Judge or Sanchez: Which Baby Bomber is Better to Build Around?
At just 24 and 25 years of age, Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge have led to the New York Yankees to a resurgent season that will almost surely end in a postseason berth. Sanchez and Judge are the cornerstones of the Yankees future, expected to remain as the driving forces in the middle of the New York lineup for years to come.
But what if the Yankees had to choose? Which player is more suited to build a franchise around? Let’s break it down.
As the old adage goes, availability is the best ability. And while Sanchez hasn’t been particularly troubled by injuries, Judge’s frame lends itself to being able to remain on the field more often- especially considering Sanchez plays catcher, the most physically demanding position in the game. It actually seems as though both players profile similarly as their careers advance. Sanchez will see days off at designated hitter and then first base in order to preserve his bat. For Judge, it’s likely that he will eventually have to move to first base because of his sheer size. We’ve never seen anything quite like this in baseball, so it’s hard to project how his body will fare in the outfield moving forward. Still for now the advantage goes to Judge.
Judge is fantastic. For much of the season, he was even the best player in the American League. But Major League Baseball is filled with talented outfielders, while it is much harder to find a catcher that can provide elite offensive production. The abilities that Sanchez can provide while holding down catcher are extremely rare, similar to how the San Francisco Giants have been hesitant to move Buster Posey away from catcher because of how rarely we see offensive production at that position. Sanchez is a special type of player at a position in which it is not easy to find elite talent. This round goes to El Gary.
Judge carries an impressive slash line of .273/.410/.576 with 41 home runs and 90 runs batted in. He has walked 110 times and struck out 193 (!) times. On the season, Judge owns a 6.3 Wins Above Replacement and a daunting .986 OPS. Even after his sluggish second half, these numbers are phenomenal.
Sanchez is batting .278/.347/.534 with 30 home runs and 83 runs batted in. He has walked 37 times and struck out 107 times. Sanchez has 3.8 Wins Above Replacement and an .881 OPS. It’s important to note that Sanchez is doing this despite playing a more strenuous defensive position than Judge and playing in 31 less games.
With that said, Judge is the winner here. His raw power is the kind that can carry a team single handedly, just as we saw for the first half of the season. Judge is probably never going to be a .300 hitter for an entire year, but that’s just fine. Especially in today’s age of the three true outcomes, Judge is the kind of player that the sabermetric community adores. Don’t worry about the strikeouts. Value the walks and home runs. And appreciate the fact that he can turn a game on its head with any pitch. Judge is the epitome of a boom or bust batter, and as long as he booms 35-50 times a year, it’ll be fun to watch.
Let’s call it what it is. As good as Judge was in the first half, he has been equally has bad in the second half. Judge’s strikeout rate since the All-Star break has been a staggering 43%, meaning he’s struck out in nearly half of his at bats. It’s hard to believe that Judge is actually this bad. It’s also hard to believe that Judge is as good as he was a few months ago. He’s probably somewhere in the middle, closer to the April-June version than this one. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t alarming.
Sanchez has been mostly consistent for the entirety of his short career, which is why he gets the clear advantage in this category. Judge’s ceiling is clearly higher, but Sanchez seems like he’ll be able to produce a similar slash line and power numbers for the next five years consistently. Score another one for The Kracken.
Sanchez is also a hot head. There are concerns that he won’t be able to stay motivated if he is not playing on a winning team, and while this will probably not be an issue on the New York Yankees moving forward, it is not a trait you’d like to be known for. We’ve even seen Sanchez’s temper flare in the Yankees recent dust up with the Detroit Tigers.
Judge has proven to be the exact kind of personality that can flourish in New York. He is poised, eager for success, humble, and prefers to keep a low profile (see: Derek Jeter). Even during his times of struggle, Judge has not shown much negative emotion. For this reason, he wins the category.
In a close debate, the ruling is in: Judge reigns supreme.