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The Yankees once saw significant potential in outfielder Jake Sanford before cutting the 2019 third-round pick last week for allegedly stealing from his minor league teammates and scamming people for money online.
The Yankees took Sanford in the third round of the 2019 MLB Draft and the comparisons to Brett Gardner, a mainstay for 14 years in The Bronx, came easily.
“If this one can do what Gardy did, then we’ve had a hell of a Draft on its own,” Yankees director of scouting Damon Oppenheimer told MLB.com at the time. “He really reminds us of [former Rockies All-Star] Brad Hawpe. He’s got huge power; it’s easy, he drives the ball the other way. The combination of the power and the speed he has, being a guy who is kind of young and just starting at this thing, it made him real attractive to us.”
Not only did Sanford possess a similar skillset to the speedy Gardner, but they were also both coached by John Pawlowski in college. Gardner, who was also a third-round pick of the Yankees (2005), played under Pawlowski at Charleston, while Sanford’s time with him came at Western Kentucky.
Sanford, a Nova Scotia, Canada native, was a walk-on to the baseball team at McCook Community College in Nebraska, where he had two breakout seasons. That led to him transferring to Western Kentucky, where he walked-on again.
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“What a great story,” Pawlowski said of Sanford in June 2019, per MLB.com. “It can’t help but jog my memory about when the Yankees selected Gardner in 2005. He’s an athlete, he can run balls down – and he’s just getting started in baseball.
“The more time and effort he puts into it, he already has tremendous power and good bat-to-ball skills, there’s tremendous upside there. He’s got a bright future ahead of him.”
In 2019 at Western Kentucky, he earned the first triple crown in Conference USA history, hitting .402 with 22 home runs and 65 RBIs.
A source told The Post’s Dan Martin the 24-year-old Sanford was released by the Yankees last week after a team investigation found Sanford had stolen from teammates, including equipment that he would then try to sell online. It was first reported by NJ Advance Media.
Sanford allegedly accepted money from prospective buyers for the equipment then failed to deliver the products, the source added.
The outfielder split last season between Low-A Tampa and High-A Hudson Valley, and hit a combined 16 homers and finished an OPS of .823.
Sanford signed with the Ottawa Titans in the Frontier League after being cut by the Yankees. He deactivated his Twitter and Instagram accounts after the news of his release.