Pretty solid way to make a first impression.

New York Yankees v Miami Marlins / Rich Storry/GettyImages

Hey, Spencer Jones. You want to prove, entering a potentially massive 2024 and in the wake of a show of faith by the Yankees’ front office, that you’ve improved upon your key bugaboo from last season? Reducing the strikeouts via never whiffing ever is a pretty emphatic way to do so.

Jones, a potential five-tool All-Star center fielder in the Aaron Judge mold (but don’t say it too loudly!), has been coveted by every single team the Yankees have run across in trade talks this winter, from the White Sox to the Brewers to (presumably) the Guardians, who had to settle for Estvan Florial (and keeping Shane Bieber) instead. He’s the worst-kept secret in the prospecting world, even if Milwaukee’s front office did eventually equate him to Joey Ortiz.

His 2023 numbers, though? They didn’t exactly boom off the page as much as his 470-foot homer in his first at-bat of big-league camp did. He batted .267 with a .336 OBP, 16 homers, and a .780 OPS across High-A and Double-A last summer. At the higher level, his OPS fell to .739 in 17 games. All told, he struck out 155 times in 453 plate appearances, muddying his good-not-great numbers with a 28.9% strikeout rate that ranked fifth-worst in the organization last year.

So the Yankees asked him to double down. This offseason’s primary goal involved reducing whiffs and learning to lift the ball more often, a deadly combination (and, honestly, the heart of offensive success). Creating lift is more important than erasing swing-and-miss, but put ’em both together and pull those hands in, and you just might have something.

There’s a lot of time left before Jones is labeled a finished product, but when the outfielder was demoted to minor-league camp on Tuesday, he left without swinging and missing at a single pitch all camp long across 15 at-bats. Add in the monster homer, and we’re certainly closer to Jones’ peak than we were last October.

Yankees top prospect Spencer Jones didn’t swing and miss in 2024 MLB spring training

Of course, Jones will be called up, at some point, to fill in for the big-leaguers on a travel day, and when he does so, he’ll probably swing and miss. But why let that spoil the fun? Round numbers rule, and his demotion marks an official line of demarcation, in our eyes. It is decreed. Zero whiffs.

Jones is extremely likely to repeat Double-A to start the year, and (probably) won’t be under consideration for an MLB role until next spring’s camp (pending a Yankees collapse that results in a ‘play the kids’ ticket-selling cameo like in 2023).

If he can climb to Triple-A by August, after carrying his lessons learned through the Eastern League, that would rank as a stunning success — and a great reason to stop checking Dylan Cease’s box scores.

https://youtu.be/h6NO4J0BK-s