Anthony Volpe and Jasson Dominguez have been in the news a lot for the Yankees lately during minor league camp. The No. 1 and No. 2 prospects in the team’s system have garnered astronomical hype and comparisons to some of the greatest players to ever touch the baseball diamond. Volpe, 20, has been mentioned in the same sentence as Derek Jeter. Dominguez, 19, has been compared to the likes of Bo Jackson, Mickey Mantle and Mike Trout. The legal drinking age in the United States is 21, which means that neither of the two can grab a beer at the local bar, but somehow we’ve already likened them to Hall of Famers before seeing them play higher than High-A ball. Yikes!
As my colleague Jesse alluded a couple weeks ago, it’s best we slow their collective hype train down a little bit —for both their sake and the fans’. The higher the expectations, the more the pressure mounts, and harder it is for them to reach those borderline impossible anticipations. Remember when Gleyber Torres was once hailed as the “next Derek Jeter?” Torres was terrific in his first two seasons in the bigs, but has dropped off since. His defense is among the worst in baseball and that only becomes an even larger problem when he can’t hit consistently enough at the plate.
Torres is still a talented player who has the potential to be a star, but to compare him to one of the greatest people to ever don the pinstripes is absurd, especially how early in his career we started hearing that. Unfortunately, it seems like we haven’t learned the lesson, since it’s still happening with Volpe and Dominguez. I mean, remember when former top prospect Jesús Montero generated more hype than Aaron Judge ever received in his minor league career? It could just be excitement from media and fans, it could just be what you get when you play in New York and for the most illustrious franchise in all of sports, but that doesn’t take away the fact that these are two people who would be denied if they tried to get into a bar on River Ave.
It’s a little funny, because Volpe isn’t helping any when he recently told the media that they call Dominguez a “mini Aaron Donald,” most likely due to his body type and power. Last season, Dominguez played in 49 games for the Tampa Tarpons, hitting .258/.346/.398, including 5 homers, and 18 RBI. That performance shouldn’t be used to completely discount him, not at his young age, but it shows how long the road before Dominguez is, how long those Mantle and Trout comparisons could linger over his head as he tries to develop his nascent game in the minors.
On the flip side, Volpe, who will most likely be playing with the Somerset Patriots in Double-A, could be in the majors in a year or two from now. I’m sure the comparisons to Jeter may only grow louder in the meantime, especially if teammates are observing it as well.
“Yeah, I can definitely see he’s being compared to Jeter now,” said Yankees pitching prospect Ken Waldichuk earlier this month.
Last season, Volpe hit .294/.423/.604 while smashing 27 homers, 35 doubles, 86 RBI, and 33 stolen bases in 109 games over 54 games with Low-A Tampa and the 55 with High-A Hudson Valley. He’s considered one of the best prospects in the game and likely has a bright future, but again, nothing is set in stone.
The fact of the matter is that these two players are very good baseball players. They can both hit exceptionally well and flash the leather. Although both are on the right path to make it to The Show, to immediately deem them as players destined for Monument Park one day is not the best way to appreciate their talents. Let them play and do their thing. Don’t put unnecessary labels on them that they didn’t ask for. For the sake of you, the fan, and them as human beings, stop equating them to Hall of Famers.