Aaron Judge to first base? A long term possibility for the Yankees Captain if the stars align.

As Aaron Judge worked out at the New York Yankees’ player development complex this winter, he was surrounded by mostly infielders. Often, he’d find himself on the field with Anthony Rizzo, DJ LeMahieu, Anthony Volpe, Gleyber Torres and others. So, when it was time for grounders, Judge would occasionally grab the first baseman’s mitt and head over to the position.

“Somebody had to go over there,” he said, smiling.

It seems like a non storyline, but when you take a step back and assess the Yankees and Judge long term, it seems like a perfect landing spot for the aging superstar.

I know Judge is one of the best outfielders in the sport so wasting that talent at 1B, a position notorious for hiding  bad defensive players seems far fetched, but hear me out.

Judge is 6’7 280lbs. He will not physically be able to play 162 games in the outfield in his mid to late 30’s. He is also too good defensively to only be a DH. So why not 1B.

But to be honest this post isn’t so much about Judge as it is about the potential of what the Yankees outfield could look like.

Assume the Yankees sign Juan Soto to a massive 13 year deal. He is one of your corner outfielders. In center field you have the Martian, Jasson Dominguez. And I don’t know how many fans know the name Spencer Jones, but let me give you a synopsis of him.

He is 6’6, with 40 HR potential, while coming off a season stealing 40 bases in AA. He is one of the presumed untouchable prospects in the Yankees system. He is also fresh off a Spring training game where he hit a 470ft home run. Feels like a different variation of Judge.

Yeah Jones is projected to make the big leagues in 2025. So if you have Soto, Dominguez and Jones, 3 young fresh bodies, why put that wear and tear on Judge?

Keep him fresh for the length of the contract, if you have a stacked young outfield core ready to go.

Besides the position isn’t completely foreign to the Yankees captain.

Judge worked at first base with infield instructor and first-base coach Travis Chapman. The 31-year-old said he enjoyed revisiting the position and learning some of the nuances he hadn’t needed to consider since he last played there as a freshman at Fresno State.

But, Judge said, he hasn’t at all considered a possible permanent move to the infield.

“I plan to be an outfielder for as long as I can, for as long as my contract lasts,” he said.

However, he didn’t rule out being ready to play there in a game in a pinch if necessary.

“I always want to be ready to help the team,” he said, “if it’s playing center field or left field, anything I can do to help the team win.”

It wasn’t the first time Judge had played around at first base. Before 2023 spring training, reporters — watching from behind the center-field fence of one of the back fields at the team’s player development complex — saw Judge take groundballs and throws at the position. He also played first base and pitched in high school.

Judge acknowledged that it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility that he could be called upon to play there a few innings as soon as this season.

Rizzo, who missed the final two months of last season with post-concussion syndrome, is healthy and expected to be the team’s starting first baseman. But Rizzo’s primary backup, LeMahieu, is slated to be the Yankees’ starting third baseman.

What if Rizzo gets hurt again and the Yankees somehow can’t move LeMahieu off third? Or what if both Rizzo and LeMahieu are hurt at the same time?

Judge has already shown a willingness to be flexible.

As the Yankees dealt with a slew of injuries in 2022, he played the majority of his games in center field and still hit 62 home runs, setting an American League record. And when the team acquired star Juan Soto from the San Diego Padres in the winter, the Yankees determined his defensive skill set would best fit the short right field at Yankee Stadium. That meant another move to center field for Judge — except now it’ll be full time.

It also wouldn’t be the first time an aging superstar shifted out from RF and into the infield, even while in their primes.

Two other 31-year-old right field stars on nine-figure, long-term deals have moved to the infield recently. The Philadelphia Phillies’ Bryce Harper will play first base this season, and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Mookie Betts has said he plans to exclusively play second base.

Still, Judge, who doesn’t have a Gold Glove but is consistently ranked one of the better defensive outfielders in the game, said he’s committed to the outfield. He said his dalliance with first base was mostly about having fun while staying ready in case something extreme were to happen.

“I just like taking on new challenges,” he said.

I think secretly the Yankees are hoping it is a silly challenge turned actual success.

Leave a Reply