NEW YORK — As a 6-foot-7 varsity outfielder and first-round pick by the Yankees, Spencer Jones draws an instant comparison to Aaron Judge.
And there are unmistakable similarities, as Yankees director of scouting Damon Oppenheimer noted, beyond their size.
“Both have great composition and are both very good athletes,” Oppenheimer said via conference call Wednesday.
Taken with the 25th overall pick in this week’s MLB Freshman Draft, left-handed hitter Jones is “realistically a five-tool guy,” Oppenheimer said of his “great raw power.” and his ability to use the entire pitch as a hitter, as well as his throwing, running, and defensive skills.
As a player, “he just hit a lot of things,” Oppenheimer said of a potential “high-impact player who can produce a big WAR in this game.”
Jones, 21, was ranked the 51st prospect in the 2022 draft by MLB.com and 49th by Baseball America, of Vanderbilt University.
Previously drafted in the 31st round in 2019 by the Los Angeles Angels, Jones is expected to sign with the Yankees.
“I don’t see any real complications with that at the moment,” Oppenheimer said of reaching a deal and integrating the 225-pound junior from Encinitas, Calif., into the Yankees system.
Comparisons to judge
Like Judge, drafted by the Yankees in the first round (32n/a overall) in 2013 out of Fresno State, Jones also played for Brewster in the Cape Cod League.
But the Yankees have been tracking him since his prep days in Southern California.
“Going back to high school, everyone we spoke to approved of him as a person,” Oppenheimer said.
As a player, “the simple way he does things is quite special.”
A recent All-Cape player in the prestigious wooden batting league, Jones rebuilt his draft status after suffering two elbow injuries, requiring Tommy John surgery in July 2020.
Those injuries seemed to derail his pitching career, but his batting ability attracted the Yankees, who are no strangers to NFL outfielders with Judge, Giancarlo Stanton (6ft 6in) and Joey Gallo (6ft 6in) . 5).
Oppenheimer wasn’t just looking to pick a comparably sized puncher to Judge, but “I think that gives you some comfort that you’re going to get a guy that your system has been able to handle in the past when it comes to just his size.”
Assessing Jones’ skills and tools overall, his 6-foot-7 frame wasn’t as much of a factor.
However, “we had Aaron and guys like that and we did well,” Oppenheimer said. So “maybe we’re good enough for that” on the development side.
The entire college team
Each of the Yankees’ 20 picks were college players, including 15 pitchers.
But it was a strategy that evolved as the project progressed, not an idea.
“We were really, really close” to picking some high schoolers, but when the Yankees didn’t get some prep players “that we were targeting at the top,” their draft shifted to college players.
Oppenheimer said the Yankees’ bonus pool money – “one of the lowest of 30 teams” – made it difficult to invest draft picks in high school players in later rounds, looking for bonuses more important.
As for taking that many pitchers, Oppenheimer said that, based on draft history, “if you want to dig into major league value in the draft, 80 to 90 percent of the time it’s pitching. “
In the second round, at No. 61 overall, the Yankees selected right-hander Drew Thorpe, 21, from Cal Poly and ranked No. 61 by MLB.com and No. 62 by Baseball America.
“We love Drew’s size and the Major League stuff and command he has,” Oppenheimer said earlier of the 6-foot-4, 205-pound resident of Washington, Utah.
“We’ve seen him up to 96 (mph) and he’s got arguably the best change in the draft. He’s always projectable to add speed and his overall ability to create swing-and-misses is elite,’ Oppenheimer said, adding that he has the ability to move quickly into the minor leagues with a good Major League starting cap.
Last-round notables included fifth-round right-hander Eric Reyzelman of LSU (160 overall) and eighth-round shortstop Brett Barrera of Stanford (250 overall).
Reyzelman’s fastball has been clocked up to 100 mph, and there’s great potential with his side tricks.
Barrera led the Pac-12 in hitting, and Oppenheimer said players with his skills at this level of competition “tend to be successful.”
“We think we have guys who can surprise people.”