We've all played the "would you rather" game with baseball players. If you're starting a franchise, who would you rather have? Or for one at bat with the game on the line?
What could make that hypothetical more fun? Asking actual talent evaluators who they would rather have. This season, we'll take some of the best players/groups in baseball and ask scouts and executives who they'd take in a head-to-head situation, with a breakdown of their respective tools on baseball's 20-80 scale to illustrate why.
It'd be hard to overstate just how impressive Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger have been in their rookie seasons. Judge has been among the very best players in the American League, and if the season ended today, he just might win the MVP. Bellinger won't reach that level, but the Dodgers have easily the best record in baseball since he became part of the lineup, and he's putting up numbers that would make anyone but Judge blush in his first season. He is also three years younger than Judge. Young hitters aren't supposed to be able to do what they're doing right now, but they are.
And with both players being so young, it's reasonable to expect both players will get better. But how much better? And who has the brighter future. I asked an National League front office executive to break them down, and also to pick which one he'd rather have in the long-term.
"I know that Judge is hitting in the .300s right now and Bellinger isn't near that level, but I still think Bellinger has the better hit tool. Give Judge credit for the adjustments he's made in shortening the swing and recognizing pitches better, but there's still an awful lot of contact issues for me. Bellinger will strike out too, but I think he's the more likely player to hit for average going forward. I could be wrong, but I just don't think what Judge is doing right now is sustainable, at least when we're talking about average."
Grade: Judge 50
"It's funny, because Bellinger has power that competes with almost anyone. In this case almost is accurate because Judge's power is special. You look at the homer he hit in Safeco Field the other day and you just kinda marvel, but to me it's the way he goes to opposite field with almost no effort. Both guys are elite power hitters, one's just a little more elite."
Grade: Judge 80
"Both guys have deceptive speed. Judge is huge but he does move well, I just wonder how much longer he'll be able to do it. Bellinger isn't a small guy by any means, but he's also got some speed. I think Judge has a little better instincts in the outfield, and also a better, more accurate throwing arm, so if I'm picking here, I'm picking Judge."
Grade: Judge Speed 50, Defense 55
Bellinger Speed: 50, Defense 50
"This is really difficult, but if we're talking long-term, I'm going with Bellinger. Judge is fantastic, he's made so many adjustments and I think he's going to be a very good player for a long time. Bellinger is just a different beast. It wouldn't surprise me at all if this was the best player on the Dodgers by this point next year, and he could win an MVP or two someday. So could Judge, but I'd bet on Bellinger.