Aaron Judge (NYY): 2-3, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.
It’s not like this season is coming out of nowhere for Aaron Judge.
After all, since his rookie debut in 2016, Judge has averaged a wRC+ of 155, and he has produced an fWAR of 28.3, according to Fangraphs. Last year, he hit 39 home runs and drove in 98 RBI while hitting .287 over 633 plate appearances. Judge, plain and simple, is one of Major League Baseball’s superstars. It also doesn’t hurt that he plays for the Yankees, one of baseball’s most iconic teams.
And yet, despite Judge’s status and productive history, this season for him feels different. It feels like history could be made, should Judge stay healthy, and if all the chips fall right.
On Saturday, Judge mashed against the Cubs in the Yankees’ 8-0 victory in the Bronx. He also hit two home runs and drove in three RBI. The stellar two-hit day increased his batting average to .313, and his HR total to 24.
When it comes to Yankees hitters in history and their first 59 games, only Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle have hit more home runs over that timespan. As of now, Judge is on pace to hit 66 home runs for the year.
Therefore, it’s totally plausible that baseball fans could see another home run chase in 2022, with Judge possibly making a run at Barry Bonds’ single-season home run record of 73.
It won’t be an easy task for Judge. The 30-year-old outfielder has only played more than 140 games twice in his career (2017 and 2021). If he wants to have a shot at tying or surpassing Bonds’ record, he will need to perhaps play all 162 games.
That being said, if anyone could make a run toward Bonds, it would be Judge.
According to Savant, Judge ranks in the 100th percentile in average exit velocity on batted balls, xwOBA, xSLG, and barrel rate. His hard-hit rate ranks in the 99th percentile, and his max exit velocity on batted balls ranks in the 98th percentile. The power Judge has flashed this year has been stupendous, and it also shows that his power tool is legitimate in multiple ways.
Will Judge hit 60, maybe 70 home runs? There still are a lot of baseball games to go, 103 for Judge and the Yankees, specifically.
But Judge’s push toward Bonds will be worth watching and rooting for, even if the likelihood is low and the team is the Yankees.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Saturday
Mike Trout (LAA): 3-4, 2B, 2 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI.
The Angels have won two in a row after losing 14 straight games, a streak that cost manager Joe Maddon his job. Despite the club’s struggles, Trout has continued to lead the club offensively, as he is hitting .294 with 16 home runs and a 1.036 OPS. On Saturday against the Mets, Trout launched two home runs and drove in three RBI, which brought his total in the latter up to 33.
Once a 20-30 stolen base threat, Trout hasn’t stolen a base this year, which is disappointing, but understandable considering his injury history. Other than that though, it’s been vintage Trout, which has been good for fantasy managers who took him in their respective drafts.
Bryan Reynolds (PIT): 3-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
Reynolds had a big day off Atlanta pitcher Charlie Morton, as he garnered three hits, including a double and home run. Reynolds also added two runs and two RBI, giving him 23 and 16 in those categories for the year. It’s been a good, but not a great season for Reynolds, as he is hitting .244 with an OPS of .744 in 230 plate appearances.
It appears that Reynolds could be a likely trade candidate this summer, especially with the Pirates clearly in rebuilding mode. However, if Reynolds wants to find himself on another roster by August, he will definitely need to get hot at the plate soon.
Luis Arraez (MIN): 3-5, HR, R, 4 RBI.
Arraez spoiled Shane Baz’s 2022 debut, as Arraez launched a grand-slam home run off of Baz in the third inning which chased Baz out of the game. The grand slam was one of three hits that Arraez had against the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday afternoon.
Arraez is a weird fantasy player. He’s valuable on a batting average and OPS end, as he is posting .367 and .893 marks in those categories, respectively. On the other hand, he is lacking in counting stats, as he has only three home runs and two stolen bases in 51 games and 207 plate appearances. Arraez is rostered in 80 percent of Yahoo leagues and 87 percent of ESPN leagues, so he’s not a widely available waiver or FAAB candidate. But, if he’s available, he’s worth it for the average alone, even if that’s all he will give to a fantasy team.
