By Jeff Moeller, The New York Extra/thenyextra.com
It was batting practice before a recent June in Allentown, and Trey Amburgey’s Rail Riders’ teammates stopped and watched him line deep shots in all fields of Coca-Cola Park.
According to his teammates, it wasn’t the first time. The veteran minor league has appeared to have found his niche.
Over the past month, Amburgey has spent his time spraying balls to all fields during games, too.
The 26-year-old outfielder, who had been in the Yankees’ system since he was a 13th-round pick in the 2015 draft, increasingly has been recognized as a possible call-up to the parent club to replace Clint Frazier in the lineup. Through Friday, Frazier was hitting .184.
The question that could haunt Yankees’ fans about him is – If he is called up, will he flop like Frazier?
So far, the early returns are good for the well-traveled Amburgey through the Yankees’ chain.
“He is hitting the ball solidly, and he is playing with a lot of confidence,” said one scout, who wished to reaming anonymous and has watched Amburgey play all season. “He is a five-tool player who deserves a chance. If he continues to do well, he should get a look.”
Through Friday’s game, the 6-2, 210-pound, right-handed Amburgey was hitting .351 with a team-high six homers and 32 RBIs. Amburgey has spent some brief stints on the injured list, but he primarily plays outfield and has been a designated hitter. He can also play first base. He recently set a new Railriders’ record for reaching based in 33 consecutive games.
Amburgey made a splash at Double-A Trenton in 2018 when he had an OPS of .718 with 16 homer and 25 doubles in 125 games with 74 RBIs and a .258 average. The following year at Scranton, Amburgey hit 22 homers with 62 RBIs with 31 doubles and a .274 average with an .822 OPS.
In 521 career games and six seasons, Amburgey has 65 homers, 287 RBIs, 112 doubles, .273 average, and a .769 OPS.
Despite his meteoric rise, Amburgey has taken a subtle approach to his success.
“It is just confidence,” Amburgey said. “After not playing last year, I just want to go out there and play and whatever happens, happens. Mechanically I haven’t done anything different. I have just tried to stay with the pitch.
“I tend to pull the ball, but I have had more hits up the middle. Sometimes, guys make fun of me pulling the ball, but I’m just trying to make the best contact. I have worked to hit to all fields, and it seems to be working out.”
On the brink of recognition after a strong 2019 season, Amburgey stayed in his native Florida and worked out at St. Petersburg College, his alma mater.
“I was at home with my wife and my dog,” he stated. “I tried to work as much as I could. I was able to spend a lot of time with my college and it helped keep me in shape.”
Amburgey was a non-roster invitee to the Yankees’ camp this spring before he was assigned to the Scranton from the alternate training site.
Like he has through his career, Amburgey took it in stride.
“With all the protocols, it was a little different this year,” Amburgey said. “I was able to go to the minor league complex and get my hitting and fielding in.
“I felt pretty comfortable from the start here. Scranton was pretty wide open, and I able to stay on my game.”
Amburgey is enjoying his ride in Scranton, as the Railriders have been in first place all season.
“I have played on some good teams, but this may be the best,” offered Amburgey. “We do have a lot of talent here. It’s been fun.”
With pressure mounting about Frazier, Amburgey would welcome an opportunity to begin his big –league career.
“I’m aware of it,” he said. “To say it hasn’t bothered me a little bit would be a lie. At the same time, I can’t control that. I’m ready, whenever. I just have to come out here and handle my business.
Personally, I think I have been ready since (2019). That’s when a lot of coaches thought I would be there. Whenever they call me up, I’m ready to go.”