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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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The Magnificent Middle Infield [2021 Season Preview]

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The Keystone King

Yankees fans everywhere exhaled a collective sigh of relief on the morning of January 15. On that day, which will hopefully not live in infamy, represented the end of a too-long tango between the team’s front office and DJ LeMahieu, when the 32-year-old re-signed for 6-years and $90 million. The idea of an offense without LeMahieu – who led the team in batting average, on-base percentage, wRC+, and WAR over the last two years – was the baseball equivalent of existential dread, so the news of his return may well have been the best possible news for Yankees fans this off-season.

LeMahieu’s excellence in pinstripes cannot be overstated, either. He’s 12th in the majors in fWAR since the beginning of 2019, sandwiched between Ronald Acuña Jr. and JT Realtmuto. His 146 wRC+ is 10th, just behind reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger. And his .336 batting average, passé as it may be, is the best in the business. LeMahieu has been nothing short of elite in pinstripes, and I can’t wait to see what he’ll do next.

Speaking of, let’s check-in on the projection systems:

SystemPAHRAVG/OBP/SLG (+)WAR
PECOTA64419.295/.360/.450 (122 DRC+)4.6
ZiPS59818.306/.357/.463 (117 wRC+)4.2
Steamer68321.294/.353/.453 (114 wRC+)3.8

All three projection systems are essentially splitting the difference between LeMahieu’s last season in Colorado (87 wRC+) and his first season in the Bronx (135 wRC+), and I’m not all that surprised. After all, he’s 32 and has more than four times as many plate appearances in Colorado. And, given that 2020 was heavily abbreviated, his back-to-back career years involve just 871 PA. I would be at least a bit disappointed in any of those lines – though, all three would be rock solid.

That said: I’m betting the over.

The Final 2019 DoTF: Glenn Otto stands out in Arizona Fall League

A lot to cover with the Arizona Fall League coming to a close.

News & Notes

  • Greg Bird is playing for Gigantes del Cibao in the Dominican Winter League. The first baseman missed all but 10 games in 2019 and has played just 190 games of baseball, Minor Leagues and AFL included, since the end of 2015.
  • Some former Yankees MiLBers playing winter ball in the Dominican include Melky Mesa, Ryan McBroom, Abiatal Avelino and Jorge Mateo
  • Baseball America released its draft report card (subs req) for 2019. Anthony Volpe and Josh Smith were named NYY’s best pure hitters in the class while Volpe also earned “Best Defensive Player” honors. BA has 13th-round pick Nelson Alvarez, he of a 100 mph fastball, as a potential steal.
  • BA also had their top prospects for each Minor League this year. The Yankees were well represented in the lower minors with four players (including Volpe) in the Appy League, three players (including Smith and Ezequiel Duran) from the NY-Penn League and four players in the GCL.
  • Deivi Garcia, Albert Abreu and Clarke Schmidt made it in Double-A and High-A, while five RiverDogs earned their way onto the South Atlantic League list.

Surprise Sagueros … They went 17-12 before losing in the AFL Championship Game

RHP Glenn Otto: 6 starts, 24 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 13 BB, 26 K, 2 HR — Otto displayed his talent in his AFL stay, finishing seventh in strikeouts and 10th in ERA in the prospect-laden league. His 13 walks were tied for the league-high though. After missing plenty of time in 2019, this gives him a needed boost into next season.

RHP Daniel Bies: 10 G, 11.1 IP, 14 H, 6 R (5 ER), 2 BB, 14 K — The strikeout and walk numbers are encouraging, just as they were when the 6-foot-8 righty floated between levels this season.

RHP: Aaron McGarity: 10 G, 11.1 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 15 K, 1 HR, 1 HBP — After pitching mostly in the low minors, this was impressive. McGarity could find himself a quick riser as another Yankee college reliever.

RHP: Derek Craft: 3 G, 2.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 0 K, 1 HR — Craft came to the AFL late and barely got a chance to pitch. The 2018 16th-round pick pitched for Pulaski and Staten Island this year.

C Donny Sands: 16 G/62 PA, 11-for-54, 3 2B, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 8 BB, 12 K — Sands batted.204/.306/.315 overall with both his ISO and walk rate going up from the regular season.

1B Brandon Wagner: 20 G/84 PA, 15-for-70, 4 2B, 2 HR, 21 RBI, 12 BB, 27 K, 0-for-1 on SB — Wagner’s line from the AFL reads .214/.333/.357, which is much better than his .570 regular season OPS. The 2018 breakout player in the system took a step back in Trenton in 2019, so the 24-year-old New Jersey product got a chance to prove himself after a tough season.

