Born to be Yankees, Is Spencer Jones the next Aaron Judge?
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Imagine a different Spring Training: Spencer Jones, the Yankees’ prized prospect, taking his first major league steps, but not in the familiar pinstripes. This “alternate baseball reality” almost became a reality, as Jon Heyman of the New York Post reveals.
Drilling down Spencer Jones
Spencer Jones, a towering 6-foot-6 outfielder, was reportedly a target for the Brewers in a potential trade involving Corbin Burnes. While scouts considered him a natural fit for the Yankees, their deep pitching talent swayed the trade winds, leading the Orioles to snag Burnes instead. Even though he is just a prospect, the Yankees have shown a lot of confidence in him. In fact, they rejected an exciting deal to keep him off the market and ensure that he remains a part of the Yankees roster.
The Padres, eyeing a homecoming for their San Diego native, also explored Jones during Juan Soto trade discussions. However, the Yankees’ pitching package ultimately sealed the deal.
These near misses highlight the high regard Jones, a top 100 prospect across major publications, holds within the Yankees organization. His 2023 season, with a .267 average, 16 homers, and 43 steals across A-ball and AA-ball, showcased his immense potential.
But let’s not sugarcoat it. Jones’ 155 strikeouts were the highest in the Yankees’ system, and his 28.9% strikeout rate raises concerns. His imposing size amplifies these swing flaws, making him vulnerable against higher-caliber pitching as he climbs the ladder.
This Spring Training becomes critical. Before likely starting in Double-A and potentially reaching Triple-A, Jones has a golden opportunity. Facing top-tier pitching in Grapefruit League games and live sessions will be invaluable for refining his swing and mitigating his strikeout woes.
In this “what could have been” scenario, Jones might be sporting a different uniform. But for now, the pressure is on to prove why the Yankees held onto their prized prospect, and Spring Training marks the beginning of his journey to solidify that decision.
Yankees hitting coordinator Joe Migliaccio, in a recent conversation with NJ Advance Media, stressed the continual need for athletes striving for significant success to make adjustments that enhance their performance. He underscored the importance of gaining game experience to understand how opposing pitchers approach them differently.
Migliaccio commended Jones for his tremendous offseason efforts, noting his hard work and the momentum he’s built on from his formative first full season with the organization. While Jones made strides as a prospect, Migliaccio emphasized that the outfielder remained unsatisfied with his performance.
Regarding strikeout rates, Migliaccio explained that they are a result of various factors throughout an entire at-bat, particularly in plate appearances where hitters find themselves in a challenging two-strike count.
Migliaccio emphasized the importance of Jones making sound decisions within the strike zone and capitalizing on his strengths. He highlighted Jones’ awareness of areas where he can excel and the strategy of waiting for the pitcher to make a mistake in a specific zone. Migliaccio stressed the need for Jones to approach his decisions proactively rather than defensively, focusing on maximizing impact during at-bats.
He clarified that their approach doesn’t solely focus on hitting home runs but rather aims to help Jones consistently make solid contact with the ball and drive it over the infielders’ heads. Migliaccio expressed confidence that achieving this consistency would set the stage for Jones to have a remarkable career.
Can Spencer Jones Be the Next Judge-like Star?
Could Spencer Jones become the next star to join the pantheon of Yankee greats like Aaron Judge? It’s an ambitious comparison, but one the Yankees seem to be embracing as they invest heavily in his development.
At just 22, Jones wasn’t merely a throw-in during trade talks for Juan Soto; he was reportedly the centerpiece, coveted by teams like the Padres, Brewers, and White Sox for potential deals involving stars like Corbin Burnes, Dylan Cease, and others. Despite acquiring Soto and bolstering their pitching, the Yankees dug their heels in, refusing to part ways with the promising prospect.
The comparison to Judge isn’t unfounded. Jones, a towering 6-foot-6, 235-pound center fielder, echoes Judge’s impressive physicality. His 2023 season, with 16 homers and 43 stolen bases across different levels, fueled excitement among scouts who envision him as a potential “30-30” threat.
One scout, while noting Jones may not reach Judge’s raw power, praises his “good power” and “strong throwing arm.” His elite speed, graded a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale, makes him a valuable asset in center field.
Another evaluator acknowledges Jones’s “high ceiling” and potential impact, stating he’s “a rising star in the making who cannot be overlooked.”
While comparisons to established stars bring pressure, the Yankees’ unwavering belief in Jones speaks volumes. His tools, combined with his dedication (as noted by hitting coordinator Joe Migliaccio), suggest a bright future in pinstripes. Whether he reaches Judge-like heights remains to seen, but Jones’s upcoming seasons will be a thrilling journey for Yankees fans and baseball enthusiasts alike.
Brewers Gamble on Youth, White Sox Weigh Cease’s Future
The Milwaukee Brewers opted for a different path than acquiring ace Corbin Burnes. Instead, they secured a package of young talent, including lefty DL Hall (projected as a potential top-of-the-rotation starter), shortstop Joey Ortiz, top prospect Jackson Holliday, and a draft pick. While they signed Jakob Junis and Gary Sanchez to bolster their pitching and offense, their analytics suggest this future-focused approach could prove more fruitful in the long run.
Despite missing out on Burnes, the Brewers remain confident in their 2024 chances. Rival teams believe key free agents like closer Devin Williams and shortstop Willy Adames are unlikely to be traded anytime soon, suggesting the Brewers are prioritizing their current roster.
Meanwhile, the Chicago White Sox face a key decision regarding Dylan Cease, who remains under contract for two more years. With his rising value, they could potentially fetch a significant haul in a trade. Currently, the odds of retaining him seem to be slipping below 50%.
In another notable trade, the White Sox flipped relievers Gregory Santos and Aaron Bummer for a package of seven players and a draft pick, seemingly maximizing their return in the deal.
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