If you’re a prospect, what’s the position you’d like to play in the Yankees system that could most easily lead to a long-term opportunity? Shortstop, of course. There’s a reason the Bombers have stockpiled so many of them in recent years.
But what about short-term? That’s very much a different answer; the Yankees have too many infielders for too few spots, and Isiah Kiner-Falefa has been more than capable. Though his ceiling remains limited, he’s been an effective bat-on-ball spark plug; any promoted shortstop will likely be around for injury insurance purposes only/to linger like Marwin Gonzalez.
Short-term, any warm body in the outfield seems far more viable. Joey Gallo and Aaron Hicks have heated up of late, but they’ve still spent the majority of 2022 as liabilities. Giancarlo Stanton recently suffered an ankle injury, and looked iffy in the outfield when the team dared to try him out there once again.
Considering Miguel Andújar has agitated for a trade and Estevan Florial has struggled sporadically, the Yankees could really use some upper-level outfield options for the second half, pending a trade deadline acquisition. Though he’s not on the 40-man roster, the red-hot Elijah Dunham could easily be that slot-filler.
Dunham fell to the Yankees thanks to the exceedingly short 2020 MLB Draft, allowing a pool of likely-drafted players to become UDFAs and sift between offers themselves.
The slugging outfielder and the Yankees organization have been a match made in heaven since they signed their accord, and Dunham has shaken off a slow start this season to look much more like the evolutionary version of the player who tore up the Arizona Fall League last October.
Yankees top prospect Elijah Dunham could get second-half call-up
The 24-year-old Dunham began his encore campaign somewhat stuck in the mud, much like his fellow Double-A Somerset Patriot Anthony Volpe. Towards the end of May, the consensus top-10 prospect began to turn things around and match his OPS to his already-sterling stolen base totals.
Dunham, though, was way ahead of him. On the season, the lefty-swinging outfielder is triple-slashing .252/.320/.472, but in the month of May, he boosted his totals with a .280/.340/.539 line (before, ahem, tailing off somewhat thus far through one-third of June).
There is always room for a lefty-swinging outfielder with an elite hit tool at New Yankee Stadium, and that need will only become more glaring if Gallo/Hicks stall again or the team loses a core outfielder to the IL. Tensions are high with Andújar, who might not be motivated to contribute even if his name ever does get called.
It’ll take some shuffling to make Dunham available, but his name makes as much sense as any if the performance gap widens in August and Sept.
Dunham entered 2022 on a mission to prove his performance in the postseason All-Star Arizona Fall League was no fluke, bulking up in the interest of enhancing his natural power.
It’s clear Dunham has responded to the challenge while forcing upper management to consider his future. One red-hot month of June or July could really cement his case.