Dating back to its opening, Yankee Stadium has always counted the short right field porch as one of its most noteworthy features. Currently sitting just 314 feet down the right field line, lefty sluggers from Ruth to Maris to Jackson to Cano have taken aim at the friendly dimensions and impacted many games. Most of the recent Yankees lineups have not had the slugging left-handed option as they they have skewed heavily right-handed, but a recent trend in amateur talent acquisition has put several talented lefty hitters on the Yankees prospect radar.
Starting with the June 2019 amateur draft, the Yankees have used their valuable picks at the top of the draft to bring in left-handed bats. In that draft the Yankees used their second and third round picks on left-handed hitters: taking middle infielder Josh Smith and outfielder Jake Sanford.
Less than a month later, the Yankees completed their deal for the top international prospect on the market — the switch-hitting phenom Jasson Dominguez. Based on his physical tools and overall potential, it is likely that his ability to hit from both sides of the plate was just a bonus on top.
The 2020 Major League draft was unlike any other as it was dramatically shortened, leaving the Yankees with just three picks. They again used top picks to take left-handed college bats, selecting University of Arizona catcher Austin Wells and Arizona State University second baseman Trevor Hauver. Their top rated undrafted free-agent was left-handed outfielder Elijah Dunham, who likely would have been drafted in the sixth or seventh round of a normal draft.
From this group, Dominguez and Wells have the highest expectations and upside. Dominguez has impressed scouts for several years leading to his massive signing bonus, but has yet to see professional game action. Wells is known for his blend of both power and plate discipline that helped him produce a 1.035 OPS during his time at the University of Arizona. Both have the potential to move quickly through the system while ranking as the Yankees’ top prospects.
Jake Sanford has a reputation for tremendous raw power and has shown significant growth going from a junior college walk-on to winning the triple crown for his conference while playing for Western Kentucky University. After early struggles with Short-Season A Staten Island in 2019, he hit produced a 143 OPS+ with six home runs over his last 23 games.
Trevor Hauver has yet to officially sign with the Yankees, but on a recent MLB Pipeline podcast their industry experts indicated that there are no concerns that his deal will get done. After hitting no home runs as a freshman, he hit 18 home runs over his last 74 college games. That included five home runs in just 17 games this year before the season was shut down.
Josh Smith is not considered to have a strong power profile, but he also stands to benefit from Yankee Stadium if he can reach the major leagues. During his professional debut he pulled the ball 41 percent of the time, with 59 percent of his batted balls being classified as a line-drive or fly-ball. In the juiced ball environment that was 2019, some players that projected for solid hit tools but limited power have seen their home run numbers spike.
From inside the system, the Yankees saw Mike Ford rise with almost zero fan fare to become an incredibly productive player during his major league debut. Ford’s bat carried him to the majors, where he posted a 136 wRC+, yet he will still struggle to find playing time based on the talented roster that surrounds him and defensive limitations that keep him at first base.
While Ford moved through the system with little hype, Estevan Florial has risen and fallen from the title of the Yankees’ best prospect. Now a member of the 40-man roster, he is in summer camp with the Yankees. He is not considered the elite prospect that he once was due to injuries and a consistently high strikeout rate, but the elite tools — including the power that saw him hit a home run for High-A Tampa that traveled an estimated at 465 feet last season — are still there.
The Yankees also saw left fielder Canaan Smith breakout in a big way with Low-A Charleston. Smith slashed .307/.405/.465 last season and many scouts feel that the recently turned 21-year-old has more power in his bat moving forward.
The Yankees have not ignored left handed bats completely, as they gave Greg Bird every chance to succeed as he battled repeated injuries over the last five years. Over the last two drafts and international signing cycles the Yankees have brought in lefty bats that have the potential to take advantage of a stadium that was seemingly built for the great Yankees sluggers of the past.