On Day 1 of the 2021 MLB First-Year Player Draft, the New York Yankees took a shortstop for the second time in the last three years with their first round pick. They elected to go with Eastern Illinois shortstop Trey Sweeney.
Sweeney was one of the players who the Yankees were connected to over the last few weeks of the draft process and he is a player that absolutely shined in the Ohio Valley Conference. In 48 games this year, he had an insane slash line of .382/.522/.712 with 14 home runs, 58 RBIs, and almost a 2:1 walk-to-strikeout ratio (46:24).
Some would question the competition Sweeney has gone up against in the OVC, but he did get to face a Big 12 school in Kansas State earlier this season. In that three-game series, he went 5-for-15 with a home run and six RBIs. He went 3-for-4 with two RBIs in a game that was started by the pitcher that got selected by the Cubs the pick after him, left-hander Jordan Wicks.
You can look at this pick and wonder if the Yankees really needed to add another shortstop with players such as Anthony Volpe, Josh Smith, and Oswald Peraza tying up those positions at Low-A. High-A, and Double-A respectively in the system. However, Sweeney can play the hot corner as well.
This season, Sweeney was primarily a shortstop, but he did play three games at third base in college and 14 games at the position in the summer of 2019 at the Prospect League. MLB Pipeline believes that other positions could also be in Sweeney’s future:
“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.”
If third base is in Sweeney’s future, it’s not necessarily a bad thing because there is room in the Yankees system to move up at third base if he develops a rapid pace. If not, the Yankees can slow up his development to see more high-velocity fastballs. JJ Cooper of Baseball America brought up an interesting fact on the lack of velocity that Sweeney saw in college:
Here's the tricky part of this Trey Sweeney pick for the Yankees. Sweeney just didn't get to see many top-notch fastballs this year. He hit .425/.564/.800 on fastballs overall (!). But he hit .000/.250/.000 against 93+ mph fastballs. He only saw 16 of them. None harder than 95.
— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) July 12, 2021
With that being said, the Yankees drafting a left-handed bat is not a bad thing either because as everyone knows, left-handed bats can do well in Yankee Stadium. The Yankees’ Vice President of Domestic Amateur Scouting, Damon Oppenheimer, gave his thoughts on what he liked about the pick Sunday night:
“At shortstop, he [Sweeney] 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 make-up as he’s smart with good instincts.”
At Eastern Illinois, Sweeney had the opportunity to be coached by a former Yankees prospect. His manager was Jason Anderson. Anderson was the Yankees’ 10th Round pick back in 2000. He ended up making 25 career appearances in the Bronx (6.39 career ERA with three teams) and he could give great advice on how to handle playing in New York and the expectations that come with putting on the pinstripes.
While it is understandable fans might be looking for the Yankees to get pitching, don’t be surprised if they make that their focus during Day 2 of the MLB Draft. With talented arms like Matt Sauer, Yoendrys Gomez, Beck Way, and Randy Vasquez at Low-A this season, the organization could use some arms to fill out a Low-A rotation for Tampa in 2022 and there are a lot of talented arms available for the Yankees with the 55th pick.
For Day 1, the Yankees got one of the better college bats in this class. Where he plays when he starts his professional career remains to be seen, but there is a lot to like with this pick and it adds another name to the strong depth the Yankees have in the organization at the middle infield spots should they decide to make a trade at the deadline or this winter.