Miami Marlins

Yankees rookie Aaron Judge displaying Stanton-like power. And the Marlins’ big guy has noticed

New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge hits a two-run home run during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox at Yankee Stadium in New York on April 17, 2017. Judge has transformed batting practice in the Bronx, where the Yankees are raising the top of their batting cage to accommodate the 6-foot-7 slugger.
New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge hits a two-run home run during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox at Yankee Stadium in New York on April 17, 2017. Judge has transformed batting practice in the Bronx, where the Yankees are raising the top of their batting cage to accommodate the 6-foot-7 slugger. AP

For the better part of his first eight seasons in the majors, Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, 27, has been more than just one of baseball’s most powerful home run hitters.

He’s been the game’s biggest bopper in terms of sheer size (6-6, 245 pounds), the scorching speed with which the ball comes off his bat, and the distance those balls travel. Well, the three-time All-Star and reigning home run derby champion finally has some real competition for that title now.

Yankees rookie slugger Aaron Judge, who checks in an inch taller and nearly 40 pounds heavier than Staton at 6-7, 282 pounds, is giving the Marlins’ three-time All-Star a run for his money through the first month of this season.

Not only is Judge hitting .303 with 20 RBI and an American League-leading 10 homers (matching Jose Abreu in 2014 and Trevor Story last year for the most by a rookie in April), he’s drawing big crowds pregame for batting practice like Stanton has for years now. It has everyone in New York comparing the 25-year-old to Stanton.

“[He’s] pretty good,” said Stanton, who says he’s seen highlights of Judge on MLB Network. “He stays inside the ball well. He’s got good opposite [field] power and complete power.”

Naturally, fans are already dreaming up a scenario where Stanton and Judge – should he continue to perform like he did in April – could compete in this year’s Home Run Derby at Marlins Park. Stanton said he would welcome it.

“Why not? It would be fun,” Marlins skipper Don Mattingly answered Monday when asked if he would like to see Stanton and Judge in the derby. “Everybody likes seeing them go a long way.”

The giant-sized sluggers are in a class all their own based on size alone. According to Baseball-Reference, there’s only been 82 players in the game’s history since 1901 listed at at least 6-feet, 6-inches and 240 pounds or more. Of that group only 10 have not been pitchers. Judge and Stanton are currently the only active non-pitchers in the game at least that big.

Only four sluggers 6-6, 240 pounds or bigger in baseball’s history have hit more than 34 career homers. Stanton is third on the list with 215 career long balls. Former Nationals and Reds first baseman Adam Dunn (6-6, 285) tops the list with 462 career homers and former Dodgers and Washington Senators first baseman Frank Howard (6-7, 255) is second with 382 bombs.

Miami Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton hit the go-ahead homer in the 8th inning Saturday, April 15, 2017, at Marlins Park.

Most believe Judge’s stellar month of April is a sign of things to come. Former Yankees pitcher David Phelps, who has been with the Marlins since 2015, said he got to know the Yankees rookie in 2014.

“After the [2013] draft we were in Oakland and Aaron came out and hit BP with the guys,” Phelps said. “We were out in the outfield and all of a sudden he let it loose. He was hitting balls in the Coliseum that were hurting seats. I got to know him a little bit. Great kid. Really soft spoken, worked really hard. It’s one of those guys that you see the tools all there. It’s just a matter of when not if.”

A 2013 first round pick out of Fresno State, Judge has more things in common with Stanton than just size and bat speed.

Like Stanton, he was born in California, in a small town called Linden, a five-hour drive north of Stanton’s hometown of Los Angeles. Judge, who was adopted at birth, was also a three-sport star like Stanton in high school (baseball, basketball, football) and turned down offers to play college football in pursuit of a baseball career.

Like Stanton, Judge has piled up his own share of strikeouts (66 in his first 179 career plate appearances). But when he makes contact, the ball comes stinging off his bat just like Stanton, who has ranked in the top three in terms of average home run distance according to ESPN’s Home Run Tracker five times since 2011 and is always among the league leaders in average exit velocity..

Stanton, who was tied for eighth in the NL with seven homers at the end of April, ranks ninth in baseball in average exit velocity (94.4) this season and has two of the top 50 longest homers hit this season according to MLB Statcast. Judge ranks fifth in exit velocity (95.7) and has 10 of the top 50 hardest hit balls this season, tops in baseball. Stanton is next on the list with four.

Still, Judge has a long way to go before he’s considered on par with Stanton.

Since Stanton made his debut in 2010, only six players have hit more homers than he has: Jose Bautista (250), Miguel Cabrera (240), Nelson Cruz (236), Edwin Encarnacion (235), Albert Pujols (228) and the recently retired David Ortiz (224). Stanton has played in at least 100 games fewer than each of those sluggers listed ahead of him.

COMING UP NEXT

Tuesday: Marlins RHP Edinson Volquez (0-3, 4.44) vs. Rays RHP Alex Cobb (1-2, 4.66)

Wednesday: Marlins LHP Adam Conley (1-2, 6.86) at Rays LHP Blake Snell (0-2, 3.42)

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