Ask BA: Is Aaron Judge An Adam Dunn In The Making?

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Q:There still seems to be some swing and miss to Aaron Judge‘s game; Are his other stats (Avg., OPS, K/BB) a reflection of luck or blossoming skill? Is Adam Dunn a fair comparison?

Rob Mulligan
Calgary, Alberta, Canada

BA:Judge, a 2013 first-round pick out of Fresno State, has performed as expected this season. He started the year in low Class A, but quickly played his way out of there with a .333/.428/.530 stat line in 65 games. Such performance should be expected out of a college hitter playing in the South Atlantic League.

Since his promotion to high Class A Tampa, Judge has continued to perform at a similar level. He's hit .287/.420/.467. The Florida State League is a tough league for power numbers, so Judge's drop-off in slugging percentage isn't alarming. Only one hitter on the Florida State League leaderboard is slugging over .500, and that's Josh Bell at .502.

The first thing that stands out when you see Judge is just how big he is. He towers over nearly everyone else on a baseball diamond.

At 6-foot-7, Judge is trying to join a small group of extremely tall hitters. Since 2000, there have been six big league hitters who are 6-foot-7 or taller (Ryan Minor, Richie Sexson, Tony Clark, Joel Guzman, Nate Freiman and Damon Minor).

Now, being 6-foot-7 is not a disqualifying trait in a hitter. Dunn, Giancarlo Stanton and Corey Hart are among the successful 6-foot-6 hitters in the big leagues this century, and it's really hard to say that an additional inch makes all that much difference.

But yes, there will always be some swing and miss with hitters this big. Scouts have long said that taller hitters are prone to striking out more because they have bigger strike zones and their long arms make it hard for their swings to be quick and direct to the ball. But in return, tall hitters can generate excellent leverage and often have excellent power.

The stats back up the conventional wisdom. Looking at 21st century major league hitters grouped by height finds what you would expect. Shorter hitters strike out less, but with less power. The taller a hitter, the more likely he's going to hit for more power and strike out more.

Less than 6-foot 632,910 .265 .328 .391 .126 15.70% 8.23%
6-0 to 6-3 1,503,130 .266 .335 .431 .165 18.55% 9.16%
6-4 to 6-6 209,493 .270 .348 .464 .194 21.00% 10.81%
6-7 and taller 7,348 .253 .337 .475 .223 23.63% 10.72%

For a 6-foot-7 giant with excellent power potential, Judge doesn’t strike out all that much. His 24-percent strikeout rate in the Florida State League is not troubling, especially as it comes from a hitter who has an understanding of how to sort through pitches and draw walks from pitchers loathe to leave him something he can drive.

Judge still has a long ways to go to match a Dunn comp. Judge is 22. At that age, Dunn already had 45 big league home runs. But Judge does have an understanding of the strike zone, and his strikeout rate isn’t all that different than what Dunn did as a minor leaguer. And physically both are massive outfielders who, at least  early in their career, have some athleticism. As physical/production comps go, Dunn isn’t a terrible one, although the fact that Dunn hits lefthanded and Judge swings from the right side means you’d likely never hear a scout throw a Dunn comp on Judge.