Jones owns Spring Breakout with pair of towering homers

March 17th, 2024

TAMPA, Fla. -- stole the show with a two-homer performance in the inaugural Spring Breakout game at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Saturday afternoon, offering yet another glimpse of the light-tower power that appears to have the Yankees’ prospect headed for stardom.

Ranked as the club’s No. 2 prospect by MLB Pipeline, Jones cracked a two-run homer in his first at-bat of Saturday afternoon’s 9-1 win over the Blue Jays' top prospects. Then, he cleared the fences again in the fifth inning with a blast that traveled even further.

“They’re all cool -- all home runs are fun, right?” Jones said. “But that one was fun. Getting to share it with the guys in that dugout was pretty cool.”

Jones’ first homer came on an 82.9 mph slider from left-hander Adam Macko, coming off of his bat at 106.5 mph and traveling 399 feet to right-center field. The second was a 427-foot shot off right-hander Fernando Perez that came off his bat at 108.5 mph.

“That kid, he’s a specimen. He’s awesome,” said left-hander Brock Selvidge. “He’s very fun to watch. The athletic build; he can do everything. It’s really cool to share the field with guys like that, who are studs. Obviously, everyone on our team is a stud, but it was super cool to watch him.”

Lauded as a left-handed version of Aaron Judge, the 6-foot-6 Jones introduced himself to the Yankees by lifting a 470-foot home run in his first Grapefruit League at-bat of the spring, but he offers more than just raw power.

Earlier this spring, manager Aaron Boone said that Jones’ speed stands out on the basepaths and in the outfield, noting: “He’s a big man, but he can fly.” Jones showcased his wheels, too, beating out an infield single in the fourth inning.

“It was really cool that MLB provided a platform for a lot of us guys to get out here and play on television,” Jones said. “I think it was well-run and it was just a fun baseball game. We were all excited about it. It was really cool.”

The Yankees’ first-round selection (25th overall) in the 2022 MLB Draft out of Vanderbilt University, Jones played 117 games last season between High-A Hudson Valley and Double-A Somerset, slashing .267/.336/.444 with 16 homers, 66 RBIs and 43 stolen bases.

Earlier this spring, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said that he expects Jones to begin the season at Double-A, where he played just 17 games last season.

In recent months, Cashman has rebuffed numerous trade proposals that demanded Jones, including an offer from the Brewers for Corbin Burnes and another from the White Sox for Dylan Cease. The Padres also asked for Jones in their initial discussions regarding Juan Soto.

“He was the No. 1 pick for a reason for us,” Cashman said. “Very talented, really high ceiling. … He’s a very talented guy. He gets asked about a lot, so I know our evaluations of him are shared similarly in the industry because of how his name comes up.”

Brock star

Brock Selvidge was a “no-brainer” to draw the start for the first Spring Breakout game, according to Kevin Reese, the Yankees’ vice president of player development, who cited director of pitching Sam Briend as one of the voices in Selvidge’s corner.

Imagine Selvidge’s surprise, though, when he reported to the right-field bullpen for warmups and found Andy Pettitte waiting for him.

“It was kind of surreal. There’s no other words,” Selvidge said. “That is somebody that has done everything that I want to do. As a young pitcher, my goal is that I want to do all of the above -- I want to win championships for my team. He’s incredible to talk to. He’s going to give you unlimited help.”

Selvidge said that he and Pettitte discussed several topics, including trusting his fastball to get ahead in the count. The left-hander took those words of wisdom to the mound, firing four scoreless innings of one-hit ball. Selvidge struck out eight with one walk.

“I had a lot of fun,” Selvidge said. “My biggest goal today was to try and simplify it. This is the same game I’ve played since I was five years old. Obviously it’s a bigger stage with more fans, just a cool experience, but I was just out here having fun with my boys.”

Ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Yankees’ No. 11 prospect, the 21-year-old was a third-round selection by the Bombers in the 2021 MLB Draft. Selvidge pitched last season for Single-A Tampa and High-A Hudson Valley, going 8-5 with a 3.45 ERA in 24 games (23 starts).

Lofty goals

Roderick Arias did not light up the box score as he might have hoped on Saturday, but the Yankees’ No. 3 prospect delivered an electric comparison when asked about the player he strives to become: the Reds’ Elly De La Cruz.

“He’s very versatile; he’s there helping his teammates in any way he can,” Arias said through a translator.

Arias went 0-for-2 with two walks and made an errant throw in the exhibition game. The 19-year-old played last season in the Florida Complex League, where he batted .267/.423/.505 with six homers and 26 RBIs in 27 games.

“My focus is really just to try and stay healthy and keep playing the game that I know how to play,” Arias said. “I know that I haven’t been 100 percent in the past or playing a full season yet, but I’m going to keep working hard to do what I know how to do; trust in God, trust the process and keep moving forward.”