AL East

Who Will Lead the New York Yankees in the Post Core Four Era?

Prospect Aaron Judge had Yankees' camp buzzing on Friday, after his batting practice blast that observers estimated went at least 450 feet. AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

The New York Yankees are entering a new era for the franchise as many of the core veterans of the team in the last ten years are reaching the end of their careers. At the same time, the Yankees have an influx of young talent who are about to begin their journey with the team.

The original core four of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettite and Jorge Posada will have to be replaced with new faces to keep the Yankees level of baseball excellence. The candidates within the Yankees organization to fill these roles are Luis Severino, Greg Bird and Aaron Judge.

The Yankees history of spending on free agents will not change, but talent from within is the best way to build a baseball team to continue long term success. The potential of these three prospects will play a major role in helping attract potential star free agents such as Bryce Harper as well as continuing to put fans in the seats.

Of the three dynamic prospects, Aaron Judge has the highest potential to be this leader for the Yankees. His size, strength and power is a perfect fit for Yankee Stadium. Nick Cafardo, a baseball columnist for the Boston Globe offered extremely high praise for Judge’s talent. Canard stated, “You’d have to convince me there’s a better prospect in any camp than the 6-foot-7-inch, 275-pound man-child roaming around the Yankees outfield. Wearing No. 99, he’s Rob Gronkowski in a baseball uniform — big, strong, runs well, throws well, and his batting practice is eye-popping. The ball sounds a little different coming off of Judge’s bat. If he continues to work on closing holes in his swing, it won’t be long before Judge is up with the big team. We’re talking about comparisons to Dave Winfield and Giancarlo Stanton.”

The hype around Judge has been building up for the last few years. He has been performing well in the minor leagues totaling 41 home runs, 165 runs batted in and a .281 batting average. Judge is looking forward for his opportunity to come in the major leagues as he currently is in spring training with the major league level club. “I’m just getting more and more comfortable with my swing and trying to understand what pitchers are trying to do, especially with the inside pitch,” Judge said. “It’s a process, but I’m learning a lot.”

Yankee Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson is a fan of Judge’s talent. When asked how many home runs Jackson would have if he had the stature of Judge he responded, “Nine-sixty-three.” Jackson stated to the New York Post in the past that Judge is already above the talent he is facing in the minor leagues. “He is the best player in the [Eastern League],’’ Jackson said. “[The opposition] is overmatched by him.’’

Yankees coach Joe Girardi is looking forward to the development of his future bat in his lineup. Girardi knows Judge could become a force in the middle of the Yankees lineup for years to come. “I think it’s adjusting how pitchers are going to pitch him, is the bottom line,” Girardi stated. “He went from a league where he was doing really well in Double-A and had some struggles in Triple-A, but you have a lot of crafty people in Triple-A. It’s learning to make adjustments and we feel that he’s made some adjustments in his swing that should help with that.”

Carlos Beltran is entering the final year of his deal and will leave an opening in the Yankee outfield. The hope for the Yankees should be for Judge to potentially be the full time starter for the 2017 season. Judge could fill a similar role in 2016 as to Greg Bird did in the 2015 season. The Yankees will need Judge to take this next step in his development to continue the Yankees youth movement in the right direction.

Judge is expected to start this season in the minor leagues, but if any injuries occur at an outfield position it could become an opportunity for Judge to get major league experience. Many Yankees have offered rave reviews of Judge in this early part of spring training. Catcher Brian McCann stated, “He’s top of the line.” Alex Rodruigez missed the visual of one of Judge’s spring blasts, but he commented saying, “I heard it and heard about it. Everyone’s talking about it. When you see a kid like that hit a ball over the scoreboard, I mean, that’s pretty special.”

Girardi has been pleased with his young talent in spring training, but does not want to jump to any conclusions this early. “We always say you don’t judge people in spring training, and you don’t judge them in the month of September,” Girardi said. “You want to see the adjustments when he’s playing every day against live pitching. He can show me a lot [in spring training], but if he doesn’t, I’m not going to be disappointed and believe that he’s not making strides. I’ve been in spring trainings where some of your best hitters have gotten two hits, and they start off and have a great season.”

The Yankees are looking for a leader in their clubhouse for the future of the team. If Aaron Judge can continue to make strides in the right direction he can be this leader. Aaron Judge has a bright future ahead of him in his baseball career and has the opportunity to become the next Yankee great and leave his mark in New York.

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