The Yankees’ best prospect, outfielder Jasson Dominguez, was promoted to Low-A Tampa yesterday after spending some time at the Yankees’ Florida Complex League affiliate over the last couple weeks. The 18-year-old went 4-for-20 with six walks and two steals in what was essentially a tune-up for his real test.
It will be Dominguez’s debut in full-season ball. His performance there will represent our first good, long look at where he is as a prospect and whether the timeline for a call-up he discussed over the weekend at the MLB Futures Game is accurate or not.
As a refresher, Dominguez said that he expects to be ready to help the Yankees in “three or four years,” which would put him in line for a call-up at 21 or 22 years old. To this point, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding Dominguez. We got a glimpse of his potential at the Futures Game, where he laced a hard line drive that found a glove and struck out two times. Beyond that, we haven’t seen him much in live action.
Yankees minor league hitting coach Rachel Balkovec told the story about Dominguez’s willingness to study English by using apps and asking lots of questions, and tied it to the kid’s special makeup and burgeoning leadership. This is what she had to say:
It’s a leadership quality, because it demonstrates that he’s not afraid to fail. He’s not afraid to put himself out there, and other players see that. It’s the simple things — he’s picking up trash, working hard. He’s doing the right things. He just he goes about his business the right way. You can tell who’s emerging as a leader, and he’s definitely one of those people.
Dominguez certainly seems mentally well-equipped to succeed, but his skills on the field — those that have been described as otherworldly — will be challenged in Low-A against some older, more experienced players.
The Yankees know Dominguez has excellent raw power and also carries a plus hit tool, but they will surely be monitoring abilities like strike zone judgment, defense, and how he responds to adversity. The promotion to Tampa was a necessary step for his career, one that will give the Yankees a better idea of what kind of player he is shaping up to be.
Which path will he follow?
Dominguez is toolsy — otherwise, he wouldn’t already be considered the 24th-best prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline. But he is also raw, and could require some patience to fully develop.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., for example, was inked by the Blue Jays in the 2015 international free agent signing period, and he played his first games at the Rookie-advanced level in 2016 (one that no longer exists). He played some Low-A in 2017, and while Toronto undoubtedly seems to have dabbled in service-time chicanery when Guerrero was already an MLB-caliber player, he ultimately made his MLB debut in April 2019 after 227 full-season games in the minors.
The Nationals also signed Juan Soto in 2015, but he was more of an outlier. The superstar virtually jumped from High-A to the big leagues, playing only eight Double-A games before having his timeline accelerated due to the Nats’ injury woes. Soto promptly posted a 3.7-fWAR season in his debut year of 2018. In total, he participated in just 62 full-season games, which is nuts. Even the Padres made Fernando Tatis Jr. play 221 full-season games before letting him skip Triple-A en route to an Opening Day 2019 call-up.
Recent points of comparison on the Yankees are few and far between, though there is Gary Sánchez. As a catcher, he’s not a 1:1 comp since the Bombers signed him in the 2009 amateur free agent period and clearly took their time with his development behind the plate. Sánchez made his debut with a couple of plate appearances in 2015, but needed 589 games in full-season leagues in the minors.
Another highly-regarded former Baby Bomber is Gleyber Torres. The Yankees didn’t control his promotion schedule until he reached High-A and they acquired him from the Cubs, but he’s still worth considering. Like Dominguez, he joined Low-A at age 18 (for Torres, in 2015). It took Torres 323 full-season games until the Yankees called him up in April 2018. As with Guerrero, some service-time chicanery was probably involved with Torres, too, but the point stands.
The timeline would look a lot different had the 2020 pandemic not wreaked havoc everywhere. The Yankees signed Dominguez in 2019, but the cancelled season robbed him — and hundreds of prospects — valuable games and development time. Thus, he didn’t appear in his first Rookie ball games until this past June.
Chances are that Dominguez is a little closer to Torres or Sánchez than to Guerrero or Tatis when it comes to development time, but he will be up when he’s ready.* The team won’t rush him, and he will likely be afforded all the time he needs.
*We can only hope that the soon-to-be-negotiated new CBA changes to avoid teams’ desires to manipulate service time by the time that Dominguez is on the doorstep to The Show.