ANAHEIM, Calif. — Three thousand miles away from the Bronx, Mike Scioscia is as impressed as anyone with Aaron Judge.
“He’s got the potential to be a really, really special player,” the longtime Angels manager said before Monday night’s game against the Yankees.
Scioscia, of course, has his own experience watching a phenom turn the sport upside down. The Angels’ manager since 2000, he had a front-row seat when Mike Trout debuted in 2011 and was named AL Rookie of the Year, then finished second in the MVP voting in 2012 at the age of 20.
And, yes, Scioscia mentioned Trout — currently out while recovering from surgery to repair a ligament tear in his left thumb — and Judge in the same sentence, calling both “multi-dimensional” players.
“You look at a Mike Trout, you look at a lot of [younger] guys that come up, it seems like there’s a higher plateau these guys have as far as speed and strength,” Scioscia said. “It’s probably been a trend for a while, but when you see guys that come up that have those kinds of tools, it stands out, no doubt.”
Judge, 25, continues to stockpile early-season honors. He won his first career AL Player of the Week award Monday after compiling a .500/.600/1.000 slash line with three homers, six RBIs and 10 runs in six games last week against the Red Sox and Orioles. He became the first Yankees position player to claim the honor since Gary Sánchez did so for the week ending Aug. 28 last season.
Judge has been good all season. He entered Monday leading the majors in homers with 21, and according to Elias, he is the first rookie in major-league history to be the first player to reach 20 home runs.
He came into Monday leading the American League in the Triple Crown categories, hitting .344 with those 21 homers and 47 RBIs. He ranked second in the big leagues in on-base percentage (.450), slugging percentage (.718) and OPS (1.168) — second in all of those categories, by the way, to Trout (.461, .742 and 1.203).
Judge led the AL in runs (54), walks (38) and total bases (150) and ranked second in extra-base hits with 34.
Joe Girardi has seen it up close all season and continues to be most taken with Judge’s ability to hit with two strikes. After being down in the count 0-and-2 this season, Judge had a .298 average and .906 OPS.
“The thing we’ve talked about that’s been really impressive is the two-strike hits, and I think that’s how you hit for a high average,” Girardi said. “You have to have that ability to hit with two strikes. He continues to hit the ball extremely hard, he continues to use the whole field.”
Scioscia said the length of some of Judge’s homers — he blasted one 495 feet on Sunday, you may have seen or heard — is impressive, but it’s not something he gets carried away with.
“You’ve got to hit ’em one foot over the fence or maybe two so a guy can’t jump and catch it,” Scioscia said.
That isn’t to say the longest-tenured manager in the sport isn’t fascinated with the power display. It just demonstrates something else to him.
“I think it’s indicative, when a guy hits the ball that far, it’s indicative that there are times where he hits the ball off the end of the bat or get jammed and he’s still going to be able to get it over the fence,” Scioscia said. “It just illustrates a special tool of power.”