Center field is one of the deepest positions in the Yankees minor league system. Jasson Dominguez has generated most of the hype over the last few seasons, but other names like Estevan Florial, Everson Pereira, and Kevin Alcantara (before he was traded in July) earned their fair share of attention on the prospect rankings as well. However, the Yankees’ fifth-round draft pick from 2018 has been flying under the radar. This season, Brandon Lockridge is putting up loud numbers and is forcing the Yankees to take note of his performance heading into his first Rule-5-eligible offseason.
Lockridge had a reputation in high school and college as a speed guy. He played second base for his first couple of years at Troy University before moving to center field for his junior year. Entering the 2018 draft, some rated Lockridge as the fastest player in the draft. His 75-grade run speed on the 20-80 scale is the highest-ranked individual tool on the Yankees top-30 prospect list at MLB.com.
Lockridge entered the Yankees system, and in his first full season, found himself in a talented outfield with Low-A Charleston next to Canaan Smith-Njigba and Josh Stowers. While his final slash line of .251/.319/.410 did not necessarily stand out, he still showed flashes of development and progress. He matched the total number of home runs from his three-year college career with 12 on the season and finished fourth in the South-Atlantic League in total bases.
When the pandemic shut down play ahead of the 2020 season, Lockridge returned to his hometown of Pensacola, Florida and got to work on improving his game. In addition to Zoom calls and shared videos of his work with Yankees coaches, Lockridge was able to workout daily with a current coach in the Cleveland organization, Travis Fryman.
The five-time All-Star helped Lockridge continue to improve his swing and approach at the plate while also assisting him to improve in other areas as well. In an interview with Pinstripe Alley last year, Lockridge said, “I never needed much arm strength playing second base, my throwing mechanics... have always been a little funky.”
Lockridge worked on his arm strength and throwing mechanics extensively during the shutdown to create another defensive tool to go with his elite speed.
At the outset of 2021, Lockridge was initially assigned to High-A Hudson Valley, but hit the injured list with a hamstring issue during the team’s second series of the year. He returned in early June and after just 32 games at the High-A level, he had shown the Yankees enough to earn a promotion to Double-A Somerset.
Once promoted and with his injury a month behind him, Lockridge really heated up. In 38 games at the higher level, he has slashed .333/.387/.562 and is starting to show the speed and power combination that the Yankees envisioned when they selected Lockridge in the draft. In those 38 games, Lockridge has smashed nine home runs and also stolen 12 bases in 13 attempts.
Following this season, the Yankees might be forced to protect Lockridge with a spot on the 40-man roster to keep him away from the Rule-5 Draft. Roster spots will be at a premium over the offseason and fellow up-and-coming center fielder Everson Pereira is making his own strong case for a spot on the Yankees’ full roster this offseason.
Brandon Lockridge’s significant statistical improvement while playing at the upper levels of the Yankees system is making him a player who the team could very well incorporate into their long-term plans. His elite speed and improved power could give the Yankees a key depth piece and contributor as soon as next season. That same mix of tools and performance will also ensure that he does remain under the radar, even in a mix with some of the Yankees’ most high-profile prospects.