Prospect Profile: Trey Sweeney

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@NYYPlayerDev

With their first round pick in last night’s MLB draft, the Yankees selected shortstop Trey Sweeney with the 20th overall pick. You can read our initial post on him here, and continue below for a more in-depth profile on the newest Yankee prospect.

Background

Sweeney is a 21 year old shortstop prospect who just finished his redshirt sophomore season with Eastern Illinois University. He was undrafted out of high school and EIU was the only college that he received a scholarship offer for, where he absolutely dominated play this past season earning first team All-American honors from Baseball America, Perfect Game, ABCA and at the NCAA Division I level.

Vice President of Domestic Amateur Scouting Damon Oppenheimer had this to say about Sweeney:

We are really excited to have selected Trey Sweeney. He has excellent raw power and contact ability, and he can hit to all fields with strong plate discipline.

At shortstop, he has a good clock, doesn’t play rushed and has good field awareness. His timing for both getting to ground balls and getting the ball across the infield is excellent. We also really like Trey’s makeup as he’s smart with good instincts. With his overall tool set, we believe he has the potential to be an impact player.

Damon Oppenheimer

And to his credit, Sweeney said all the right things on draft night where he attended in-person:

Performance

After leading his Louisville, KY high school to a state championship, Sweeney dominated at the college level, albeit against weak competition. As a freshman in 2019, he slashed .271/.342/.354 with 2 home runs, and 18 walks to 24 strikeouts – which is a great ratio for anyone, let alone a freshman.

That theme of great BB:K ratio continued throughout Sweeney’s career. After his freshman year, he played in the Wood Bat Prospect league and hit an eye-popping .354/.453/.524 with 7 home runs and more walks than strikeouts (36 BB & 25 K).

In 14 games last year before the pandemic, Sweeney was off to an incredible start hitting .351/.439/.456 with 8 BB and just 9 K. He followed that up with a strong showing in the wood bat Coastal Plain League where he was 2nd in the league slashing .397/.481/.676 with 4 homers, 11 walks, and 13 strikeouts in 17 games.

This year, Sweeney absolutely smashed to the tune of .382/.522/.712, bashing 14 home runs with an incredible 46:24 BB:K ratio. That’s nearly twice as many walks as strikeouts! That line and increased power earned him the All-American accolades as well as being named the Ohio Valley Conference Player of the year. He moved up draft boards after a series against Kansas State (the best college competition he faced) where he went 5-15 with 1 HR and 6 RBI. He also hit 3-4 with 2 RBI against Jordan Wicks who was selected one spot after him in the draft:

Here is a scouting video of Sweeney:

Scouts Take

There is a discrepancy between how scouts and analytics folks view Sweeney as you’ll see in a moment – namely scouts are low on him whereas analytics people love him.

MLB Pipeline ranked him 55th overall in this class, giving him a 60 hit grade and a 50 overall grade. They rave about his hand-eye coordination and arm strength. Here is a snipped of their scouting report:

Sweeney has a big leg kick and a hitch and a lot going on in his left-handed stroke, but he has outstanding hand-eye coordination and makes the timing work at the plate. He has good feel for the barrel, controls the strike zone and makes hard contact to all fields against lefties and righties, good velocity and tough offspeed pitches. His hitting ability, arm strength and bat speed should produce at least average power, perhaps more if he adds more loft to his swing. 

Sweeney’s below-average speed limits his effectiveness at shortstop and will necessitate a position change at the next level. He has reliable hands and solid strength but doesn’t cover enough ground at short. He profiles well at third base, should be able to handle any corner infield or outfield position and may be playable at second base. 

MLB Pipeline

Baseball America also ranked Sweeney 55th in this year’s class, though they are more optimistic about the longterm defensive projection for Sweeney and believe he could stick at short longterm. They mention he “has a big leg kick and a big bat tip in a noisy swing” and they wonder “what he might do against tougher competition.”

FanGraphs ranked him 60th overall highlighting his pro frame, plate discipline, and power.

Keith Law of The Athletic was the lowest on Sweeney, ranking him 89th overall and highlighting the contention between scouts and stats folks in their view of Sweeney.

My Take

There is a difference between looking at Sweeney in a vacuum and in context because before last night, he was viewed in reference to who else the Yankees could draft whereas now that is no longer relevant, though it is difficult to disentangle the two.

Drafting a guy who is ranked no higher than 55th in the first round seems like a reach upon initial glance, though that is par for the course with the Yankees. Anthony Volpe, T.J. Sikkema, Anthony Siegler are all first rounders in recent years who were ranked lower by scouts than where the Yankees took them, which says the Yankees have their own secret sauce and most likely favor their own analytic models.

