The New York Yankees have overhauled their outfield significantly this off-season, adding a Hall of Fame level bat in Juan Soto and a quality hitter with upside in Alex Verdugo.
The unit should look a lot different in 2024, headlined by Aaron Judge and the two new acquisitions, but the team has lofty expectations for one of their rising prospects.
In fact, up to this point, the Yankees have refused to trade 22-year-old lefty slugger Spencer Jones, often dubbed the “lefty Aaron Judge.”
Jones is coming off an inconsistent season in the minors, playing 100 games with Hudson Valley and 17 in Somerset (AA) in 2023. He finished hitting .268/.337/.450, including 13 homers, 56 RBIs, and an impressive 35 stolen bases for a 6’6” athlete (Hudson Valley numbers). Jones produced far too many ground balls and the primary goal this off-season was to increase loft in his swing, which would help promote more home runs.
Spencer Jones Could Become a Staple in the Yankees’ Outfield
In a recent interview conducted by The Athletic, Jones is working diligently to take a step forward and potentially help the Yankees this upcoming season, if not take over a starting job in 2025. For now, the goal is to improve his launch angle and help keep his eye on the ball, which was a bit problematic last year, hosting a strikeout rate above 28% in High-A and Double-A.
“It feels like a more athletic move now,” Jones said of his swing. “I’m able to stay grounded a lot better, and my eyes are in a better position for release and seeing spin. Simplifying my moves and allowing myself to be in a more athletic trigger spot allows you to create multiple reads off the ball. If your initial read isn’t great, you’re still in an athletic position to fire from, which allows you to make decisions a little bit later. Ultimately, the goal was to put myself in an athletic launching position and, once you get there, practice on firing towards different pitches in different directions. I’ve done a lot of post-stride work to where it’s like I’m getting my eyes where I need to be and having my hands in the launch position, and then being able to fire multiple pitches in multiple directions so that gather comes along with the timing. I’m able to cover more ground now.”
Jones’s offensive upside is certainly elite, but many are overlooking his defensive quality. Jones has the profile to play centerfield in the future, given his tremendous speed and reactionary attributes. In fact, The Athletic also stated that the Yankees have had Jones watching Kevin Kiermaier’s film to help better understand his positioning in the outfield. They are investing heavily in his future, given the substantial upside he has on both sides of the ball.
“He’s always been a guy that the staff has shown me,” Jones said. “Why not look at the best when you want to train and become as great as you can be? Just getting the opportunity to go out there this year and run down balls in center field and figuring out that I love doing it and that I can get to a lot of different spots on the field was a lot of fun.”
If his offensive tweaks come to fruition, Jones should experience a major up-tick in home runs next season, which would hopefully be paired with a reduction in strikeout rate and maintaining his stolen base efficiency. Spencer could become a complete player, and since the Yankees aren’t entirely decided on their centerfield position for the future, Jones has a clear-cut opportunity to win the job.
Of course, that would mean supplanting Jasson Dominguez, who is battling Tommy John rehabilitation. Dominguez is expected to return to the team at some point in 2023 next summer, but where he features defensively is still up in the air.