Judge makes adjustments to accelerate path

Yankees' top prospect hopes to make Major League debut in 2016

Judge makes adjustments to accelerate path

TAMPA, Fla. -- Wrapping up an otherwise successful year, Yankees top prospect Aaron Judge noticed that pitchers at the Triple-A level seemed to be more confident nibbling at the corners of the strike zone with their offspeed pitches, reducing the number of meaty fastballs available to be mashed.

Judge filed that away as something he planned to work on during the winter. As the young slugger prepares for a 2016 campaign that could see him in the Major Leagues by year's end, Judge said that he is working on being better prepared for all of the challenges ahead.

"They started pitching me a little differently and I just wasn't able to make the adjustments as quick as I wanted to," Judge said. "You've just got to learn. Live and learn and get better."

The Yankees' No. 1 prospect as rated by MLB Pipeline, Judge has drawn comparisons to Hall of Famer Dave Winfield and Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton for his hulking stature (6-foot-7, 275 pounds) and his powerful bat. Judge led all Yanks Minor Leaguers with 20 homers last year and turns 24 in April.

Though general manager Brian Cashman has said that Judge is slated to begin the year with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre -- New York's outfield is stocked with Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Aaron Hicks -- some scouts believe that Judge could be called up after the All-Star break.

"I'm just ready to play wherever they need me," Judge said. "If they need me there or Triple-A or wherever, I'm just ready to go out and play."

The Yankees' first-round Draft pick in 2013, Judge batted .284/.350/.516 in 63 games at Double-A Trenton last year before being promoted to the International League, where he hit .224/.308/.373 in his final 61 contests.

"It went well," Judge said. "We had two great teams that I played on. A lot of guys had the chance to get up to the big leagues and did well, like [Greg] Bird and [Luis] Severino. That's a great opportunity for the young guys now."

Judge said that seeing young talent promoted through the pipeline -- he mentioned infielder Rob Refsnyder, as well as pitchers James Kaprielian and Tyler Wade -- offers a boost to the entire system that wearing pinstripes can be an attainable goal.

"We're getting an opportunity to get up there and show everybody what we have and what we've got," Judge said. "I'm excited to maybe get a chance to do that this year."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.