That is clearly the case with Sweeney who reportedly has high exit velo numbers and performed well in wood bat leagues. Those are two things the Yankees are known to value along with strong makeup which by all accounts Sweeney has.

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@NJ_Sports

Offense

The bat is Sweeney’s calling card, and it better play for him to reach the big leagues. By all accounts, Sweeney excels at both the physical and mental aspects of hitting. In the MLB report they say he has “good feel for the barrel, controls the strike zone, and makes hard contact to all fields against lefties and righties, good velocity, and tough offspeed pitches.”

All of that is music to my ears because what more can a guy do beyond hit the ball hard all over against everyone? The concern with Sweeney is two-fold: 1. what is up with those mechanics and 2. can he hit against tough competition?

All scouts see a huge load and loopy swing that makes Sweeney susceptible to high velocity and tougher pitching, which connects to the second concern. Check this out:

That is…concerning. In a league where everyone seems to throw 100 mph nowadays, how Sweeney handles high velocity is a thing to watch. It is worth noting that Sweeney did excel in the Coastal Plain League where he likely saw faster pitching. Ryan Cusick, he of the 100 mph fastball, did play in that league for example.

So, although there are concerns about how Sweeney’s performance from the OVC will translate in pro ball, Sweeney did dominate against whatever tough competition he faced in the Wood Bat league, Coastal Plain League, and against Kansas State this past season. The power increase this season (going from 2 hr to 14) is also intriguing and likely what led the Yankees to Sweeney.

Defense

There are conflicting reports on Sweeney’s defense with MLB Pipeline, FanGraphs, and Keith Law all saying he is ticketed for the hot corner whereas Baseball America and Damon Oppenheimer believe he can stick at short. You don’t need me to tell you that a shortstop is more valuable than a third baseman, and if you’re going to spend a first round pick on a guy with some offensive concerns, you better believe Sweeney can stick at short longterm.

Concluding Thoughts

Sweeney is far from the first middle infielder or even college middle infielder the Yankees have picked lately. Josh Smith, Trevor Hauver, and Anthony Volpe all fit the mold of middle infield prospects drafted recently who have so far worked out well.

Volpe has rocketed up the Top 100 prospect lists hitting .309/.452/.635, which is better than anyone expected from him this season, and Smith has a fantastic .341/.461/1.135 line. You may know Hauver as the “Hauver Heat Check” in DoTF thanks to his .299/.460/.962 line.

All of that is to say, despite the Yankees miserable track record with first rounders, their recent infielder picks have appeared solid.

For now, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt that they can help Sweeney clean up his swing and stick at short, and I look forward to him mashing in rookie ball shortly.

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16 Comments

  1. daryl bennett

    I don’t know anything about these kids. But I do know that the Yankees analytics department was big on him. A mediocre at best Yankees analytics department. The same analytics department that bats odor 3rd,that puts garcia as the opener to “pull a fast one” and have ja happ start the second inning of a huge playoff game. Yea, that same analytics department.

    So I apologize for my pessimism, but Yankees analytics department seems to blow, over and over again.

  2. Dani

    Super disappointing draft if you ask me, the Yanks reached with every of their first 5 picks and none of the scouting reports look too exciting. I really hope they prove me wrong but on paper this doesn’t look good at all.

    I watched some stream analyzing the draft yesterday and one guy was like “other teams often look at the Yankees wondering: wth are you doing?”. I have to say … that’s the only proper way to describe it 😀

    • Redjack

      What stream and who said that, meaning their draft qualifications? Just curious.

  3. MikeD

    I know many fans are a bit suspect based on the Yankees history in the first round. I share that. Aaron Judge is the lone first-round breakout, and I often wonder if they didn’t have three picks in the 1st round that year if they would have drafted him.

    Just trying to provide perhaps a positive perspective. The Yankees did revamp part of their drafting and specifically development post 2019. We obviously didn’t get to see the results in 2020 as there were no minor league games. We are seeing very positive results this year throughout the farm, and especially with players like Volpe, Hauver and Smith. We won’t know how successful these changes are on the MLB level for a few years, but there are positive signs. Here’s hoping Sweeney will be added to that list.

    Do the Yankees deserve the benefit of the doubt? I’ll say no. I’ll also say that we have recognize they’ve made changes and we won’t know the success of those changes immediately. Some promising signs though.

  4. Frankie Ho-Tep

    I’m sorry, but the Yankees do not get or deserve “the benefit of the doubt” by any stretch of the imagination.

