Can Jones make the jump from Double-A to the Majors?

April 15th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Bryan Hoch's Yankees Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

TORONTO -- is wearing a Somerset Patriots uniform for now, a qualifier made necessary by the ticking clock that accompanies the Yankees’ No. 2 prospect. After an impressive spring in big league camp, the safe bet is that the 22-year-old is just passing through Double-A Somerset on his way to higher levels.

A left-handed-hitting outfielder with power and speed, Jones could follow a path forged in recent years by the likes of Anthony Volpe and Jasson Domínguez, both of whom have made the jump from Double-A to the big leagues (Volpe sped right past Triple-A, vaulting to the Majors last spring).

“It’s super cool to know a lot of the guys that have played here recently have made their way up there,” Jones said. “It’s definitely a motivating factor, knowing that it’s possible to start here and end up where you want to be. I feel like if I take care of what I need to take care of throughout the season, things will happen.”

Jones made his season debut on Saturday at New Hampshire after sitting out four games with a stiff neck. If MLB Pipeline’s No. 77 prospect had any rust, it didn’t show in his performance. Jones went 2-for-3 with an RBI double and one walk in a 10-2 Patriots victory.

Coming off a strong 2023 campaign in which he batted .267/.336/.444 with 29 doubles, four triples, 16 homers, 66 RBIs and 43 stolen bases, Jones said that he has focused on his plate discipline, looking to cut down on strikeouts after fanning 155 times in 480 at-bats.

“I worked hard in the offseason,” Jones said. “That was my number one goal, just to put myself in the best position to see pitches. I committed myself to it, and then in Spring Training I just kept with it. The guys have been great in helping me maintain my progress. I’m feeling good.”

He also likely benefited from his time in big league camp, where he won the James P. Dawson Award, issued to the top rookie in Spring Training.

“There were days where Juan Soto was hitting before me, and I got to see him go through his whole routine,” Jones said. “Or days when Giancarlo [Stanton] was hitting before me, and I got to watch them hit batting practice. Gerrit Cole stopping me and having a quick conversation about something completely unrelated to baseball. All of those sorts of things were really cool.”

So far, Jones seems to be dealing with the expectations of being lauded as “a left-handed Aaron Judge” quite well.

“I find it easy to block out the noise,” Jones said. “Once you set yourself into a routine of playing every single day, that’s what you know your life is going to be. You just have to focus on that and take it one day at a time.”

It helps that Jones concluded his 2023 campaign with 17 games at Double-A, which makes Somerset a familiar environment. Jones believes that should set him up for success as spring turns to summer.

“It was great being able to play here, because the culture of this team is focused on winning,” Jones said. “That’s the number one goal for all of us, every time we get into this clubhouse. Getting comfortable for those couple of weeks was awesome, knowing what the surroundings are. Now I’m just ready to grab it and run with it this year.”

Minor League roundup

Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (10-4): Clayton Beeter (No. 13 prospect) has pitched well after making his Major League debut during the Yankees’ season-opening series in Houston. On Saturday, he pitched five innings of one-hit ball at Norfolk, striking out eight without a walk as he helped the RailRiders to a sixth straight win.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre won on Sunday to extend the streak behind Josh Breaux’s two homers.

Double-A Somerset (4-5): Ben Cowles extended his team-best on-base streak to nine games as part of a three-RBI performance on Sunday. The 24-year-old infielder is batting .419 (13-for-31) with a .514 on-base percentage, both leading the team and ranking among the top three in the Eastern League.

High-A Hudson Valley (5-3): The Renegades have been getting excellent starting pitching, including from Cam Schlitter, who tossed five innings and permitted just three unearned runs on two hits in a victory on Sunday at Rome. The right-hander has not allowed an earned run in 11 innings, striking out 12 while walking five.

Single-A Tampa (2-7): Cade Austin has rung up 12 strikeouts through 6 1/3 innings across two appearances. A 22-year-old righty who was selected in the 19th round of the 2023 MLB Draft, Austin was touched for a solo homer and has otherwise been spotless, scattering four hits with one walk.