Jones is crushing it on, off field in first spring camp

Yankees' top prospect trying to soak it in, learn as much as possible from veterans

March 3rd, 2024

TAMPA, Fla. -- When you hit a 470-foot home run on your first swing in a Grapefruit League game, people are going to notice. That’s what is happening with , and the Yankees’ top prospect is taking the increased attention in stride.

Lauded as a left-handed version of Aaron Judge, the 6-foot-6 Jones offers more than just the light-tower power that Anthony Volpe called “jaw-dropping.” Manager Aaron Boone said that Jones’ speed stands out, saying, “He’s a big man, but he can fly.”

Jones stepped up to the plate Sunday to field some questions from This is your first time in big league camp. What are you hoping to take out of the experience?

Jones: It’s been great, a lot of fun to be around a lot of really good players and good people, so I’m just enjoying it. I just wanted to pick people’s brains and learn as much through their experiences as possible. Ask questions, get to know guys, that kind of thing. And just continue being myself and enjoy the moment. You’re the Yankees’ top prospect, and there has been a lot of excitement surrounding your progress. How are you handling that?

Jones: I don’t really think too hard about it. I know my friends really enjoy it back home, and my parents enjoy it. Other than that, there’s nothing I can control other than showing up to the field and doing my job. What’s that cheering section like for you back home?

Jones: It’s great. I’ve got a handful of buddies from back home that I’ve known since kindergarten that all live within a mile of me. Anytime I’m back in San Diego, I’m always seeing them. I’ve got my mom’s side of the family, dad’s side of the family, grandparents, cousins. None of them play baseball in my family, but they all like cheering for me. From the day you were drafted [as a first-round pick in 2022], people started calling you "a left-handed Aaron Judge." What do you think of that comparison?

Jones: It’s a cool comparison, but ultimately I want to become my own player and do the things that I know I do well. Obviously Aaron is one of the best in the game, and it’s humbling to be compared in that regard, but I’m just going to try to learn from him as much as possible and then do what I do best, which is play. Other than your height, how are you similar?

Jones: I was going to say, we’re both pretty tall guys [Judge is 6-foot-7, Jones is 6-6]. We’re both from California. We both play the outfield. We both like playing for the Yankees. OK, how are you different?

Jones: I don’t know. I haven’t figured that out yet. He’s got so much more experience than I do. I guess I’ll keep going and keep playing. What have you taken away from watching Judge this spring?

Jones: Everything he does is authentic. It’s genuine. He’s not manufacturing any of his actions or what he’s doing. He’s always really that guy. He’s got all these great relationships with people, and that’s because he shows up every day, works hard and gets his stuff done. It’s real. You played in more than 100 games last season for the first time [117, for High-A Hudson Valley and Double-A Somerset]. What did that tell you?

Jones: Just how important a routine is, making sure the body is taken care of, making sure that you’re on every single day. Last year was good for me to learn, to get that under my belt for the first time. Now, I’m excited. I just want to know how I can get better and better throughout the season. What was the focus of your offseason training? Was there something you specifically wanted to improve?

Jones: I wanted to gain some weight, get some upper-body strength, maintain the speed. That was the main focus, just getting in better athletic shape. I feel like I accomplished my offseason goals. I feel good here now. The Padres asked about you in the Juan Soto trade. How aware were you at the time?

Jones: My buddies back home were excited because any rumor involving the Padres, they were all for it. I grew up a Padres fan; we’d go to the games every once in a while and watch them every night. But I just kind of laughed it off. It was what it was. There wasn’t much happening there. So who was your favorite player growing up?

Jones: Adrián González was my guy. He was the San Diego slugger at the time, a lefty from San Diego who played first base, and back then I played some first base. How would you describe your experience at Vanderbilt?

Jones: It was the greatest place for me as far as growing up. It was important for me to go to school and get those three years of education, and just be around the team environment, how to live a structured life. College helped me figure out the things I needed to figure out before getting here. You majored in communications. Was that to prepare for dealing with the New York media?

Jones: (laughs) I’m a communicator, what can I say? What was your first big purchase after getting your signing bonus?

Jones: I got a car. I didn’t have a car when I was in Tennessee at school or in Florida, so the first thing I bought down here was a blue SUV, a Ford Bronco. How familiar are you with New York City?

Jones: I went to New York City the offseason prior. I was meeting a buddy out there; it was my first time in the city. I didn’t really know where to go, so there was an awkward 30-minute period of me roaming around the city with my suitcase, just like every other tourist. I found Central Park and literally rolled my suitcase around Central Park because I didn’t know what to do. I figured out the subways, so it was OK. I had a fun weekend there; I went to one of the playoff games against the Guardians, so that was my time in the city. So then you’ve been to Yankee Stadium already. What did you think?

Jones: It was cool, man. I was still pretty fresh after being drafted, so it was a cool experience to be there. I don’t think I’d been to an MLB game for years. I was in incognito mode; I was with A.V. [Anthony Volpe] at the time, and everybody was happy to see him. I was more just enjoying the game and enjoying being there. It was awesome.