It’s no secret that the Yankees have lacked potent left-handed bats at the major league level in recent years, but the organization has made an effort to add such hitters over the last two drafts.
New York used its first two picks of the 2020 draft on port-side swingers, selecting Arizona’s Austin Wells and Arizona State’s Trevor Hauver. Then, earlier this week, the Yankees made Eastern Illinois product Trey Sweeney the 20th pick of the 2021 draft.
The trio is still far off from the majors—Wells and Hauver are currently at Single-A Tampa—but its hard to look at these highly-drafted lefties and not think of the picks as responses to New York’s recent left-handed woes. Despite playing in a stadium tailored to left-handed hitters, Yankees lefties are last in average (.192), second to last in OPS (.615), and third to last in wRC+ (74) and home runs (17) this season. The team’s left-handed hitters were only slightly better in 2020.
While Wells, Hauver and Sweeney are not coming to the rescue any time soon, the Yankees have at least invested significant draft capital in a problem that they have otherwise repeatedly failed to address. The return just may not come for a while.
Wells was drafted with the 28th pick last year, while Hauver came in at No. 99 in the third round. Sweeney, drafted 20th overall, is the highest selection among the group. The Yankees, unbothered by Eastern Illinois playing in the small DI Ohio Valley Conference, fell in love with the shortstop’s ability to hit after he put up a .382 average and 14 homers in his final collegiate season.
“We are really excited to have selected Trey Sweeney,” Damon Oppenheimer, Yankees VP of domestic amateur scouting, said in a statement after the 21-year-old was picked. “He has excellent raw power and contact ability, and he can hit to all fields with strong plate discipline.”
While an ability to hit to all fields is always a plus—Sweeney has received some DJ LeMahieu comps—surely New York’s brass has imagined what that stroke could do with the short right field porch in Yankee Stadium.
As for Wells and Hauver, the 22-year-olds have started their professional careers in impressive fashion. Wells, used strictly as a catcher in Tampa thus far, is slashing .278/.414/.492 with seven home runs and 48 RBI in 50 games. Oppenheimer said that the Yankees believed Wells was “one of the top hit and power combinations in the draft” last year. Oppenheimer specifically noted the backstop’s potential fit in Yankee Stadium.
New York’s top scout had a similar review of Hauver after he was picked, stating that, “We like his power from the left side. He’s got plate discipline, he’s got the ability to hit the ball really hard. We saw loud contact from him and we think that that’s really gonna play.”
So far it has, as Hauver owns a .299/.460/.503 line with seven home runs and 44 RBI in 54 games. He has almost exclusively played second base for Tampa up to this point.
Upon their selections, there were questions about where each of these picks would ultimately play at the major league level. Wells saw some corner outfield and first base action in college, while Hauver has played all over since the start of his NCAA career. Sweeney, who told The Athletic’s Lindsey Adler that he plans to sign soon, has spent time at second and third base. He could also profile as a corner outfielder if the Yankees decide shortstop is not in his future.
Regardless of what positions these prospects end up at, it’s clear that their defense was not the determining factor for New York. Rather, Wells, Hauver and Sweeney were picked largely due to their high-ceiling bats.
That they all swing from the left side could not have hurt either.
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