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Will Yankees’ Aaron Judge soon encounter a slump? | BP Mailbag

Jul 2, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) walks back to the dugout against the Houston Astros at the end of the top of the eighth inning at Minute Maid Park. (Photo By: Thomas B. Shea/USA TODAY Sports)

The off-days following baseball’s annual All-Star festivities tend to always feel a bit dismal and slow, but fortunately, there will never be a shortage of content on the interwebs.

So in the meantime, with the Yankees still a day away from returning to action, here’s another BP Mailbag. The mailbag published two weeks ago was fun to produce, and the questions submitted were tip-top. However, since it’s July, and baseball’s trade deadline is still on the horizon, some of the topics in this mailbag are slightly redundant. Although that’s normal (and probably my fault), here’s the mailbag anyway. Enjoy.

Answer: The biggest issue the Yankees have faced for a while now is a lack of efficient pitching. This applies to both their starting rotation and bullpen. So with that in mind, the Yankees will likely be shopping for an arm or two in the coming weeks. However, things aren’t as grim as they appear. Before the team went out west a month ago, their bullpen was one of the best in the American League, and their starters (minus Masahiro Tanaka) were giving the offense a chance to win every night. The Yankees do have quality relievers on their roster, and eventually, dependable guys like Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman should return to their old form. But that old cliche of never having enough pitching is true, so adding an additional reliever like Padres’ Brad Hand or Athletics’ Sean Doolittle isn’t a bad idea if the price is right. Quality starters will be a little more difficult to find, but if the Yankees can get Tanaka back on track soon, it’ll feel like they’ve acquired an ace at the deadline. Even though there’s a glaring hole at first base, their offense hasn’t disappeared, which suggests they can compete for a playoff spot without any production from that position. Pitching is the issue right now.

Answer: First thing’s first: Aaron Judge wasn’t able to hit any Home Run Derby balls to outer space on Monday night because Marlins Park’s retractable roof was in the way. Who knows what would’ve happened outdoors.

Anyway, it’s certainly possible for Judge to hit a slump in the second half, but it wouldn’t be due to his performance in the Derby. One of the reasons why Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi was comfortable with Judge participating in the contest was because of his ability to hit to all sides of the field, and that was definitely put on display on Monday. He hasn’t tried to intentionally pull pitches or slice them to right field, which is good news for the Yankees. So in Judge’s case, the idea that his swing is now ruined doesn’t really apply (By the way, BP writer Jon Bleh wrote about the Derby and if it causes slumps. You can read it right here).

But is Judge immune to slumping, no way. Every player goes through rough patches, but so far, Judge has shown the ability to make adjustments. He may never experience a “sophomore slump” because of his brief stint in the majors last season. He knows what it’s like to fail, and he’s successfully made alterations in his approach. It’s rather easy to counter this point, and argue that he’s still a 25-year-old rookie, and this could all be a flash in the pan. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. But the way Judge is hitting right now, a long, wretched slump seems unlikely for him.

Answer: It depends what “sticking around” means. Will Clint Frazier stick around with the Yankees for the remainder of the season, most likely yes. Will he be a long-term fixture in the lineup, that’s probably still up in the air. His major league debut has been impressive, but time will tell if he’s a good fit in New York, and that factors in his performance and personality (which has received a lot of attention). It’s important to remember that Frazier’s promotion was largely due to a number of injuries at the big league level, and not due to his numbers down in Triple-A. He’s capable of being something special, but he’s also a valuable trade piece if a sweet trade offer surfaces. It’s a difficult question to answer, but right now, it seems like there’s a better chance he stays in New York than leaves.

Answer: For the Yankees to receive an adequate first baseman or starting pitcher, their farm system would have to take a hit in some form. Veterans like Chase Headley, Matt Holliday and Brett Gardner aren’t desirable in exchange for a quality piece, so that means prospects like Frazier, Jorge Mateo, Justus Sheffield, Dillon Tate, Tyler Wade and Miguel Andujar (to name quite a few) could be dealt. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said last weekend that the front office plans to be “careful buyers,” which means they’re not going to mortgage the future for a mid-season upgrade. But when a team builds up a successful farm system like the Yankees have, not all of these players are going to land in the majors. Some prospects are destined to be moved, which in all honesty, is considered a high-end problem. 

Answer: Yes, Judge definitely has what it takes to be the next captain. He’s constantly being compared to Derek Jeter for a reason, as he exemplifies leadership traits. While it’s important to produce and put up numbers, Judge is modest, confident and diligent — a perfect makeup for a captain. The thing is, the Yankees don’t hand out captain honors to players right away. Jeter had already played eight years before he was announced captain in 2003, and before that, it took Don Mattingly nine years before he was awarded the same title in 1991. The odds of Judge becoming the next captain look pretty good, but for now, he’ll only be looked at as the face of the franchise. Still, not too shabby for a rookie. 

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

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