Aaron Judge 2020 Fantasy Baseball Outlook
Summary: Power source in great environment with metric question marks and injury history.
How Judge helps you: Judge is clearly one of the most powerful hitters in the league. He launched 52 homers back in 2017 en route to earning Rookie of the Year honors. Despite a dip in the power the last two injury-shortened seasons, he remains one of handful of players who could drop a 50 in that homer column. Just 27 years old, his best days could be ahead of him. He won’t hurt you in average, and he offers elite on-base skills for leagues that reward that.
When you mix this package with the friendly hitters’ confines of Yankee Stadium, and consider that Judge will hit second in a loaded lineup, he’ll be scoring runs and knocking them in with regularity. 210+ Runs + RBI is a real possibility.
How Judge hurts you: As long as strikeouts aren’t a stat in your league, Aaron Judge has no discernible weakness. His average should float between .270 and .280. Should he return to a 45+ homer pace, even a .255-.260 range would not weigh down your lineup. He doesn’t steal much, only swiping 3 bags in just over 100 games last year. It may be tempting to chalk this up to the oblique, but he’s never stolen more than 9 bases in a season throughout his major and minor league career.
He’s been injured for a third of the season the last two seasons, and neither of the injuries (wrist, oblique) should be forgotten as a possible sap on the big man’s power. When he plays, he’s elite, but temper your expectations and know you may not get a full slate.
Intangibles / Analytics: The metrics support Judge’s power to be sustainable. Over the past three seasons, he owns the highest hard-hit percentage (48.6%) in all of baseball. Last year’s 53.8% was highest in the league, but in just 447 PA. Still, he’s walloping the ball harder as he gets older. On the surface, he seems to be selling out a bit to obtain that increased power, as his K% has increased a full point from 2018 to 2019.
If you dig a little deeper, you’ll find good signs related to his pitch selection. He swung at less pitches outside of the zone in 2019 (24.6% down from 25.1%) and more pitches inside the zone (68.1% up from 63.8%). He has whiffed more, however, his overall contact dropping year-over-year (65.1% down from 65.9%). From a fantasy perspective, unless K’s are tracked in your league somehow, that will have minimal impact on his contributions and I wouldn’t even factor it into your decision.
For me, the biggest concern is an alarming rise in his GB/FB ratio, spiking from 0.81 in 2017 to 1.19 in 2018 and 1.25 last season. He hit 43.2% of his balls in the air in his monster rookie campaign, but in 2019 that number was far less impressive at 32.4%. It’s likely his injuries were still bothering him, and that’s cause for concern if it continues.
Where to draft him: Judge is slightly polarizing as the key to how profitable he’ll be is how much he’ll play. His power seemed to return as the season went on last year: 16 total round-trippers in August and September, a 48 homer pace for a full season. He’s 27 and entering his prime. Currently, his ADP in Fantrax sits at 27.16. If you believe that his prior injuries will not hamper him, I believe this is a steal and he could probably be drafted a spot or two higher than that. If he’s still available at pick 30, take him. The later in Spring Training your draft is, the more information you should have regarding his health.
Power may be cheap these days, but Judge’s supporting cast and ballpark will have his counting stats rolling all season. His floor is very high if he’s healthy, and his ceiling is monstrous.
Dynasty and Redraft Comparison: I like Judge more in Dynasty than re-draft, because of the injury risk. I might take him ahead of J.D. Martinez or Freddie Freeman in Dynasty, where I wouldn’t in a one season situation.