The Yankees had reached the midpoint of their Grapefruit League schedule and there were legitimate conversations taking place behind closed doors to identify the Opening Day right fielder. Having Aaron Judge begin 2017 in the Minors, with Aaron Hicks playing every day, was very much a possibility. It seems laughable now, considering Judge compiled one of the best rookie campaigns in history, slugging 52 homers before earning unanimous selection as the American League's Rookie of the Year. But the episode serves as a useful reminder to Judge that nothing will be handed to him when the 25-year-old slugger aims to follow up on that season for the ages. "Fighting for a job, that's been my mindset every Spring Training," Judge said. "Even in the Minor Leagues, I thought you have to go out and earn a spot. Nothing is ever given to you. It was the same when I was told I'd be the starting right fielder. You have to earn your job every day. Even going into next year, I'm still going to be fighting for that right-field job, fighting for my spot." With the December trade for reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees believe they have assembled a modern-day version of the fabled Murderer's Row, stacking their lineup with the right-handed power of Judge, Stanton and Gary Sanchez. "We're excited to get better together and use our talents together, because we're very similar," Stanton said. "We're going to learn from each other and make each other better." Stanton led the Majors with 59 homers, but no one hit the ball harder in 2017 than Judge, who compiled an average exit velocity of 94.9 mph to pace all big leaguers. Judge's June 10 homer off the Orioles' Chris Tillman had an exit velo of 121.1 mph, the hardest-hit homer ever recorded by Statcast™.
Judge going into '18 with plenty to prove
MLB.com | Dec 26