Dreaming of Aaron Judge in a Braves uniform
Before anyone gets too carried away, no…there is virtually no chance that the Atlanta Braves are going to sign Aaron Judge this offseason. If you look at the general sentiment out there right now, Aaron Judge is going to get a deal at least eight years long and well over $300 million.
The Yankees want him back, the Giants are interested…there are no shortage of deep-pocketed teams that are going to be bidding for his services and the Braves are up against the luxury tax in 2023 and still haven’t figured out shortstop yet. It isn’t going to happen (very probably).
However, it is fun to think about what the Braves would look like with Judge in their lineup and also sad to think about the fact that the Braves had their chance to nab him way back in 2013.
The Atlanta Braves could (should) have drafted Aaron Judge back in 2013
The 2013 MLB Draft class was a fun one. The class was headlined by Jon Gray, Kris Bryant, and notorious bust/redemption story Mark Appel at the top with a ton of other future big leaguers like Austin Meadows, Clint Frazier, Hunter Renfroe, JP Crawford, and Tim Anderson in there. Hell, Cody Bellinger was a fourth rounder in that draft and Jeff McNeil didn’t get picked until Day Three.
The 6’7 Judge was a slugging outfielder out of Fresno State and was ranked by Baseball America as the 30th best prospect in the draft. The Braves did not have their regular first round selection because they had signed BJ Upton the previous offseason (this is where the pain starts), but they did have a compensatory pick at 31 thanks to Michael Bourn signing elsewhere.
As you can see from the draft board in the picture above, when the Braves picked at 31, Judge was still on the board and this was right around the range he was supposed to be picked. Instead, the Braves picked Jason Hursh out of Oklahoma State. Hursh would get converted to being a reliever in the minors, made a total of 11 mediocre to bad major league appearances (all with the Braves), and was out of the big leagues by 2017.
As for Judge, the Yankees picked him directly after the Braves’ pick and, well, you know the rest.
It would be awesome to see Judge in a Braves uniform
It is hard sometimes to not daydream about what it would have been like to have Judge with the Atlanta Braves over the last several years. There are a lot of unknowns regarding opportunity cost/time travel problems with just assuming what would have happened if Judge was with the Braves….hell, we don’t really know if the Braves’ player development team would have shaped him into the same level of hitter.
What we do know, though, is that Judge has been one of the game’s pre-eminent power hitters since he won Rookie of the Year in 2017 where he hit 52 homers and 8.0 rWAR and he solidified his place as the most elite players in the game with an AL MVP campaign in 2022 where he hit 62 home runs for the Yankees and was worth an astonishing 10.6 rWAR. Just to help with the daydreaming, here is Judge’s home run spray chart overlaid on to Truist Park.
Not so fast
When we put out our list of potential free agent options for the Braves earlier this month, we did include Judge. However, Steven correctly pointed out that Judge’s contract demands are not conducive to getting a deal done with the Braves given the current state of their payroll, their reluctance to hand out long-term, high AAV deals, and the fact that they have a more pressing need at shortstop.
As a result, it is fun to think about what the Braves could have looked like if they had drafted Judge and how much he would have helped the team up until now. It is also fun to think about what the 2023 Braves would look like with Judge on it. I just wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you.