Aaron Judge is off to an explosive start as the Yankees right fielder in his first full season in the majors.
For the Yankees scouting department, this truly was a case of go big or go home.
Judge, who stands 6-foot-7 and weighs 282 pounds, was the biggest of gambles in the first round of the 2013 draft, the 32nd player chosen, the second player the Yankees took in that draft after using the 26th pick on third baseman Eric Jagielo, who is now at Double-A with the Reds after being included in the deal for Aroldis Chapman. Judge crushed his fifth home run of the young season Wednesday, a 448-foot monster shot, in a 9-1 win over the White Sox.
A key point for Judge was a Cape Cod League workout at Fenway Park, home of the Green Monster. The Yankees attend that workout every summer.
Judge will play at Fenway for real next week against the Red Sox after a three-game series in Pittsburgh that starts Friday night.
No one knows the player Judge, who turns 25 next week, will ultimately become, but he is off to a mighty start, batting .277 with those five home runs, 12 RBIs with a .660 slugging percentage and a 1.018 OPS in 14 games.
In all, 21 players chosen ahead of Judge in that 2013 draft have yet to see major league action. Some were high-school picks. like current Yankees outfield prospect Clint Frazier, chosen fifth overall by the Indians. Others were college selections, like No. 1-overall pick, right-handed pitcher Mark Appel, taken by the Astros and eventually traded to the Phillies.
The Yankees had followed Judge since his high-school days in Northern California, but they didn’t think he was ready. He was drafted in the 31st round by the A’s, but passed on professional baseball and wound up going to Fresno State.
Damon Oppenheimer, the Yankees vice president of domestic amateur scouting, picks up the story.
“We have that workout with the Cape Cod League guys in Fenway,’’ Oppenheimer told The Post on Thursday. “All the position players hit and Aaron was putting on a show that was a lot different than everybody else, where the ball was landing for him.
“We said, ‘Holy smokes, he’s really developing. Going into his junior year [at Fresno State], he was a guy we had targeted for us as a top-of-the-draft guy. I remember a Sunday morning, going up from San Diego to Stanford to go watch Fresno play, hit the right day, he went like 5-for-5 with a home run in the lights, made a great play in the outfield. It was a great day. A big part of this stuff when you are scouting these guys is seeing them when they are good.’’
Oppenheimer is quick to credit Yankees California area scout Troy Afenir and Matt Hyde, who has New England and Cape Cod League coverage, on how they worked together on scouting Judge, and special assignment scout Jim Hendry.
Hyde recalled an impressive Cape Cod League batting practice performance by Judge, who played center field for the Brewster Whitecaps.