Less than two months into his first full season with the New York Yankees, slugger Aaron Judge is already drawing comparisons to future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter – and making waves with top sports brands.
Judge enters the Yankees’ Monday night tilt with the Cincinnati Reds tied for the MLB home run lead. The 25-year-old outfielder needed just 25 games to hit 13 home runs – a record pace among rookies in baseball history. The power surge has helped to make Judge’s memorabilia a top-seller for online sports retailer Fanatics and Topps trading cards.
With continued production on the field, the 6-foot-7, 280-pound Judge could fill the superstar void the Yankees, and the New York baseball world as a whole, have felt since the retirements of mainstays like Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, according to JD Lubenetski, Vice President of Brands at Wasserman.
“Aaron Judge has a lot going for him, not just that he plays in New York and has unique size for a baseball player,” Lubenetski told FOX Business. “He is coming onto the scene at a time when the Yankees are in need of a star. The team is in a bit of a transition period and there is a void as the ‘face’ of the Yankees. The way he has burst on the scene has cast himself as that one player the fan base can be excited about this year and beyond.”
The excitement Judge has generated among baseball fans is already translating to the sports memorabilia world. Over the last month, Judge’s 2017 Topps rookie card has risen in value from about $1 to anywhere from $5 to $15 on the secondary market, according to a company spokesperson.
Signed copies of Judge’s card in the “Topps Heritage” series skyrocketed from about $20 a month ago to about $150 this week. The April 26th edition of the on-demand ToppsNow card series, which commemorated Judge’s home run and diving catch against the Boston Red Sox, has sold more than 2,000 physical copies, making it the top-selling ToppsNow card so far this season.
Separately, Judge T-shirts and jerseys are listed as top-selling options on Fanatics, the online retailer. A company spokesperson could not immediately provide specific sales data.
“He is a little bit like Derek [Jeter], to me,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi told the New York Post earlier this month. “He has a smile all the time and loves to play the game. You always think he is going to do the right thing on the field and off the field. You look at it and he has a presence about him.”
The Yankees entered the 2017 season with tempered expectations for success after shedding their star-laden lineup of years past for a roster full of young, developing players. Instead, the Yankees, fueled in part by Judge’s performance, are leading the American League East division with a 20-9 record.
The average resale price of a seat at Yankees Stadium was $57 from the second home game of the season through April 17, when the Bronx Bombers’ eight-game winning streak came to an end, according to data from SeatGeek, a secondary market ticket aggregator. Since that day, the average price has risen to $86.
“Overall, that win streak seemed like the time both the team and Judge really started to heat up, and it's looking like games through the rest of the season are in higher demand than some of those early games,” SeatGeek analyst Nate Rattner told FOX Business.
With just 55 MLB games to his name, Judge is just beginning to establish himself on the New York sports scene. To justify comparisons to Jeter and draw attentions from bigger brands in the long term, Judge will have to showcase his unique personality while continuing to perform on the field, according to Lubenetski.
“Aaron’s biggest obstacle, assuming he stays productive on the baseball field, will be to carve out an authentic voice that is differentiated and breaks through the heavy New York clutter,” Lubenetski said. “Quiet and humble are great traits, but his off-field interests will need to align with a story brands want to tell.”