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ESPN analyst expects turnaround for Yankees’ Aaron Judge in 2017

Aaron Judge believes he still has a lot to prove this spring, but the goal of earning a major league roster spot may not be too challenging for the Yankees’ outfield prospect.

Well, at least that’s what ESPN prospect analyst Keith Law has concluded. 

In a recent insider piece, Law ranked and broke down a list of his top-20 prospects heading into 2017, which happened to include Judge at No. 8. 

Here’s what Law said of the 6-foot-7, 275-pound rookie:

Judge struggled with contact in his big league debut last year, striking out in more than 40 percent of his plate appearances. I expect him to take some time to bring that down this year, but that’s been his history with each promotion in pro ball. Judge is a giant, at 6-foot-7, 275 pounds, so his strike zone is just as big, but he has enormous raw power and is an above-average right fielder. As long as the contact he makes continues to be hard contact, he’ll have value even if he’s among the league leaders in Ks.

Judge, who turns 25 in April, will be competing against outfielder Aaron Hicks for the starting right field job over the next month and a half.  Despite rounding the bases on a home run in his first major league at-bat on Aug. 13, Judge’s rookie debut at the plate was lamentable. In 84 at-bats, he struck out 42 times, managing to hit just .179 with four homers and 10 RBI in 27 games. To add injury to insult, Judge suffered a season-ending right oblique strain on Sept. 13.

“I feel like an underdog,” Judge told reporters on Monday. “I’m trying to go in there and take a job, to be honest. I was in the big leagues for a month and I got hurt. Now, I’m trying to go in there, prove something and win the spot.”

In early January, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told the YES Network’s “Yankees Hot Stove” panel that Judge can’t afford his strikeout rate to last at the big league level. If he shows signs of struggle again this March, Judge will begin the season in Triple-A until he’s ready for the promotion, according to Cashman.

“His history in the last two years of promotion in the Triple-A level and then last year with us was failure, adjustments, success,” Cashman said. “He experienced some failure at the major league level, and so I think that whole experience in the short sample will serve him well as he approaches 2017.”

This winter, Judge has worked on improving his lower half and front side with hitting coach Alan Cockrell.

If you want to connect with Tom Hanslin, email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @tomhanslin.

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