Don't say we didn't warn you! In their quest to figure out the left field situation in 2023, the New York Yankees may not have their answer right now, but it will come. And the early returns in Spring Training have given us a starting point.
Among the obvious, Jasson Dominguez homered during Saturday's opener, which was his spring debut. It was an absolute missile from the right side of the plate. He's a longshot to reach the big leagues before rosters expand in September, though.
And then there's another prospect some fans might be overlooking. Elijah Dunham, who played all of 2022 at Double-A Somerset, made his spring debut on Sunday and went 2-for-3 with a run scored and a walk in the team's 9-5 win over the Blue Jays. He also flashed his glove in right field.
Dunham hit .248 with a .797 OPS at Somerset last year and then kept slugging in the Venezuelan Winter League (.300 AVG, .883 OPS in 14 games). At Double-A, he split his time in the outfield between right field (46 games) and left field (50 games), as he's gradually been moved off of center since 2021.
Though Aaron Hicks, Estevan Florial, Rafael Ortega and Willie Calhoun are ahead of him in the pecking order right now, that may not be the case come June or July after learning this bit of news.
Yankees prospect Elijah Dunham could eventually be left field solution
Here's what Brendan Kuty wrote in his latest piece for The Athletic (subscription required):
"Elijah Dunham had a strong year at Double A in 2022, hitting .248 with 17 homers and a .797 OPS in 110 games. The left fielder is expected to start the season at Triple A and could factor in as a mid-season call-up. Dunham, who broke out at the Arizona Fall League in 2021, said his main goal this spring is to improve defensively."- Brendan Kuty of The Athletic
Starting the year at Scranton (apparently)! All it'll take is a couple of impressive months there for him to start forcing the issue with the Yankees' front office if left field isn't solved in a manner they're comfortable with come June or July. And as for Dunham focusing on his defense, that much has been true. He only made one error in 96 games last season compared to five in 110 games in 2021 (including the Arizona Fall League).
Another aspect of Dunham's game that could give him the inside track to the LF job later in the year is the fact he's a left-handed hitter with speed. In 2021 across those 110 games, he hit 31 doubles, 15 home runs and stole 39 bases. In 2022 across those 96 games, he hit 26 doubles, 17 home runs and stole 37 bases.
The Yankees need to ensure they're maintaining a balance with lefties and righties in their lineup, and it certainly helps that Dunham has the athleticism to cover ground in the outfield and disrupt on the base paths.
Start placing your bets on Dunham, because his path to an MLB promotion is becoming clearer by the day.