You probably know Aaron Judge by now. After all, he’s tied for the MLB lead with 15 home runs, is the 6-foot-7 young face of the New York Yankees and on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
But in an alternate reality — and an alternate reality with baseball cards — none of this would have happened. He’d be playing somewhere else.
You probably didn’t know — this collector didn’t — that Judge was once a draft pick of the Oakland A’s, the Moneyballing squad that ultimately sends all of its star players to the Yankees anyway and gets its playoff hopes dashed by Yankees stars and unlikely plays that will never, ever go away. (They even start off movies made about the A’s.)
Oakland GM Billy Beane took Judge with a 31st-round pick in the 2010 MLB Draft out of Linden High School in Linden, Calif. — a school with just three other draft picks since 1970 and none that actually made it to the majors. Judge didn’t sign, though, and headed to Fresno State where he worked into making himself into a first-round pick and that’s where the Yankees grabbed him back in 2013.
Judge’s 2010 Bowman Draft Picks baseball card — seen up top in “what-if” form — might not have been made by Topps given his low draft status, but Buzz whipped it together after reading about this past draft status as detailed in this piece by CSN Bay Area’s Joe Stiglich.
The piece sparked a lot of questions in this collector’s mind. Would he have developed into a star player and led the A’s to some postseason glory by now? Or would Oakland have even kept Judge long enough for him to launch a few longballs at the Coliseum? Or would be have been part of a package deal for Jeff Samardzija (with Addison Russell roaming the Coliseum infield today)?
Would collectors have stockpiled him more or less than they did with him in pinstripes? After all, 2010 was a strong year for cards if you remember collecting that summer. Where would Judge’s cards have ranked beside other 2010 Bowman prospects and rookies? It’s a very strong list that includes Buster Posey, Starlin Castro, Jason Heyward, Madison Bumgarner, Jake Arrieta, Giancarlo Stanton, Stephen Strasburg, Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Corey Seager (USA), Bryce Harper (USA), and even a guy named Russell Wilson, who you might know from the football field.
One thing’s for sure. Judge was definitely the best player Oakland drafted that year.
Follow Buzz on Twitter @BlowoutBuzz or send email to BlowoutBuzz@blowoutcards.com.