Yankees’ 2022 1st round pick could be the future in CF

spencer jones, yankees

When the Yankees selected Spencer Jones out of Vanderbilt in the 1st Round of the 2022 MLB draft, it was pretty apparent who he reminded fans and scouts of. At 6’6 with monstrous raw power and an extremely high ceiling, it’s easy to see how fans compared the left-handed outfielder to Aaron Judge.

Just like Judge, Jones was drafted out of college at the age of 21, with both players hitting 12 HRs and posting an OPS within 0.014 points of each other in their final year at college. The Yankees have shifted to a more farm-based philosophy in terms of bolstering their roster, wanting to rely more on young homegrown talent than they have in years past.

Spencer Jones is joining a young crop of prospects that have made headlines across the baseball world, and he’s certainly making a name for himself. With a promotion to High-A, Jones has quickly gotten off to a hot start with the Hudson Valley Renegades, and he’s beginning to look like the future for the Yankees in centerfield.

Spencer Jones’ Rampage in the Minor Leagues So Far:

In his first four games at High-A, Jones is already hitting .500 with a 338 wRC+ and three HRs, all while playing centerfield. The Yankees are seeing all of the tools in college on full display, with his offensive skill set already rivaling most in the system. His incredible raw power is his calling card offensively, but people often overlook just how fast he is. He finished with one of the best speed scores in the MLB Draft Combine, and that combination of elite power and speed is extremely enticing. He’s also left-handed, which is always going to be attractive with the short porch in right field.

spencer jones, yankees
Vanderbilt right fielder Spencer Jones (34) hits a single against Texas A&M during the eighth inning at Hawkins Field in Nashville, Tenn., Thursday, April 28, 2022. Vandy Tam Base 042822 An 010

While we’re still some time away from seeing Jones in the Bronx, it’s not unreasonable to expect him to be a fast riser. So far he’s demolished every level of professional baseball he’s played at in his short MiLB career, with ridiculous offensive numbers across the board. While you expect college prospects to develop quicker than their high school counterparts, he’s right around the average age for a player at High-A right now. There were also concerns about growing pains with the strikeout rate, and while I believe he’ll experience plenty of those at Double-A, so far, it’s been a non-issue:

  • .369/.444/.640
  • 199 wRC+
  • 19.0% K%
  • 10.3% BB%
  • 7 HRs
  • 12 SBs
  • 19 RBIs

While it’s been just 29 games at the Minor League level, the advancements in contact rates and the ability to get on-base stand out, with strong line drive rates that should allow him to sport a high BABIP when paired with his monster exit velocity numbers. He maxed out at 119.1 MPH in college, and while that was with a metal bat, he reached a 112.2 MPH exit velocity in the MLB Draft Combine and a 111.3 in his small sample size last season. Jones simply destroys baseballs, and that loud contact gives him a remarkably high ceiling as a prospect, even if the strikeout rates come with a pretty low floor.

For those paying attention, the offensive package has always been incredible with Jones. We know the bat is electric, we know the power is hard to rival, and we know that if he puts the contact tools together he’s going to be special this season, but the thing that gets overlooked is his glove.

The Yankees Could Put Jones in Centerfield

Jasson Dominguez has been penciled in as the next great centerfielder of the Yankees, but it’s a lot more likely that the Yankees let the muscled-up star prospect handle left field instead. In the Arizona Fall League, Dominguez struggled with routine plays, and it seems that he struggles with some reads that would be made a lot easier in a corner outfield spot. A lot is made of left field at Yankee Stadium, but it’s difficult largely because there’s more ground to cover than right field, something that Dominguez doesn’t struggle with as he’s got dynamic speed.

While he played mostly corner outfield with Vanderbilt, Spencer Jones is a really strong defensive option in center as well. He has great reads, the aforementioned speed tool is pretty good, and he also has a rocket arm. Similarly to Judge, he has a long frame with great mobility that allows him to make highlight catches and plays, and while it’s certainly concerning to put someone who’s 6’6 in the outfield, Judge has broken the traditional mold of smaller centerfielders. The Yankees seem to agree with this evaluation of his glove, playing him exclusively in CF in his short time at the Minor League level.

As mentioned earlier, Jones could end up being a fast riser. He could be a year behind the likes of Jasson Dominguez and Austin Wells, but it’s also possible he could be a Major Leaguer in 2024 if things go perfectly. He just has to mash, the Yankees certainly would take a left-handed bat like his in their lineup if it’s MLB-ready, but that’s a wait-to-see situation. It’ll certainly take more than just 29 incredible games to get there, but with a hot enough start at High-A, he could get himself to Double-A midway through the 2023 season.

The goal for ascending quickly is to get to Double-A as soon as possible since that’s the biggest leap in terms of talent level. It’s a quick rise after that if you’re able to hit, and Jones is certainly up for the task. When we interviewed him in the offseason, he talked about his goals entering the season, and he seems more than prepared to handle the highs and lows that come with your first season as a pro.

“For me personally, I don’t wanna have any statistical goals, my main goal is just going to be to stay healthy and stick to my routine throughout the season, and if I’m able to stack up days of a consistent routine I feel like those things will take care of themselves”

Spencer Jones is extremely talented, he’s been through big games with Vanderbilt, and now he’s taking on the mantle of being a highly-touted prospect in the toughest media market in sports. Time will tell, but he might just be the Yankees’ future in centerfield.

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