The Yankees had the 20th overall pick in the 2021 MLB Draft, and the first round held more than its share of surprises as the selections began on Sunday night. Louisville catcher Henry Davis was a player who essentially no one had No. 1 overall, and yet that’s exactly where he went. Off went Jack Leiter to Texas, Marcelo Mayer to Boston (gulp), Kumar Rocker to the Mets, and a bevy of pitching options previously connected to New York (Gunnar Hoglund, Will Bednar, and Andrew Painter) to other teams.
Ultimately, the Yankees decided to go with a position player rather than a pitcher, drafting shortstop Trey Sweeney out of Eastern Illinois University. The 6-foot-4 infielder seems like a good bet to eventually move over a few steps to third base (where MLB.com says he “profiles well”), but there’s reason to be optimistic about his hitting ability. In 48 games at EIU in 2021, Sweeney hit .382/.522/.712 with 14 homers and a 1.234 OPS, earning an award as the Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year.
Kudos to MLB.com’s Jim Callis and Prospects Live, who both had the Yankees taking Sweeney instead of a pitcher. This now makes four years in a row that the Yankees have drafted a position player with their top pick, as they haven’t chosen a pitcher in that spot since Clarke Schmidt in 2017. The Sweeney pick also marks three straight years of taking lefty college hitters in high slots, following Austin Wells (1st round, 2020) and Josh Smith (2nd round, 2019).
Sweeney wasn’t the only shortstop who the Yankees had an eye on. Later on in the draft, MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo said that the Bombers nearly took high school shortstop Jackson Merrill. Instead, Merrill went to the Padres at No. 27.
Sweeney ranked No. 55 on both Baseball America and MLB.com’s Top 500 Draft Prospects. BA noted that the 21-year-old is “an average athlete with a plus arm, and he’s shown the ability to get to power, but the hit tool is what has most impressed.”
MLB.com had this to say about Sweeney’s bat:
Sweeney has a big leg kick and a hitch and a lot going on in his left-handed stroke, but he has outstanding hand-eye coordination and makes the timing work at the plate. He has good feel for the barrel, controls the strike zone and makes hard contact to all fields against lefties and righties, good velocity and tough offspeed pitches. His hitting ability, strength and bat speed should produce at least average power, perhaps more if he adds more loft to his swing.
Some other assorted thoughts:
Yankees VP of amateur scouting on their first-round pick… pic.twitter.com/4OMm6acqkl— Erik Boland (@eboland11) July 12, 2021
Scout on LHB Trey Sweeney: "Late bloomer who grew into his frame in college. Elite bat to ball skills with potential for massive power. Has a chance to stick at short but can play all over the infield."— Lindsey Adler (@lindseyadler) July 12, 2021
Sweeney turned 21 in late April.
If the plan is for Trey Sweeney to move to 3B he certainly fits an organizational need as the #Yankees currently do not have a top-30 corner infield prospect on either the @MLBPipeline or @BaseballAmerica— Dan Kelly (@Dan_KellyPSA) July 12, 2021
Watching him get interviewed on TV reminded me how humble he is, all of his focus is on getting better, and no one got better from the moment they stepped onto campus to the moment he stepped off more than Sweeney https://t.co/2CAJAb1bUm— Patrick Ebert (@PatrickEbert44) July 12, 2021
There is some question about whether or not Sweeney can hit MLB-caliber fastballs, but BA did remark that he did “continue to show up” when facing tougher competition. However, that’s a lengthy debate for another day. He will have time to work on that in the minors after he signs (and there’s little reason to expect that he won’t).
Welcome to New York, Trey.
Let’s get to work indeed.
That will be it for the Yankees’ selections today, as the MLB Draft will take a pause after the competitive balance round. They’ll next pick tomorrow in the second round at No. 55 overall. The Day 2 action will kick off at 1pm ET, so join us then!