OF Josh Stowers: 20 G/77 PA, 8-for-61, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 13 BB, 27 K, 4-for-7 on SB — Stowers clearly didn’t hit, either for power or average, yet he maintained his walk rate at 16.9 percent. The 2018 draft pick missed time at midseason, yet he still played in 105 games, so there’s a chance he was just tired from the long year as happens to plenty of AFL players.

DoTF: Maybin, RailRiders win slugfest; Gil and Vizcaino earn promotions

News & Notes

  • Alright, a whole bunch of roster moves the last few days, so here’s where each player went up to and then I’ll give a bit of analysis below:
    • Scranton: RHP Adonis Rosa, C Francisco Arcia
    • Trenton: RHPs Shawn Semple, Greg Weissert, Janson Junk
    • Tampa: RHPs Bryan Blanton, Alexander Vizcaino, Luis Gil, Jefry Valdez
    • Charleston: RHPs Keegan Curtis, Yoendrys Gomez; Missed this a few days ago, but C Anthony Seigler went on the 7-day IL
    • Staten Island: RHP Michael King, C Chase Illig, 1B Nelson B. Alvarez, SS Josh Smith
    • Pulaski: 3B Deivi Munoz to 60-day IL, RHP Kenlly Montas, 3B Jose Martinez
  • The big moves to note: Luis Gil and Alexander Vizcaino earned call-ups after impressive seasons in Charleston and will now get the challenge of High-A. Gil was particularly good with a 2.39 ERA and 112 K and 39 BB in 83 innings. Gil will start Friday and Vizcaino on Saturday.
  • Michael King is moving forward in his rehab. Josh Smith finally debuts after signing as the 2019 2nd-round pick. Yoendrys Gomez had a 2.12 ERA in 29.2 IP as a 19-year-old in the Appy League.

Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders: (10-6 win at Columbus) … The only player not to get a hit was Terrance Gore, who walked thrice..

  • Starter: RHP Adonis Rosa: 5 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 3 K, 2/6 GB/FB — 54 of 86 pitches (64%) were strikes … Weirdly has a 3.78 ERA in Triple-A and a 4.60 ERA with a higher walk rate in Double-A.
  • In Relief: RHP Will Carter: 1.2 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 2 BB, 0 K, 1 HR
  • In Relief: RHP David Sosebee: 2.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K
  • Hitting Star: 3B Wendell Rijo: 2-for-5, 2B, HR, 4 RBI, 2 R
  • Rehab outing: DH Cameron Maybin: 2-for-6, 2B, 1 RBI, 2 K
  • On Deck: SS Thairo Estrada: 2-for-6, 2 R, 1 K
  • Notables: 2B Tyler Wade went 3-for-5 with a 2B, 2 R, BB, SB and 1 K … 1B Ryan McBroom went 2-for-3 with a 2B, RBI and R before 1B Mike Ford took over and hit a two-run homer in 3 AB … RF Trey Amburgey hit a solo homer and walked.

Double-A Trenton Thunder Game 1: (9-8 walk-off loss to Erie F/7)

  • Starter: RHP Nick Green: 3 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 4 BB, 0 K, 2 WP, 5/1 GB/FB — 34 of 66 pitches (52%) were strikes.
  • In Relief: RHP Greg Weissert: 2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 1 K
  • In Relief: RHP Daniel Alvarez: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 4 K
  • Hitting Star: SS Hoy Jun Park: 4-for-4, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB — Leadoff shot … Second homer in a three-day span.
  • On Deck: 2B Gosuke Katoh: 4-for-4, 2 2B, 1 RBI, 2 R
  • On Deck: DH Brandon Wagner: 3-for-3, 1 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB
  • Notables: 1B Chris Gittens went 2-for-5 with a 2B, RBI and R … 3B Mandy Alvarez and CF Rashad Crawford went 1-for-3 with a BB.

Double-A Trenton Thunder Game 2: (5-1 loss at Akron F/7) … Makeup of June 10 postponement.

  • Starter: RHP Janson Junk: 4.2 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 5 BB, 3 K, 1 HR, 3/2 GB/FB — 58 of 98 pitches (59%) were strikes … Double-A debut … The 2017 22nd round pick had a 4.54 ERA in High-A.
  • In Relief: RHP Braden Bristo: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 4 K, 1 HR
  • Hitting Star: 3B Mandy Alvarez: 2-for-4, 1 K
  • On Deck: SS Kyle Holder and LF Ben Ruta: 1-for-3, 2B, 1 BB — Ruta scored a run.
  • Notables: 2B Gosuke Katoh went 2-for-3 with 1 K … DH Chris Gittens went 1-for-4 with an RBI and 2 K … RF Isiah Gilliam went 0-for-1 with 2 BB and 1 K.

High-A Tampa Tarpons were rained out and will have a doubleheader Friday.

