Yankees’ star outfield prospect a hot topic in trade discussions

mlb: spring training-toronto blue jays at new york yankees, spencer jones
Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees have been active in the trade market this off-season looking for starting pitching, but general manager Brian Cashman has been protective over some of his prospects. Obviously, he sent a number of pitching prospects away in exchange for Alex Verdugo and Juan Soto, but his young star outfielders, Jasson Dominguez and Spencer Jones, have been off-limits.

The Yankees got a glimpse of what Dominguez can become over a small sample size at the end of the 2023 season, but Jones is still unknown despite teams consistently asking for him to be included in any big trades. Cashman has managed to stifle those requests up to this point, and that decision may end up being a lucrative one, especially based on the production he showed early in spring training.

Spencer Jones’s Rising Star

“He gets asked a lot about,” general manager Brian Cashman said. “So I know our evaluations of him are shared similarly throughout the industry because of how his name comes up.”

The evaluation of Jones is simple: he’s a lanky athlete with generational power. If the Yankees can manage to improve his on-base percentage and batting average, Jones could become something truly special in the team’s starting outfield unit. There’s a possibility he will make his MLB debut in 2024, but the expectation is he will take over in center field in 2025, shifting Aaron Judge away from the position to preserve his long-term health.

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Jones’s Potential Impact and Yankees’ Outfield Future

“He’s still learning a little bit about who he is as a ballplayer, what kind of ballplayer he wants to be, how good he wants to be,” Nick Swisher told The Athletic.

“The bones of the house are there and to be able to watch him grow — he’s come back more mature, more physical. When you’re looking at that, I’m like, ‘Oh, my, you’re looking at a defensive end.’ Man, he’s got the tools. He’s got it upstairs.”

At 22 years old, the lefty slugger has enjoyed nine plate appearances in spring training, hitting .714/.778/1.143, including one homer, four runs, four RBIs, and a 392 wRC+. These are impeccable numbers that showcase an early hot streak.

The Yankees are just seeing the tip of the iceberg regarding Jones’s potential and upside as a major league player, but these early returns are encouraging. Of course, spring training numbers should be taken with a grain of salt, but we’ve seen performances like this unseat expected starting jobs, notably Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza last off-season.

Of course, Jones won’t be stealing any outfield positions in the near term. Still, he may be a first-choice promotion if the Yankees go through any adversity, including injuries and inconsistencies in the outfield this upcoming season.

Fortunately, they’ve also built out their depth a bit more efficiently, acquiring Trent Grisham in the Soto deal. At the moment, the Yankees have a bright future in the outfield, especially if they manage to retain Soto on a long-term extension.

Both Soto and Verdugo are in their final years of arbitration and will be free agents in 2025. If the Yankees lose both, they have two youngsters ready to take over long-term, keeping costs down but certainly experiencing rookie growing pains.

Nonetheless, Jones will likely start his minor league season in Double-A, but he could work his way into the Triple-A equation rather quickly if he continues to perform well during spring training.

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