Christian Bethancourt (OAK): 3-5, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
While the Angels’ 14-game losing streak generated all the media attention, the A’s quietly had a 10-game losing streak of their own. They snapped it last night against the Guardians, with Bethancourt being a primary reason why. The 30-year-old first-baseman for Oakland accumulated three hits, two RBI, and hit a home run in the ninth inning that sealed the deal for a struggling Athletics club. Bethancourt wasn’t expected to make much of an impact at the beginning of the season, as he has only 123 plate appearances this year. However, he is hitting .391 in June, and seems to be established in this lineup for at least a good while. Bethancourt is rostered in only one percent of Yahoo leagues and less than one percent of ESPN leagues, so he is a worthwhile waiver or FAAB pickup.
Nelson Cruz (WSH): 2-4, 2B, HR, R, 3 RBI.
Back in April, it looked like the 41-year-old Cruz was done. In his first 96 plate appearances, Cruz was hitting .155 with an OPS of .479 and only two home runs. The plate discipline was still there, as he walked 11 times and only struck out 17. But it looked initially like the deadened ball and new environments were having an impact on Cruz’s power and production.
Since April though, Cruz has regained his form. He improved his batting average to .318 in May and is hitting .412 so far in the month of June. He has five home runs and 24 RBI over the past two months, and he added to those totals on Saturday against the Brewers with a home run and three RBI.
The Nationals may be a lost cause in the division, but Cruz’s season isn’t, even though it appeared that it would’ve been after the first month of play. Father Time will come for Cruz at some point. It just won’t be this season.
Julio Rodríguez (SEA): 2-5, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
Seattle’s “uber” prospect continues to mash and impress, even if the Mariners have been disappointing overall as a team this season. Rodríguez is hitting .267 with a .756 OPS over 242 plate appearances. He also has hit eight home runs, including one on Saturday night against Boston. Rodríguez does strike out a lot, as he is posting a 29.3 percent K rate. That being said, the power and speed tools have been as good as advertised. He ranks in the 95th percentile in max exit velocity on batted balls and 98th percentile in sprint speed, which is a big reason why he has 17 stolen bases for the year.
Khalil Lee (NYM): 1-1, HR, R, 3 RBI.
Lee just got called up by the Mets and only made his second plate appearance this season in a blowout loss to the Angels. Lee made the most of his one at-bat though, as he hit a three-run home run off of Los Angeles’ Oliver Ortega in the ninth inning. Lee was acquired by the Mets last season in the Andrew Benintendi-Franchy Cordero three-way trade with Kansas City and Boston. He’s been underwhelming though at the Major League level, as he hit .056 in 18 plate appearances in 2021.
It’s a crowded outfield in New York, so the opportunities won’t be plenty for Lee. And yet, it will be interesting if Lee’s first MLB home run could be a launching point for him, even if it may just be a minor one.
Jake Burger (CWS): 2-5, HR, R, 2 RBI.
After posting ho-hum averages in April (.241) and May (.231), Burger has been on a tear in the month of June. He is hitting .406 with an OPS of 1.395 in 35 plate appearances this month, which includes four home runs and nine RBI. For the year, Burger is generating a barrel rate of 16 percent, which puts him in the 93rd percentile in that category. Unfortunately, his glove has been a major hindrance to him receiving more consistent playing time, as he currently ranks in the bottom ninth percentile in outs above average, according to Savant. But with Yoán Moncada struggling immensely (.133 average; .390 OPS), Tony La Russa may continue to stick with Burger in the lineup, especially since La Russa appears to be on the hot seat after a disappointing season in Chicago thus far.
Adley Rutschman (BAL): 3-4, 2 2B, 2 R.
There was much anticipation for Rutschman’s debut, but like many heralded rookies, he has struggled to adjust to the Majors, especially at the plate. Going into Saturday’s game against the Royals, he was only hitting .153 with an OPS of .451. However, a three-hit day, including two doubles, boosted his numbers to .190 and .547 in those average and OPS categories, respectively. The power hasn’t quite been there just yet for Rutschman at the MLB level, as he is only posting a barrel rate of 2.1 percent. But then again, he only has 69 plate appearances, so he doesn’t have a tremendous sample of at-bats under his belt.
It’s definitely been disappointing thus far for fantasy managers who invested heavily in Rutschman in their drafts. That being said, the Orioles are in last place in the AL East and clearly rebuilding. Rutschman will get his opportunities at the plate, and hopefully, fantasy managers will start to see an uptick in his power metrics in the coming weeks.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)