Something fairly innocent came out of Pinstripe Alley a few days ago, but it could mean big things for Yankees’ top prospect, Aaron Judge, and the current major league outfield as presently constructed. Judge is playing left field and center field in Scranton, a change from his previous role as solely a right fielder and a possible indication he will be called up in the near future, maybe even before September.
The Yankees have a lot of moving parts with the current outfield. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner are both injury prone but productive, while Carlos Beltran is old and unable to play right field well. Aaron Hicks plays better when he plays every day, and can play all three outfield positions, making him a much higher ceiling than most fourth outfielders, signed long-term and heading into his prime.
The highest potential in the outfield is also the most delicate, but the Yankees have a lot of depth in names in the outfield. It creates a positional log jam but almost out of necessity as moving any of the starting outfielders would be a dramatic move for the team.
Enter: Judge’s new positions.
If the Yankees are trying him everywhere it could be for a few reasons. The most obvious and least dramatic of which is as an insurance policy before September. If Judge can show the ability to play the entire outfield, he can fill in in left, center or right, whenever any of the starting outfielders get hurt.
The stronger implication of this is the Yankees want to see Judge’s bat this year, or else they would keep him in right and wait for Beltran’s contract to expire at the end of the season and then have him try to earn the role in right field. Additionally, they could have just waited until September and given Alex Rodriguez and Beltran much needed days off by playing Judge in right in September, but clearly the intention is to have him in the majors before then, or else, what’s the point? You don’t generally tinker with a top prospect in case they need a second insurance policy behind Hicks.
So what could be the bigger reason? The Yankees may be looking for the shake up Brian Cashman said wouldn’t happen…Yet. It could mean they are beginning to kick the tires on a Beltran trade market, or even Gardner. It could mean Teixeira may see the bench soon and Chase Headley or Rob Refsnyder might split time in the corner infield roles. It could mean Rodriguez has a short leash and will ride the bench if he doesn’t produce once off the DL. It could mean Dustin Ackley‘s days are numbered, Refsnyder will transition into his role and Judge can platoon in right with Beltran while Hicks can give Ellsbury and Gardner much needed days off.
It’s almost impossible to tell the real intentions of having Judge play all three outfield positions, but any scenario would imply New York will be getting a look at the 6’7″ outfielder sooner than when rosters expand.