The New York Yankees received positive reinforcement last week when Baseball America’s preseason Top 100 Prospects list dropped.
Anthony Volpe, on the verge of cracking the big-league roster, got the love that was owed to him, and didn’t slide down the list because of a just-very-good-but-not-great-but-in-some-ways-great season following his breakout at High-A Hudson Valley.
The rest of the Yankees mentioned (Jasson Dominguez, Oswald Peraza, Everson Pereira, Austin Wells) were clustered in the mid-to-back end of the list, but having five names recognized is nothing to sneeze at, especially for an organization that also sports a top-tier MLB roster.
Even so, there was one name on helium alert who still felt like he floated a bit below the surface: the team’s 6-7 hulking 2022 first-round pick Spencer Jones.
The reasons for Jones’ omission on BA’s list are clear. His track record is short (just 25 games and 93 at-bats, though what a 25 games and 93 at-bats they were). His tools are spectacular, but it’s fair to want to see them translate for a bit longer before giving him a boost into vaunted Top 100 territory, especially with his relatively unprecedented size. It’s almost like Hall of Fame voting. Yeah, Jones is probably one of the 100 most talented prospects in the game, but are we sure we feel comfortable rewarding him on the first ballot?
Luckily, BA still believed Jones merited mention, so they highlighted him in their list of 10 more players who could join the Top 100 list over the course of the season.
Yankees top prospect Spencer Jones skyrocketing up rankings
In terms of eye-popping skills, Jones was a man among boys at High-A Tampa last summer, encouragingly translating his collegiate exit velocity to the world of lumber, where an ear-splitting “ping” is replaced by a confident crack.
His strikeout rate was sliced over 5% from his college season, but with under 100 at-bats on his ledger, it’s difficult to declare that number permanently improved. What mattered most about Jones’ Tampa tenure — where he slashed an absurd .344/.425/.538 — was the ferocity of his swing, which produced four home runs, six doubles, and an exit velocity of 111.3 MPH on one of the quartet of dingers.
That’s top-tier, and that absurd power tool is the primary reason that Baseball Prospectus became the first publication to give him his flowers this week, ranking Jones 57th overall.
And, take note, these Ruthian swings are coming from the left side of the plate, making Jones’ light-tower power doubly important to the future of the Yankees.
The national consensus on the Yankees’ current prospect corps remains mixed. Dominguez still feels undervalued; he often gets dinged for not being Mike Trout upon arrival, but his 2022 season as a 19-year-old switch hitter was all you could reasonably ask for, and he finished it with a playoff bang (.450 with 3 homers in 5 games with Double-A Somerset). Volpe might really be New York’s next shining star at short, but that crown has made him inherently overrated in the eyes of the league’s recently-surveyed execs.
Given what we know about how Yankees prospects are hyped, it’s unlikely a consensus ever develops on Jones’ true talent level, especially while he’s still so early in his development. At the moment, though, Baseball Prospectus has chosen to lead the charge, while Baseball America has chosen to remain cautious (while still expressing optimism).
Jones’ stock is clearly rising. Hopefully, his April looks downright Volpe 2021-esque, and swings the narrative pendulum further in the right direction.