After agreeing to sign Shohei Ohtani and agreeing to re-sign Joe Kelly, the Dodgers found themselves needing to eliminate two members of the 40-man roster in order to make room for Ohtani and Kelly. Thus AF/BG engineered a deal with NYY by trading LHRP Victor Gonzalez and INF Jorbit Vivas for 24 year old SS Trey Sweeney.
Sweeney grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and attended St. Xavier High School. As a senior, he batted .389 with 41 RBIs and 18 stolen bases as St. Xavier won the state championship.
Eastern Illinois gave him the only D-1 scholarship offer. While at Eastern Illinois, he was an All American (first in school history), and was Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year. For Eastern Illinois he was known more for his bat than his defense, and was considered one of the best college bats in the draft. Going into the draft, while he was considered a competent defensive SS, it was also believed that Sweeney would have to be moved to a corner position or utility.
In college, he was considered a bat to ball over power hitter, although he did showcase a top SLG. He slashed .382/.522/.712/1.234 with 14 homers in 48 games, walking 46 times with just 24 strikeouts. I am a conference snob when it comes to College Baseball. It is not that quality players cannot come from mid-tier programs, but the players just do not face enough elite competition on a continued basis to know if they can stand up to the best of the best. That was a concern of many scouts before the draft.
Nevertheless, MLB Pipeline named Sweeney one of the 5 draft prospects with a lot of helium going into the draft, and had this to say at the time:
In a year in which college position players who have performed at the plate are at a premium, Sweeney has stood out by hitting .382/.522/.712 with 14 homers and nearly twice as many walks (46) as strikeouts (24). His bat is real — he has outstanding hand-eye coordination and timing at the plate that allows him to make consistent hard contact — and could make him the third first-round pick in Eastern Illinois history.
It only takes one team to make a decision, and NYY chose to go with the elite bat to ball skills and believe that it would translate at the MLB level. Sweeney was the first round pick of NYY in 2021 (20th overall), and signed for $3MM. He was Eastern Illinois’ third first round draft pick.
The defensive critics have been somewhat muted of late. Even though he still does not project to be a GG SS, he has played SS exclusively since signing. The lefty-hitting Sweeney, who draws comps to DJ LeMahieu for his size, hitting ability and versatility, might wind up as a third baseman down the road.
This did not seem to disappoint Sweeney. He was quoted:
“I’ll play wherever they need me to, whenever they ask me to,” Sweeney told Mike Ashmore at My Central Jersey in April. “(Versatility), you want to be as (versatile) as you can, so you can have more opportunities.”
Sweeney moved through the organization without much difficulty. He reached AA in the year after his draft, and played at AA for all of 2023.
Sweeney missed a month on the injured list in Double-A from August to September, and hit .273/.373/.409 in his final 11 games of the season after his return from the IL. For the season, Sweeney batted .252/.367/.411 with 13 home runs, 20 doubles, 20 steals, and a 118 wRC+ for Double-A Somerset in 2023, with a high walk rate (13.8 percent) and low strikeout rate (19.1 percent). Both his strikeout and walk rates were the best of Sweeney’s career.
Sweeney was quoted in a September interview with Dugout Station:
“I think my at-bats have gotten better this year. Getting a full year to experience professional pitching and realize what they do and how they attack your weaknesses.” I’ve been a lot more patient this year. Seeing more pitches helped me grow, for sure.”
The Dodgers, having no true SS prospect at the upper levels, were eager to acquire one. NYY already had a younger and better defensive SS in Anthony Volpe, so the process of moving Sweeney to 3B was still a consideration, as well as a trade option.
Thus on December 11, 2023, the Dodgers acquired Trey Sweeney from NYY for the aforementioned Victor Gonzalez and Jorbit Vivas.
After the trade to LAD, Baseball Prospectus had this to say:
A former first-round pick, Sweeney has never hit a ton in the pros due in part to a funky, longer hand path that has impacted his ability to consistently tap into his above-average raw power—although his swing plane is geared for it. He also has a patient, veering towards passive, approach that can land him in bad counts, although does allow him to garner bunches of walks—at least so far in the minors.
Before the trade, MLB Pipeline rated Sweeney as the #8 NYY prospect. After the trade, MLB Pipeline named Sweeney as the LAD #18 prospect, and said this in his scouting report:
“Though Sweeney employs a big leg kick and has a hitch in his left-handed swing, his uncanny hand-eye coordination allows him to barrel balls and make a lot of hard contact. He struggled at the outset of last season when he got aggressive, but he toned down his approach and did a better job of controlling the strike zone. Factor in his ability to recognize pitches, strength and bat speed, and he has the ingredients to hit for power and average.”
“Sweeney has some deceptive athleticism and has worked to improve his speed, which has gone from below average in college to average as a pro to solid once he gets underway. He swiped 31 bases in 34 attempts last year and also showed improved range at shortstop, where he’s an average defender. He’ll still probably move to third base in the future, and his bat, reliable hands and solid arm strength all will fit nicely at the hot corner.”
Sweeney has been assigned to Tulsa, but I expect him to begin the season with the Oklahoma City Baseball Club (AAA).
— Bruce Kuntz (@Bnicklaus7) December 11, 2023