Fantasy Outlook on Yankees' Aaron Judge

Max Goodman

It's hard to believe just three seasons after Aaron Judge's historic rookie season passing on the outfielder in fantasy baseball would be a good decision.

The Yankees' right fielder is still one of the best sluggers in Major League Baseball, but injuries have hindered Judge from recognizing his full potential at the plate in each of the last two seasons. 

That same trend has carried into 2020 as well. The fracture in his first right rib, sustained back in September of last season, is still keeping the slugger from receiving a clean bill of health. His status for this year, assuming a season is able to come to fruition amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, is still up in the air two months after what would have been Opening Day.

Once Judge is able to move past his right rib injury, and then subsequently remain on the field, he has the potential to be one of the best outfielders in the league from a fantasy perspective. His home run numbers are elite, his exit velocity tendencies will result in plenty of extra base hits and his ability to get on base in the midst of the Bombers' high-powered lineup make him a candidate to score quite a few runs.

Remember, we're talking about the player that hit 52 homers and scored 128 runs – both tops in the American League. In his one full, healthy season at the big-league level, he came in second in the race for the AL Most Valuable Player. 

READ: Yankees' Aaron Judge Turned 28; What is New York's Slugger on Pace For?

When you sit down for your fantasy baseball draft, however, tread cautiously when selecting No. 99. His injury history leading up to this season is concerning when taking Judge in the first few rounds. 

READ: Yankees Didn't Expect Aaron Judge's Return From Injury Until 'Summertime'

In the video above, Sports Illustrated's gambling and fantasy analyst Jaime Eisner explains why Judge will typically be taken higher than he should due to what's called "The Yankees Tax."

The issue is going to be how much of a value can you get him at. There's this phrase called 'The Yankees Tax' that goes into a lot of these fantasy baseball players. They're going to get pushed up draft boards simply because there is a high volume of Yankees fans and there is a lot of attention surrounding the Yankees and their outfield in particular.  

That's not to say Judge's track record when healthy would warrant a draft pick early on, but perhaps you're better served waiting for Judge to stay untouched until a handful of rounds have passed before you pounce.

Consider these factors drawn out by Shawn Childs – another Sports Illustrated gambling and fantasy analyst – in his piece this week for Sports Illustrated.

This is all not to say he is a perfect fantasy option. There is a risk and it comes with a massive strikeout rate (31.5), along with a needs-improving RBI rate (11.2 in 2019 and 13.9 in his career)...

Judge dominated left-handed pitching (.343, eight HRs and 19 RBI over 99 at-bats). His HR/FB rate (35.1) comes in with league-leading power, although he could afford to add more loft to his swing (fly-ball rate – 32.4 in 2019 and 43.2 in his 50-HR season in 2017).

Last season, an oblique injury cost him two months of playing time. Judge didn’t find his stride in 2019 until mid-August (.301 with 15 HRs and 23 RBI over his final 133 at-bats). There is some injury risk since he’s missed time in both of his last two seasons, and this has softened his draft day price (ADP – 46). If given 500 or more plate appearances (or the equivalent in a shortened season), you could expect a neutral average with a 110/50/110/5 skill set. To continue to improve, his next step needs to come with an increasing RBI rate and showing a better ability to make contact.

Make no mistake, Aaron Judge is still one of the best right fielders in the game. His injury status should be at the top of your mind, however, when selecting the slugger in fantasy baseball. 

Similar to Giancarlo Stanton's fantasy outlook, if these powerful Yankee outfielders can stay on the field, they can turn out to be "league-winners" on your fantasy squad.

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For more from Max Goodman, follow him on Twitter @MaxTGoodman. Follow ITP on Twitter @SI_Yankees and Facebook @SIYankees