No. 7 prospect embracing Judge comps

August 18th, 2022

NEW YORK -- Spencer Jones was in high school when he first heard the comparisons. With an eye toward the future, an advisor told him “you can be the left-handed-hitting Aaron Judge.” He heard them again in college, playing summer ball for the Brewster Whitecaps of the Cape Cod League -- the same Cape team Judge played for almost a decade earlier.

So it came as no surprise to Jones that he’s still hearing them now, about a month after the Yankees selected the 6-foot-7 power-hitting outfielder with the 25th overall pick in the 2022 MLB Draft. Despite the outward similarities, it’s maybe unfair to compare anyone to the Yankees’ star slugger, the front-runner for this year’s American League MVP. But Jones isn’t running from them. He is embracing them.

“I think it’s cool more than anything else,” Jones said Thursday, on a conference call with reporters. “It doesn’t concern me at all or add any [pressure]. I’m excited to get to work and show people what I can do.”

It’s easy to see why the comparisons come for the Yankees’ No. 7 prospect. Jones is a 6-foot-7, 225-pound center fielder with plus athleticism for his size, surprising speed and above-average power. There is some swing-and-miss in his offensive game, but he hits the ball hard. Really hard.

The 21-year-old former two-way player broke out as a junior at Vanderbilt this spring, slashing .370/.460/.643 with 36 extra-base hits (12 homers), 60 RBIs and 14 steals in 61 games. Then he wowed Yankees scouts with his exit velocity readings at the MLB Draft combine, averaging 103.6 mph on his 10 swings and connecting for the day’s hardest-hit ball at 112.2 mph.

Those are near the kind of numbers Judge became known for when he burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2016, and remain his signature skill (Judge ranks in the 100th percentile in average exit velocity and hard-hit percentage and in the 99th percentile in max exit velocity this season, per Statcast). Jones and Judge are the same size, play the same position, and now share an organization. Perhaps one day on the horizon, they will provide a mirror image in the Yankees' lineup -- Jones bats and throws left-handed.

“I’m really excited to eventually meet [Judge] at some point,” Jones said. “I’ve heard really great things about his personality, and as a teammate and as a great leader. I’m excited to get to know him and learn from him as much as I possibly can.”

Jones said he’d love to pick Judge’s brain on topics like routine, recovery and offseason weight training, and “all these things that go into making sure you’re ready to go every single day,” given their similar body types. So far he’s acclimated himself well in pro ball since signing for $2.88 million (full slot value), hitting .355 with two homers in nine games across the Florida Complex League and Single-A Tampa.

The Yankees confirmed Thursday that they’ve signed all 20 of their 2022 Draft picks.

“My strength is that I like to compete and I like to get out there and put a lot on the field when I’m there,” Jones said. “I want to play baseball, and getting the opportunity to play every day is extremely special. So I’m taking advantage of it.”