    Just look at that list!! Culver, Bichette Jr., Hensley, Clarkin, Jagielo, Holder, Kaprelian, Rutherford… almost all were considered a reach in the first round and, wouldn’t you know it, they have ALL done absolutely NOTHING for the Yankees. Only Kaprelian is finally even doing anything at the MLB level. ALL first round picks…ALL gave them NOTHING. The list gets even worse the further back you go. Heathcott, Bleich, all the way back to Carl freaking Henry. NOTHING. And I don’t want to hear the excuses about injuries and what not. Injuries happen to every organization. The best and only thing you can say is that the Yankees got some players in return after trading some of these prospects.

    It’s totally fine if you all want to bounce up and down that some more recent picks are doing well in the low minors, but that means nothing to me right now. Me, I’ll wait until ANY of these picks give even ONE (1!!!!!!!) WAR for the Yankees at the big league level. Until then, I’m curbing my enthusiasm. And I’m certainly not giving them the benefit of the doubt.

    • daryl bennett

      Judge is at 22 war. But I’m right there with you. 1 pick in 2 decades, that’s pathetic. Who else is an mlb player? Judge, kaprielian, and solak. That’s pathetic. The analytics department and scouting director need to be banned from the sport.

      • Bartholomew

        Clearly it was just up to the player to perform to the analytics spreadsheet and play to the back of their college baseball card. How can you blame the mysterious analytics department for anything? They don’t put on the jersey. The coaches are top tier too just ask Kay.

  5. DanGer

    Fun fact – Moose and CC were both drafted 20th overall and have the 1st and 2nd highest career WAR of players drafted in that spot – 82.2 and 62.6 respectively.

  6. DanGer

    The “ranked 55th overall” is the first thing that stood out. Yanks have a weird history reaching and the track record’s not good – Holder, Culver, Bichette, Lindgren, etc.

    Granted Rutherford and Schmidt were considered top 10 picks who “fell” to NY so maybe they’re just bad at drafting and/or developing.

    • Scout

      I get it that we’re often disappointed that the Yankees often seem to “reach” for a player who is ranked lower by MLB.com or ESPN. But if they simply followed the crowd, they’d have no reason to have their own scouting department. The Yankees make their own evaluations and rankings. It would be interesting to do a study of the accuracy of the public rankings versus that done by the team, but only the Yankees themselves can do that.

  7. Mungo

    The Yankees track record of recent similar middle-infield types like Volpe, Smith and Hauver has been good, so that’s encouraging, but their overall track record on first-round picks has been quite bad. It’s strange, as the Yankees do build competitive farm systems, heavily on the international side, and also through the latter rounds in the amateur draft. I can’t figure out why they haven’t changed their approach on the front-end of the draft. There’s no way they could say it’s been successful.

    Beyond that, my petty comment is regarding Lauren Gardner, who was doing the interviewing last night. She’s way too chatty, and her stylist should have been fired last night. She looked horrible and overall was highly distracting. So there you go. There’s my Gardner hate, but for Lauren, not Brett.

  8. Tim Loceddardstro

    I feel bad for the kid, Rohan. He was looking forward to signing with a club that has a good farm system. He’ll likely have to go elsewhere to get the development that he needs. 1 pick out of 14 has succeeded, Aaron Judge. 7% success rate ain’t bad. Ninja Cash deserves a raise with that track record.

  9. Scout

    It’s all about the bat. If he moves to third, a left-handed hitter with power will be just fine, thank you. It’s not like the Yankees have a line of major league prospects at third ahead of him, whereas if he stays at short he follows Volpe, Peraza, and possible others.

  10. Steve

    Not gonna get worked up over this pick one way or the other. Never take Keith Law too seriously either. And for everyone assuming this was a reach, Tampa & Atlanta were both connected to Sweeney as a first round pick. Guy was moving up the board.

    • MikeD

      He’s definitely an interesting prospect. Players with “helium”, who are moving up the boards heading into draft day, can often be the source of undervalued talent based on their draft position.

      I read Law because, well, I read all the prospect info. I’ve always viewed him more as an aggregator of information as opposed to what I’ll refer to as an innovator or provider of groundbreaking analysis. He gives a snapshot of what the scouting community thinks, but that often means that his analysis misses on the high end. By his own admission, he wasn’t big on Volpe, but he’s now come around and changed his view. It’s not that his view has changed as much as the community’s view changed, and in that there is value reading him. BA is a better source for prospect info.

  11. Ray

    For this line, “ But he hit .000/.250/.000 against 93+ mph fastballs. He only saw 16 of them.” Do you know how many of those 16 pitches were strikes/balls, whiffs/strikes looking/fouls, hard hit or squibs for an out? The implication is he was overmatched due to mechanical issues but is that really the case? (Small sample disclaimer and all)

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