In March of 2020, Yankees outfield prospect Brandon Lockridge was enjoying playing in spring training in Tampa with the big club. Shagging flies with Brett Gardner during batting practice. Small talk with Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone around the batting cage. What could be better for a just-turned 22-year-old who has his eyes on set on a Major League career?
Then baseball stopped. All of it. Like most minor leaguers, Lockridge has been waiting to get back on to the field against live competition since.
Prospect Ranking (Yankees system): 20th (MLB.com), 36th (FanGraphs).
2019 Stats with the Charleston RiverDogs, South Atlantic League: 556 PA, .251/.319/.410, 12 HR, 22 SB, 112 wRC+.
Hailing from Pensacola, Florida, Lockridge starred at second base for the Pensacola Catholic High School Crusaders baseball team. He didn’t quite catch the attention of MLB scouts enough to get drafted out of high school, so he decided to take his talents to the NCAA’s Sun Belt Conference. As a member of the Troy University Trojans – not to be confused with the Little Rock Trojans of the same conference – Lockridge stepped into the starting second baseman’s role as a freshman and acquitted himself well.
After a solid freshman season, Lockridge improved significantly in his sophomore year, leading the Trojans in hits, batting average, tying for his team lead in home runs while posting a slugging percentage 119 points higher than his team average and an OBP 34 points better than the average. That level of improvement earned him a trip to the Cape Cod Summer League, where he played for the Wareham Gateman squad as a nice summer vacation in 2017.
Prior to his junior season at Troy, upon the advice of his coach who wanted to maximize Lockridge’s talents for both the team’s benefit and Brandon’s, Lockridge made the jump from the infield to the outfield and became the team’s centerfielder. Turns out, when you can run like a deer, you can better help your team – and your own future prospects – in center field more than at second base.
The position switch certainly didn’t affect his performance in the batter’s box. In his junior season, Lockridge had more extra base hits than he had his sophomore season in a similar number of at-bats, while also more than doubling his walk total. Additionally, his speed was put to use not only in the outfield but on the bases as well, as he stole 25 bases with only three caught stealing.
The consistent improvement and the physical gifts – particularly the speed – caught the attention of MLB scouts, and the Yankees selected him with their fifth-round pick of the 2018 MLB draft.
After 37 plate appearances for the Yankees Gulf Coast League Rookie Ball team, where he posted a 184 wRC+, the Yankees moved Lockridge up to the Low-A Staten Island Yankees of the New York-Penn Leauge. After posting better than league averages in both OBP and SLG, he was moved up to the Charleston RiverDogs of the South Atlantic League for the 2019 season. Out of 90 players with qualifying plate appearances in the 2019 SAL, Lockridge finished 12th in wRC+, 16th in SLG, with a better than league average OBP.
As we know, the 2020 season left a lot of time for Lockridge and other minor leaguers to focus on specific skills and specific areas of improvement. In an interview with Pinstripe Alley’s Dan Kelly last year, Lockridge said he focused on improving his throwing mechanics, as the demands of throws from second base are a tad different than throwing from the outfield. It also gave him the opportunity to improve his body mechanics with a strength and conditioning program at Exos training’s facility in Florida. (Author’s note; Exos was founded and is operated by Mark Verstegen, a very bright, experienced, and respected guy in the strength and conditioning community.)
As minor leaguers get ready to start the 2021 season, Lockridge will begin the year with the Tampa Tarpons. As someone who’s seen Lockridge play in person, and at the risk of sounding like the scouts in “Moneyball”, I can confirm that Lockridge certainly “looks the part”. He’s tall, lean, and runs smooth– which, when combined with his track record of improving, makes him someone upon whom to keep an eye.
Don’t be distracted by his relatively low organization prospect ranking among outfielders. The Yankees have recently traded two other outfield prospects (former Charleston teammates Canaan Smith-Njigba and Josh Stowers) and certainly have long-term questions on the big league level – Clint Frazier will never play center field, Aaron Hicks looks more like a corner outfielder every day, and given the team’s inclination to stay under the luxury tax, Aaron Judge may be flanking Mike Trout in the Los Angeles outfield in a couple of years. Lockridge joins Estevan Florial, Everson Pereira, and Jasson Dominguez on a list of players who may see opportunities in the not far-off future.