By Cliff Corcoran
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon had some fun with Aaron Judge's rapid ascent to stardom Monday night. Repeating a bit the show debuted the week of the 2013 All-Star Game with another breakout New York star, Matt Harvey, the show sent Judge, dressed as a sports anchor, to NYC's Bryant Park to interview Yankee fans about their favorite players to see how long it would take them to realize they were talking to one of them.
Forced to improvise with unwitting strangers, Judge brought the bit home, but he was an odd choice for that particular set-up given that he is such a distinctive physical presence, a hulking 6-foot-7 mountain of a man.
What other current Major League stars could stump all but the most engaged fans in such a set-up? Certainly not someone with the kind of endorsement exposure of a Bryce Harper or a Buster Posey, a distinctive feature such as Noah Syndergaard's hair or Dallas Keuchel's beard. Here we looked at some players who could possibly go incognito.
(All photos via Getty Images.)
Jay Bruce, RF, Mets
Bruce is a ten-year veteran and a three-time All-Star who has appeared in four postseasons, and entered Tuesday's action hitting .268/.353/.551 with 10 home runs for team in the country's largest market.
Despite all that, I'm confident that even a hardcore baseball fan would walk right by him on the street.
Wade Davis, RHP, Cubs
A nine-year veteran and two-time All-Star who has appeared in four postesasons, Davis has been one of the best relief pitchers in baseball since the start of the 2014 season, and was a central figure on the Royals teams that went to the World Series in 2014 and '15, recording the final out in the latter as Kansas City won its first championship in 30 years, doing so against a New York team. Thus far this season, he has yet to allow a run in 17 appearances for the defending World Champion Cubs. Yet, if you saw him in street clothes, you might mistake him for Ryan Dempster.
Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers
Seager hasn't been around as long as Davis or Bruce, but he did win the NL Rookie of the Year last year, finished third in the National League MVP voting, made the All-Star team, and won the Silver Slugger. He was also the unanimous top prospect in baseball heading into that season, appeared in the postseason with the Dodgers, another major-market team, in each of the past two years. He is considered among the game's premier young talents, a player who could regularly be among the very best in the game for the next decade and a half. He may be easy to pick out in Dodger blue … but in his civvies? Good luck.
Jean Segura, SS, Mariners
Segura is an interesting mix of old and new. This is his sixth season. He was an All-Star in 2013, a top prospect prior to that, and has a few infamous highlights under his belt. Last year, he resurrected his career in Arizona, leading the NL in hits and drawing some down-ballot MVP Award votes, and, after being a central player in a major offseason trade, he entered Tuesday's action leading the American League with a .370 batting average. He is now on his fourth team, and has played in both leagues. At an unimposing 5-foot-10 (and the fact that he's bounced around a bit), he can be hard to recognize, even in uniform.
Jose Quintana, LHP, White Sox
One of baseball's top trade targets, Quintana has been a rock in the White Sox's rotation since 2013. Last year, he was an All-Star for the first time and a down-ballot AL Cy Young Award candidate. He's now in his sixth season.
Bonus challenge: Anthony Rizzo or Mike Trout?
Trout is now in his sixth season as the best player in baseball, a span in which he has won two AL MVP Awards, finished second in the voting three times, been an All-Star and Silver Slugger every season (this year's selections are a given) and won the Rookie of the Year.
Rizzo has been part of two thrilling postseason runs in Chicago, caught the last out of the Cubs' first championship in 108 years last October, made the last three All-Star teams, finished fourth in the NL MVP voting in each of the last two seasons, and won the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger last year. Both play in one of the nation's three largest markets and have received additional exposure via endorsements. Yet, my prediction is that if you put the two of them together in street clothes -- Trout at 6-foot-2, 235 pounds; Rizzo at 6-foot-3, 240 pounds -- and ask a casual baseball fans to tell you which player is which, they'd do no better than a coin flip. Maybe Fallon and company should give that one a try at this year's All-Star Game in Miami.
Cliff Corcoran is a Sports on Earth contributor and a regular guest analyst on the MLB Network. An editor or contributor to 13 books about baseball, including seven Baseball Prospectus annuals, he spent the last 10 seasons covering baseball for SI.com and has also written for USA Today and SB Nation, among others.