they'd have shot him into space by now. But this is not "Brigadoon" Refsnyder. This is not anybody else.
This is not J.T. Snow. This is not Roberto Kelly, or Gerald Williams, or Hensley Meulens or even Tory Lovullo. This is the future, and if Aaron Judge turns out to be two dwarfs on piggyback - well - we'll need extra underwear. He is our other option. Aaron Judge has to start hitting.
Since 2014 - when the brilliant, chess master Brian Cashman once again outsmarted everyone else in baseball and wrangled three first-round draft picks for the Yankees - Judge has been our one true hope. He simply must not fail. The other two first-round picks - Eric Jagielo and Ian Clarkin - have stumbled. We traded Jagielo to Cinncinati for Aroldis Chapman, and he's been now transmographied into Greyber Torres. (FWIW, Jagielo spent the year in Double A and hit a measly .205 with 7 HRs.) Clarkin - now 21 - has been involved in a long, touchy mating dance with elbow issues, trying to avoid surgery. He pitched this year at High A Tampa, with a 3.31 ERA over 98 innings. Not bad, but it's a pitchers' league. When you look at Yankee pitching prospects, Clarkin no longer sits atop the list. Let's hope... but back to Judge...
Have I said that he simply cannot fail? Because if he fails, we are befucked. But there is hope in his history. Last August, in his first shot at Triple A, Judge looked outclassed. Pitchers tied him into toffee roles. In 260 at bats, he hit .224 with 8 HRs and fanned 74 times - seventy-four - almost one in three plate appearances. This year, back at Scranton, he mashed. Let's hope this is his ritual embarrassment, and he's simply tracking through it: He has to be bad before he can be good. Because he must not fail.
Over the years, the Yankees have not always treated slow-starting prospects with respect. In 1991, the year after Kevin Maas hit 21 homers in his debut - an arrival most notable for the way it coincides with Gary Sanchez - they ripped through the likes of Meulens, Lovulo and the cast of "Lost in Space." They were on the verge of jettisoning a kid named Bernie Williams, who also looked over-matched. Bernie hit .238 with no power. Stump Merrill was our manager, and Stick Michael sat in the front office. The following winter, they nearly traded Bernie - old George had to be talked out of it. We stumbled for three more years, trading talent like J.T. Snow, Sterling Hitchcock, Russel Davis and Roberto Kelly. But we stuck with Bernie.
I don't know if Judge is Bernie. And it might do him good to miss the next killer righty, or knuckleballer. Maybe it's time for "Brigadoon" Refsnyder to reappear. (Cashman traded Ben Gamel to Seattle, where the reigning International League MVP is hitting .091 in small sample.) But there are 30 days left in this season. Aaron Judge must play in most of them. The stakes are too high. He cannot fail. Dear God, I don't want to think about failure. There is no other option.