Judge reflects on taste of Majors, eyes '17 spot

Judge reflects on taste of Majors, eyes '17 spot

NEW YORK -- Aaron Judge started his Yankees career in memorable fashion, hitting a tape-measure home run in his first Major League plate appearance, but the touted prospect recognizes that he will need to do more to earn a place in the starting lineup next year.

The Yankees' No. 4 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, Judge is ending the season on the disabled list with a Grade 2 right oblique strain. He showed promise in 27 games, slugging four homers -- including that Aug. 13 blast off the Rays' Matt Andriese -- but will wrap his first big league experience batting just .179 (15-for-84).

"It's the same thing as last year; I got a little taste of Triple-A and got used to it, and same thing here," Judge said. "I got a couple games up here and saw what it's like. It'll help me prepare coming in here, not in the unknown. I'll know what's going on, how the league is and just kind of be prepared."

Judge's first career home run

Judge, 23, could be the starting right fielder in an outfield alignment that also includes Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury, both of whom are under contract for next season. That all depends on how general manager Brian Cashman decides to maneuver this offseason, but Judge envisions having to battle for at-bats next spring.

"I expect that. No one is guaranteed their spot," Judge said. "It's the same every year, everyone's got to earn their spot."

The Yankees will be looking for the 6-foot-7 Judge to improve on a contact rate that saw him strike out 42 times, exactly half of his at-bats. He fanned 98 times in 352 Triple-A at-bats, and manager Joe Girardi said that Judge's strikeouts are a concern going into next season.

"To me, it's making more contact, because when he hits it, there's a real good chance he's going to hit it hard," Girardi said. "He's going to have misses that go out of the ballpark because he's so big and strong. To me, it's cutting down on the strikeouts, and if he does that, I think he's going to have success at this level."

Judge exits with an injury

Judge said that seeing opponents regularly should help increase his comfort level, but he doesn't seem concerned by the attention paid to his whiffs.

"[Strikeouts are] part of the game," Judge said. "If you're going to have 500 at-bats a year, you're going to get out maybe 300 times, so it's part of it. An out's an out."

Having been placed on the DL Sept. 14, Judge said that while he was disappointed to miss the last few weeks of the season, he has found it valuable to be around the club.

"You want to try to suck up as much as you can, especially with the guys we've got in this clubhouse," Judge said. "Having [Mark] Teixeira here in his last year, [I] try to be around here and pick his brain a little bit. I got a lot of good information in the weeks I was here, [so I can] take it into the offseason and just get ready for next year."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. 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.