New York baseball fans have had the chance to watch two very talented young outfielders burst onto the scene this season. Michael Conforto and Aaron Judge have both showed plenty of potential so far, and it looks like they will be fixtures in the Big Apple for a long time.
The two players have had different paths to the MLB. Conforto, 24, was drafted by the New York Mets with the 10th overall pick in the first round of the 2014 MLB Draft. He played collegiately at Oregon State University, where he was twice named the Pac-12 Player of the Year. A good left-handed hitter, he quickly made his way up through the minor leagues. He made his Major League debut in July of 2015, just over a year after being drafted. The young left fielder had early success with the Mets, batting .270 with nine home runs and 26 RBIs in 174 at-bats. Conforto got a taste of the postseason very early on in his career, as the Mets made the playoffs in 2015. He performed well in the playoffs, and even hit two home runs in the World Series against the Kansas City Royals. However, the Mets went on to lose to the Royals in five games.
Conforto’s second season was a totally different story. After getting off to a good start in 2016, he began to really struggle. It got so bad that the Mets decided to send him down to Triple-A near the end of June. He was called back up on July 18, and stayed with the team for the rest of the season. Conforto hit .220 with 12 homers and 42 RBIs in 109 games during the 2016 season.
This year, Conforto has looked much more like the 2015 version of himself. With the Mets slugging outfielder Yoenis Cespedes currently injured, he has stepped up and has been the team’s best hitter. In 178 at-bats, Conforto is batting .303 with 14 home runs and 36 RBIs. Before the season started, it was unclear whether or not he would even be on the Mets Opening Day roster because of how many outfielders they had. Now, there is no question that Conforto belongs with the team.
On the other hand, Judge has not even been in the Majors for a year yet, but he has already taken baseball by storm. Originally drafted by the Yankees with the 32nd overall pick in the first round of the 2013 MLB Draft, he made his Major League debut in August of last season. The 25-year-old star right fielder has put up unbelievable numbers so far this season. Judge is hitting .321 with 18 home runs and 41 RBIs in 193 at-bats. He leads the MLB in home runs. His slugging percentage is up to .668. The 6-foot-7, 282-pound Judge has shown incredible power early on in his career. If he can keep up this pace for the whole season, his numbers will be historic.
With his great right-handed power, Judge has the potential to have a great career with the Yankees. Yankee Stadium is known for being a hitter-friendly ballpark. Clearly, Judge has been comfortable hitting there.
Comparing Conforto and Judge’s stats this season, it is clear that the latter has been the better power hitter. Additionally, Judge currently has a higher batting average and more RBIs than Conforto. We are not even halfway through the season yet, so it is too early to really make a decision on who will have the better year overall. If these two players continue with their current paces, Judge will end up having the better season statistically.
As far as how these two outfielders are defensively, both have been relatively solid. Conforto has only made two errors this season, and they were both in the same game. Both were throwing errors. For the most part however, Conforto has done a good job tracking down fly balls. He has even made a few impressive catches. Judge has also only committed two errors this year. For someone as big as he is, Judge has fielded his position well.
Based on all of this, Judge is the better player as of right now, but only by a little bit. Conforto has shown tremendous potential this year and has bounced back nicely from his rough 2016 season. He will undoubtably be a fixture in the Mets outfield for a long time. Judge did not do so well after being called up at the end of last season. This year has been a completely different story for him. Judge has produced incredible power numbers so far. Especially considering that he plays his home games at Yankee Stadium, he has a chance to hit at least 50 home runs this season.
Even though Judge is the better young outfielder right now, this does not necessarily mean that he will have a better career than Conforto. Like Conforto, Judge might run into a major slump at some point. No one can really predict what will happen. At this point, it is way too early to discern who will have the better career. It will be interesting to follow the careers of these two players, especially if they both stay in New York for a long time.