Yankees: One sleeper prospect who could compete for the starting LF job

elijah dunham, yankees
Indiana's Elijah Dunham (17) makes a hit during the first inning against the University of Evansville Purple Aces at the newly renovated German American Bank Field at Charles H. Braun Stadium in Evansville, Ind., Tuesday, March 10, 2020. The Purple Aces defeated the Hoosiers, 5-4. Iu Vs Ue 01

Yankees OF prospect Elijah Dunham is finally getting the shot he deserves to crack the big-league roster. Dunham was named to the Yankees’ official 29 NRIs for this year’s Spring Training and will be able to compete for a spot on the OD roster right out of the gate. Though he’s far from a certainty to make the team, he’s getting his shot, and that’s enough for me. 

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Dunham has been getting better as he rises through the ranks:

Dunham was a stud with the Somerset Patriots, and it appears he’s destined to start this season with AAA Scranton. However, if he’s to have a great Spring, the team could elect to give him a shot sooner than later. Dunham is a stout lefty that has excellent pull rates that could be built for Yankee Stadium. He pulled 45.1% of batted balls he hit last season, which also continues trending in the right direction as he advances through the minor leagues, showing that he’s getting better at hitting to all parts of the field.

His strength comes from him being able to generate tons of torque from his lower body and combine that with quick hands that allow for him to hit pitches over all parts of the plate. Dunham also doesn’t chase a ton, and despite not having the highest max exit velocity out there, he’s able to barrel up the ball and hit it to all parts of the field. His 45.1% pull rate was an improvement on the 54.7% rate that he posted back in ‘21 with the Tampa Tarpons in A-ball. He’s getting better as he moves up the ladder, and he could be a sneaky candidate for reps in LF. 

Dunham was able to post a 118 wRC+ in AA, which was better than the 106 he posted in the ‘21 season in High A baseball with the Hudson Valley Renegades. He clobbered 17 HR, stole 37 bags, and also hit 26 doubles — showing he can hit it to the gaps in the outfield and has the speed to leg singles into doubles. He did all of that across just 415 ABs whilst also posting very commendable BB/K Rates (12.2% BB%, 21.2% K%). Though Dunham may not be at the top of the list in any prospect publications, he is certainly a guy that seems to thrive flying under the radar. 

The Yankees could be dipping into the Fountain of Youth more this season:

Suppose the Yankees elect to go with more youth over the likes of veteran guys like Rafael Ortega and Willie Calhoun and truly want to use Oswaldo Cabrera as a super-utility. In that case, Dunham could be the guy to solve their problems. His ability to showcase a very solid power and speed combination could bode well for him wanting a spot on the team.

Additionally, because he’s incredibly quick and has great range in the outfield, he could slot in potentially at all three spots out there. He could also play a bit of first base, which would allow him to supplement Rizzo and LeMahieu and give them some days off. 

Elijah Dunham should be a guy everyone is watching this spring, and if he’s able to impress enough, he could find himself on the 26-man roster.

The organization could also still be actively looking for a suitor to trade Aaron Hicks to, though it seems increasingly unlikely, and that would free up another spot on the 40-man. There are moves that need to happen for some guys to get a shot, and if the team elects not to trade, say, IKF, the 40-man roster won’t have any openings. Look for Dunham to push himself to his limits and do everything he can to throw his hat in the ring.