With their first pick in the 2022 MLB Draft the New York Yankees selected Spencer Jones with the 25th overall pick. Jones is a 6-foot-7, 225-pound outfielder from Vanderbilt University. Baseball America rated him as the 49th-best draft prospect, while MLB.com ranks him slightly lower at No. 51.
Jones was a highly regarded two-way player ahead of the 2019 draft, but a small fracture in his elbow pushed him down to being the Angels’ 31st-round pick. He eschewed the Halos’ offer and found his way to campus at Vanderbilt, and then required Tommy John surgery after trying to pitch again in summer ball. That injury affected his 2021 campaign and Jones only became an everyday regular in 2022.
This season, Jones put up big numbers playing against quality Southeastern Conference (SEC) competition with a .370/.460/.644 triple slash in 61 games and 272 plate appearances. The left-handed hitter recorded 36 extra-base hits, including 12 home runs on the year.
Playing against some of the best competition in college baseball, Jones posted very strong exit velocities and made good swing decisions. He is reported to have recorded the hardest-hit ball in the history of college baseball, checking in at over 119 mph with a line drive early this year. Jones also followed that up with a 112-mph hit during the MLB Draft Combine with a wooden bat that registered as the highest exit velocity at the event. “Hit strikes hard” is a mantra inside the Yankees system and Jones has shown the ability to do just that.
Jones varies from recent Yankees draft picks such as Austin Wells and Trey Sweeney due to his strikeout rate, as fanned 23.5 percent of the time on the season. Baseball America has rated him with a below-average 45 grade hit tool. MLB.com has him as average with a 50-grade for hit. There is speculation that the aforementioned arm injuries affected Jones, and that he is trending in the right direction in terms of swing decisions and hard contact. He has a very high ceiling if things click for him.
The selection of Jones does continue a recent trend with the Yankees near the top of the draft in selecting left-handed batters. The past three drafts have now featured Jones, Trey Sweeney (2021), and Austin Wells (2020) taken in the first round.
Jones’s defensive profile is in right field, but his long legs and ability to cover ground has led to some recent speculation that Jones could man center field early in his career. The arm injuries had zapped Jones of what was once a well-above-average throwing arm, but during the 2022 season, he started to display that tool again. He has also played some first base for Vanderbilt and rates as a very good defender for this position.
Once he is signed, Jones will be the Yankees’ top-rated corner outfield prospect, likely slotting into their organizational top 10. Perusing their current Top 30 Prospects from MLB.com, only 24th-ranked Elijah Dunham is a corner outfielder.
Jones will immediately draw comparisons to Aaron Judge based on his size and the obvious power potential. In recent years, the Yankees have drafted and developed both Wells and Anthony Volpe into highly-rated prospects and hope that trend continues. The team will make its second pick of the evening later tonight at 61st overall.