News and Notes: CC, Stroman, Frazier, Juiced Balls, A Draft Signing and Dan Jennings

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This is my least favorite part of the baseball season. I don’t get excited for the All Star Game and we don’t have real games to watch for a few days. I can’t wait for Friday. While the players are on a much needed break, there is still news to cover. Let’s get right to it.

CC looks to stay with the Yanks after retirement

CC Sabathia wants to work in the Yankees front office after this season. This was definitely one of the more exciting nuggets to come out of the All Star festivities. It feels like the injuries, the team’s resiliency, the talk of potential trade targets and other narratives have overshadowed CC’s final season. CC’s business like demeanor approaching his final season plays a role as well. With that said, it is nice to know the big man will probably stick around in pinstripes.

I definitely want to be in the front office, something where I’m going to be around the team, around the club. I’ll be there in (at my home in New) Jersey. And I definitely I want to be around the Yankees for years to come.

CC Sabathia

The Yankees are well known for hiring former players to the front office. Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui, Nick Swisher and Carlos Beltran are all recent additions to Brian Cashman’s brain trust. In fact, Beltran and CC speak quite a bit about life after baseball.

I talk to Los a lot. He’s obviously one of my good friends. Just seeing what he does, being around the ballpark pretty much every day, helping out, being one of the guys. I think it would be something I could do and have fun doing.

The Yankees do a fantastic job of keeping their alumni in the family and leveraging their experience to the organization’s benefit. They can lend their well informed opinions to scouting, development and Cashman himself. The alumni can also go on the road and directly interact with the future generations of Yankees. This is something CC specifically mentions having a strong interest in doing. It will be nice to have CC around for years to come.

Yankees and Twins inquire about a Stroman/Giles package

With the trade deadline three weeks away from today, the rumors are starting to pick up. According to TSN’s Scott Mitchell, the Yankees and Minnesota Twins recently asked about a Marcus Stroman/Ken Giles package. The Yankees are clearly in the market for a starter and Stroman is one of the main targets. Bobby wrote a fantastic trade target piece on Stroman that is definitely worth reading or re-reading. He’s good and should be towards the top of the list of starting pitching targets.

Giles would be a great pick up as well. Despite being known for some embarrassing moments as much as his pitching, Giles would be a great addition to an already formidable bullpen. He’s in the top 3% of the league in XBA, XSLG, XWOBA and K %.

The cost would definitely jump up if Giles was included in a package with Marcus Stroman. One would think Clint Frazier would be the centerpiece of this deal especially considering Toronto’s lackluster outfield. Both Stroman and Giles are free agents in 2021 so you are getting some player control back in the deal. It would be expensive, but may be worth it for a title run.

Clint Frazier continues to work diligently on his defense

Speaking of Frazier, Jack Margaros over at Pinstriped Prospects wrote a nice piece on Clint’s daily pre-game defensive routine. Improving his corner outfield defense has been the primary focus for Frazier’s time in Scranton. He works with coach Julio Bourbon every day for an hour focusing on the intricacies of the position.

First step, reads to the ball, the routes that I take, conversations. It’s not always just mechanics out there. Julio is so fresh out of the game it’s almost like I’m talking to a teammate out there

Clint frazier

Clint’s defensive struggles are well documented. It is valid to say he’s improving his defense so another team could potentially reap the benefits. It is interesting that they have Frazier focusing primarily in left so maybe the team does still have long term plans for him. In any case, it’s nice to see the kid getting after it and looking to improve amidst all of the noise.

Tanaka believes the balls are different this year

The topic of juiced balls has been beaten to death. It is worth mentioning here because of Masahiro Tanaka’s struggles with his splitter this year. When asked by Brendan Kuty about the baseballs, Tanaka said the ball “just doesn’t feel right.” He went on to say the ball feels harder with lower laces.

This could be one reason for why Masa’s devastating splitter has eluded him all season. The lower laces specifically is an interesting observation. The lower the seams on a ball, the room to manipulate the ball’s movement through pressure decreases. This is especially the case for a pitch with a very pronounced grip like a splitter.

Maybe Tanaka’s splitter isn’t effective because it’s just one of those years. It could be that he has a better feel for the slider more than the splitter. Or perhaps the lower seams on the ball are making the difference. I believe we can all agree life will be better when conversations about the baseball come to an end.

Josh Smith signs with the Yankees

According to Jon Heyman, Josh Smith signed with the Yankees today.

You can check out Derek’s profile on Smith here.

Dan Jennings signs a MILB deal with the Yankees

Veteran lefty reliever Dan Jennings signs with the Yankees on a minor league deal. Jennings pitched eight games in relief for the Washington Nationals and had a rough go of it. He went 1-2 with a 13.50 ERA. He did strike out nine batters against two walks in 4.2 innings. Jennings has been assigned to short season Staten Island.

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