Yankees’ Spencer Jones thrives after Volpe-style swing change, adores Rizzo-like drive

Yankees prospect Spencer Jones is at a training season in April 2024.
Michael Bennington
Friday May 10, 2024

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Spencer Jones spent a significant portion of his offseason training alongside pitchers, particularly his fellow Vanderbilt alumni in Nashville. During a dinner conversation with his good friend and former teammate Jack Leiter, the Yankees prospect experienced a twinge of envy.

According to Spencer Jones, Leiter highlighted the numerous mechanical adjustments he had made and how these had become highly beneficial. Leiter told him how having control over the ball allowed the Texas pitcher to realize the impact of these changes.

While Leiter was making adjustments that would ultimately lead to his Major League debut in the following months, Spencer Jones was simultaneously undergoing a stance modification, specifically lowering his hands, with the hope that it would propel him to success in his second full season. Fortunately, it didn’t take long for the Yankees’ No. 2 prospect to receive the feedback he eagerly sought.

However, Spencer Jones was aware of the unique challenge faced by hitters during the offseason. According to him, the reason is the hitters’ primary reliance on machine work, making it difficult to anticipate how these adjustments will translate when confronted with a live pitcher in the batter’s box. He did it with dividends just like Yankees’ shortstop Anthony Volpe had.

Spencer Jones ‘ first swing in a Grapefruit League game on Feb. 24 yielded spectacular results – a mammoth 470-foot homer that tied Elly De La Cruz for the longest distance measured by Statcast during spring training. To date, it remains the furthest ball hit by any player wearing a Yankees uniform in 2024.

Spencer Jones nears Yankees dream with swing tweak

The Yankees had selected the outfielder in the first round of the 2022 draft, and the left-handed slugger initially began his swing with his hands positioned high in his stance, nearly directly behind his head. This approach proved largely effective for him. In his first full season, split between High-A Hudson Valley and Double-A Somerset, Spencer Jones hit .267/.336/.444 with 16 home runs across 117 games. His exit velocities ranked among the highest in the Yankees’ system, frequently surpassing triple digits – a testament to Jones’ imposing 6-foot-6, 235-pound frame and the immense strength it generates.

Due to his substantial stature, Spencer Jones constantly seeks simplicity in his approach, and the high-hand stance does not align with his definition of that ideal.

The Yankees rookie described a sense of restriction in his movements, noting difficulties in getting his hands through the zone and maintaining proper plate coverage. He expressed a feeling of being locked up on his backside, emphasizing the need to improve his rotation and achieve greater freedom of movement within the batter’s box. As a hitter, Spencer Jones knows the importance of being able to move freely and efficiently within the box as the ultimate goal.

Ranked as MLB Pipeline’s No. 75 overall prospect, Spencer Jones collaborated with the father-son duo of Mike and Logan Brumley, working with them both in Texas and Nashville to identify a stance that better suited his objectives. The solution they arrived at involved lowering his hands closer to his side. By doing so, instead of making an initial move to bring his hands closer to the strike zone, he is now already in position, ready to unleash his swing as the pitch approaches.

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Spencer Jones’ previous high-hand position led to chopping down on pitches and being late, especially on inside offerings. By lowering his hands, he has gained more freedom in his rotation, allowing him to shift his focus away from his hands. The player can now position himself optimally to see the ball clearly and then rotate his torso over the plate to generate solid contact.

The impact of Spencer Jones’ adjustments was apparent from the outset of spring training, extending beyond his colossal home run. He managed to avoid swinging and missing on a pitch until his 10th game of the preseason, a remarkable stretch spanning 78 total pitches. Although his return to Double-A in 2024 was briefly delayed by a stiff neck, the Yankees prospect’s performance underwent notable changes. His plate appearance sample size (74) nearly matches that of the previous year (78) entering Sunday. The most significant statistical shift has been a decrease in his groundball rate from 52.2 percent to 44.2 percent, accompanied by an increase in his line-drive rate from 15.2 to 25.6. In essence, he is hitting fewer easily fieldable grounders and more sharp line drives.

Similarities with big names

Spencer Jones’ teammates at Somerset have taken notice of his stance modification, drawing comparisons to the simple yet powerful setups of Matt Olson and Corey Seager. His new approach also bears a resemblance to that of fellow Yankees slugger Anthony Rizzo.

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Charlie Neibergall | AP

Expressing a desire to have engaged more with the first baseman to learn from his approach, Jones admired Rizzo’s ability to consistently drive the ball to all fields with a straightforward setup. He mused that emulating the first baseman’s swing would be highly beneficial.

“That’s one thing I wish I did more so is pick his brain about different things because he does such a good job of driving the ball to all parts of the field and it’s very simple from his setup,” he said of Rizzo. “He’s got a great swing. And if I could swing like him, that would be pretty nice.”

As a result of his draft pedigree and elevated prospect status, Spencer Jones is already facing heightened expectations, and his increased efficiency at the plate has only intensified the scrutiny he faces in the Eastern League.

Somerset manager Raul Dominguez noted similarities between Spencer Jones and Jasson Domínguez, highlighting Jones’ ability to maintain composure and adhere to his plan regardless of how pitchers approach him. Dominguez emphasized the importance of simplicity in their approach to the plate, a key factor in their success.

Spencer Jones’ adjustments have not only yielded impressive results but also garnered the attention of his peers and coaches. As he continues to refine his swing and approach, the young outfielder’s potential for impact at the higher levels of the Yankees organization appears increasingly promising.

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MLB

For Spencer Jones, this progression is an integral part of his development, especially considering that he is still catching up in certain aspects compared to a typical college hitter. The 2020 pandemic-shortened season and the Tommy John surgery that impacted his 2021 campaign limited him to just 421 plate appearances at Vanderbilt before entering professional baseball.

This batting tweak provides Spencer Jones with ample opportunity to make the necessary adjustments and unlock his full potential, which could propel him to stardom in the Bronx. He is determined to capitalize on every available moment to refine his skills.

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

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