The Yankees had the 20th overall pick in the first round of the 2021 MLB Draft, and that got them college shortstop Trey Sweeney. The Eastern Illinois University standout was considered a bit of a surprise going that early — MLB.com had him ranked as the 55th best prospect. After signing for a $3 million bonus, slightly under the slot value for the 20th pick, he spent the summer split between the rookie Florida Complex League and Low-A Tampa and put up good numbers, albeit in a limited number of games.
There’s no such thing as too much middle infield depth, so the Yankees should be pleased to have both Sweeney and the much-discussed Anthony Volpe in the system, not to mention the likes of Oswald Peraza, Oswaldo Cabrera, and Alexander Vargas. Still, Sweeney will have to do a lot to jump up in the prospect rankings and put himself in consideration for shortstop of the future.
2021 Minor league stats (Florida Complex League/Low-A Tampa: .261/.384/.548, 4 2B, 4 3B, 7 HR, 4 SB
2022 Expected minor league level: Low-A Tampa/High-A Hudson Valley
Major league ETA: 2024/2025
Coming out of the draft, Sweeney’s calling hard was his pure hitting ability, mixed together with the athleticism to play a premium defensive position. The Yankees were reportedly impressed with the exit velocity coming off his bat at Eastern Illinois, and he managed a ridiculous .382/.522/.712 slash line in college — though as Keith Law pointed out, it was not in a conference that really contained any premium pitching to face off against.
Still, Sweeney’s first taste of the professional leagues showed some impressive stats as well. His 22 walks in only 32 games certainly stand out, as well as his ability to hit for extra bases while minimizing strikeouts. Again, the small sample size means that one has to take those numbers with a more than a small grain of salt, but it absolutely qualified as a good start to his professional career.
Second in as many games (like Garcia) and 5th home run on the year for Trey Sweeney, and the season started for him on July 31st pic.twitter.com/pFTNO8EJyY— John Brophy (@jbrophybaseball) September 2, 2021
However — while errors are not a perfect stat to measure fielding ability — his 6 errors in 32 games stands out as well, for the opposite reason. Law believes that the Yankees will eventually move him off of shortstop due to his size, but that he does not necessarily have to be. His height and weight (6’4”, 200 lbs.) might suggest more of a third baseman, but Sweeney, like most prospects who are told they might not be able to play their preferred position, believes he should stay as a shortstop.
Of course, another reason he may have to switch, beyond any concerns with Sweeney’s actual performance, would be if the Yankees lock in a long-term shortstop before he debuts, which seems likely at the current moment. A mega contract for Carlos Correa, or crowning Anthony Volpe as the future (who, while younger than Sweeney, is a consensus Top-50 prospect and finished 2021 in a higher level of the minors) would necessitate a move if wanted Sweeney excelled and the Yankees saw fit to promote him. If Correa is signed, Sweeney might as well start getting his reps in at third, regardless of what he’s said to date.
Some prospect rankings have Sweeney outside of the team’s top 10 — Law has him 11th and FanGraphs 15th — though others have him a bit higher, like Baseball America (7th) and Baseball Prospectus (5th). A strong showing on offense in a full season of play would bump him up higher on lists with a more skeptical perspective on him. Showing that his college stats weren’t inflated by the league he played in would go a long way towards burnishing his resume. A left-handed hitter who can both hit for average and power is someone the Yankees sure could have used the last few seasons. If that indeed emerges as Sweeney’s future profile, he could stick in the league for a long time to come.