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Yankees mailbag: Spencer Jones’ development track

The mailbag dives deep on a rising Yankees prospect this week.

MILB: SEP 01 Florida State League - Blue Jays at Tarpons Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Good afternoon everyone, it’s time to dive back into the mailbag and answer some of your questions. Remember to send in your questions for our weekly call by e-mail to pinstripealleyblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

The idiot that said, “Harper is coming” asks: How long will Spencer Jones hang out in High-A ball?

We’ve heard so much about the progress of the Yankees’ top three prospects — Anthony Volpe, Oswald Peraza, and Jasson Domínguez — over the last year or two, and there are still a few highly promising players underneath them despite the amount of prospects that the team has traded away in the past few trade deadlines. Spencer Jones has only been in the organization for under a year, and yet he’s already found his way into top-five organizational status — and by the end of the year, with a combination of his own progress and graduation status being bestowed to some of those aforementioned names, Jones could find himself up in the top three. Let’s dig into his case a little bit.

Yesterday’s 0-for-4 day put a slight damper on the otherworldly start Jones has gotten off to at High-A Hudson Valley, but he’s still red-hot: Jones has racked up three homers and eight RBI with a .385/.414/.885 triple slash, good for an absurd 1.299 OPS. Obviously, that is only from six games and can’t be counted on to stay as ridiculously high, but in the 25 game sample he put up last year mostly at Low-A Tampa he posted similar results. The Yankees drafted Jones for his excellent power bat and, so far at least, have been rewarded with an all-around weapon.

For the sake of comparisons, let’s put Jones on a track with two of the Yankees’ biggest recent prospects — the bat that he’s been compared to since he was drafted in Aaron Judge, and the current top prospect Volpe. Judge got his first real taste of minor league ball in his age-22 season and worked through 65 games at then-Low-A Charleston before getting a promotion mid-season and playing his remaining 66 games at High-A. The next season, Judge started off in Double-A Trenton and earned another promotion midseason to Triple-A. Volpe followed a similar path, playing 34 rookie-ball games before playing his first full season at 19-years-old and earning a promotion from Tampa to Hudson Valley after 54 games. Volpe then got 55 more games at High-A before starting and spending the majority of the following year at Double-A Somerset.

That gives Jones a window of at least a few months to showcase that these numbers are legit before the team would push him forward into Double-A, and that’s the timeline that I think makes sense. Somerset currently has an outfield featuring two of the team’s top prospects in Domínguez and Everson Pereira (No. 6 in MLB’s organizational rankings), and while that theoretically leaves a spot for Jones to move up there is some logistics to figure out in regards to their positions. Both Jones and Domínguez almost exclusively play center, though Jones was a right fielder in college, and it would be interesting to see who would hold the spot if and when push came to shove.

In an ideal world Domínguez could make a similar push for a Triple-A promotion if he could follow up on his electric ending to 2022, but trying to account for multiple moves in regards to playing time is part of the difficulty in projecting all of this. It’s also more than possible that the team allows both of them to figure things out at their current level for a while given their age, but when talent showcases itself and there’s a clear need at the major league level certain pathways can become clearer. The Yankees put Volpe into their gameplan at an early stage, and they have a need emerging for at least one outfielder in the near future to solidify their lineup around Judge — who knows which one of their top prospects will get the green light.

larry s asks: When does Hicks reach 10/5 status?

Aaron Hicks entered 2023 with nine years and 41 days of MLB service time, meaning the window is closing for the Yankees to entertain a trade of Hicks on their own terms. A year of MLB service is officially 172 days, meaning there are 131 more days left for Hicks to accrue before he earns his 10-and-5 rights. There are 187 days in an MLB season, meaning even if Hicks is on the roster every day of the year the trade deadline will come before Hicks gets veto capabilities.

This is all the technical terms of how the process works, but in the end I don’t think this is much cause for concern. The Yankees have surely been shopping Hicks already, and based on how Hicks has responded to his lack of playing time and the general turn the fanbase has taken on him, I can’t imagine him vetoing a trade if it gets proposed to him. The bigger question mark is if the Yankees will simply eat the contract if they can’t find a trade partner anytime soon, rather than if a potential trade down the line will get nixed.