Yankees Top 30 Prospects for 2021: Jake Sanford (OF, #29)
Yesterday we started the yearly look through the MLB Pipeline Top-30 Yankees prospects with a newcomer RHP. Today we move to the outfield to look at another newcomer to the list: the left-handed hitting Jake Sanford. Coming into college with only offers to play volleyball (yup), he chased baseball anyway, being a walk-on and transfer en route to a 3rd round selection in 2019.
JAKE SANFORD, OF (#29):
Age/Date of Birth: 23 Years Old (10/24/1997)
Most Recent Team(s) (Level and Year): Staten Island Yankees (SS Class-A, 2019)
Most Recent Yearly Statistics (2019): .238/.289/.411 (.700 OPS), & HR, 27 RBIs, 14 Walks, 81 Strikeouts (60 Games, 231 At-Bats)
Height/Weight: 6’2”/215 Pounds
Acquired: Drafted in the 3rd round of the 2019 MLB First Year Player Draft by the New York Yankees with the 105th overall pick.
MLB ETA: 2023
JAKE SANFORD SCOUTING GRADES (20-80 SCALE):
What to Know:
Coming out of Canada, Jake Sanford was not a highly touted prospect. He was not a late-round draft pick out of high school, and had only one school offer him an offer to play sport at the collegiate level…for volleyball from Dalhousie University (Nova Scotia, Canada), a local Canadian institution. Though, Sanford knew his worth and instead opted to go to McCook Community College in Nebraska and be a walk-on player.
Showing that he had baseball prowess at McCook with 23 home runs over two years (in a wood bat league) and then transferred to Western Kentucky University (Bowling Green, KY; NCAA D-I, Conference USA) for his 2019 and junior/draft-eligible season. That year he became the first player in conference history to win the triple-crown (led with a .398 BA, 22 HR’s, 66 RBI’s). It would be his only season at Western Kentucky as that helped lead him to a 3rd round selection from the New York Yankees.
After being drafted, the New York Yankees sent him directly to the Staten Island Yankees (Short Season Class-A, New-York Penn League) where he hit okay (.238 BA) with some pop (.411 SLG, 7 HR’s) over a 60 game stint while transitioning back to a wooden bat league. However, he did strike out in 33% of his plate appearances (81 K’s) over the same stretch.
Jake Sanford has great raw power along with solid bat speed and enough strength and leverage to comfortably hit hard when he makes contact with the ball, however he does load deep in his swing profile and tends to lose his balance. Working to fix that is something the Yankees will need to do in order to keep his strikeout numbers down.
In the field Sanford is transitioning to the outfield after two years of first base experience at McCook and a move to right field while at Western Kentucky. The Yankees upon drafting him had Sanford try out center to see how his plus speed plays during his 2019 summer season, of which it seems to have been a fit if not for a below-average arm. The expectation is that Sanford finds himself a left fielder in the future.
What Will the Future Hold?
As he spent 2019 with the Staten Island Yankees in the now eliminated New-York/Penn League (Short Season Class-A) after coming out of college, which likely puts him with the Tampa Tarpons to start this year. With a few years to go before an expected MLB jump, Tampa also seems like a place where Sanford will spend most of the year, especially with the need to fix up his swing a bit to best utilize his power by making more consistent contact.
I would also like to see the Yankees try and see if they can help him develop a better arm in the field so that he can keep playing at center field. If he ends up falling to a corner outfield spot because of a weak arm, his stock does drop as a powerfully hitting center field prospect holds higher value than that of a right or left fielder.