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The Emerging AL MVP Dark Horse

Major League Baseball just passed the quarter-mark of the regular season, and three notable candidates have emerged for the AL MVP in the early running. Those are defending AL Rookie of the Year Gunnar Henderson, Bobby Witt Jr., and Juan Soto. Each player is having a career year so far, and all are significantly contributing to their team’s success. At this point, it looks like one of them is going to emerge with the crown. However, a former MVP had an incredible run of form this past week and has made himself a dark horse to win it at the end of the season, and that player is New York Yankees captain Aaron Judge.

Aaron Judge is the New Dark Horse for AL MVP

The Past Month

Judge entered May with a 200 batting average and four home runs through the first 32 games of the season. Now, he is batting .266 with 13 home runs and leads the Yankees with a .980 OPS. That is quite a jump in overall production considering how slow Judge started 2024. A month ago, fans were worried about Judge, wondering what was wrong with the captain.

Now he has dispelled all those fears, gotten back to business, and been arguably the best player in MLB since the start of May. His return to form has also had a ripple effect, as the Yankees went 6-0 against their competition this past week. As a result, the Bronx Bombers have climbed over the rival Baltimore Orioles for first place in the AL East and the best overall record in the AL. Judge’s improvement is being noticed around the league, as he just won AL Player of the Week Honors.

What Has He Changed?

For a player of Judge’s caliber, it was quite shocking and scary to see him struggle mightily in the first month of action. There were obvious signs that Judge was not himself just yet. Harold Reynolds of MLB Network explained that Judge was pulling the ball more than usual and was falling towards the third base side. When Judge is in form he is hitting the fastball toward the right-center field gap. In addition to driving the fastball the opposite way, Judge also pulls the hanging breaking pitches into the left-field bleachers.

Now it is obvious that Judge is back to his normal self, as he is not missing his pitches and has significantly contributed to the Yankee’s recent run of success. The only question is, can he keep this up and win his second MVP award?

Can Judge Win His Second MVP?

Right now, Judge is playing in an incredibly strong lineup with another MVP candidate, Juan Soto, batting in front of him. He also has Giancarlo Stanton and Alex Verdugo betting behind him, forcing the pitchers to pitch to Judge and not just walk him. This year, Stanton is having a resurgence and has recently been displaying his power, hitting three home runs in his last five games. What also makes Stanton dangerous is his ability to hit with runners in scoring position. In 2024, he has an average of over .300 in those situations. This means that if Soto is already on base and Judge walks, there’s a strong chance one of those players if not all of them is going to score.

The combination of the lineup he plays in and his raw talent puts Judge in a great position to win his second MVP award. Now that the weather is changing and becoming warmer, odds are that his offensive numbers are going to skyrocket. The Yankees offense overall could finish with record-breaking numbers. Soto, Stanton, and Judge all have a chance to hit 40 home runs this season if not more. Then put it together with good career hitters such as Verdugo and Anthony Rizzo further down the order, and the Yankees will have a real shot at history.

What Judge’s Numbers May Look Like

If Aaron Judge and his teammates manage to stay consistent, there is a good chance he could pass the 50 home run mark while batting in the .280-.295 range along with 120+ RBI. Simply put, Judge could have another special season, and he has a strong track record to do so. In his three full injury-free seasons, which were 2017, 2021, and 2022, Judge has averaged 51 home runs, a 294 batting average, a 1.026 OPS, 114 RBI, and an OPS+ of 177.

The probability of Judge putting up similar if not better numbers is likely since he is playing in a stronger lineup than those previous years. Even though Judge is still a dark horse candidate for the AL MVP, by the All-Star break he could emerge as the front-runner.


Photo Credit: © Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports


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