For the first time since the arrival of former prospects like Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres, the Yankees have potential stars on the horizon. Highlighting that group of prospects are none other than Anthony Volpe and Jasson Dominguez. As you all know, Dominguez was compared to the likes of Mike Trout and Mickey Mantle at the tender age of 16. Volpe’s story is a bit different. Drafted as a shortstop in the late first round of the 2019 draft, Volpe’s expectations off the jump were a 45 future value player. That’s basically a major leaguer who is a fringe starter.
The two players entered professional baseball in their teens with strikingly different expectations. Before Dominguez even played a game in the states, he was a top-100 prospect with an amazing nickname: The Martian. His body was developed for his age, and still is. He stands out among his peers for that reason. I’m not here to exoticize Dominguez like we often do Latin American and international players his age by telling you he is immortal. He is a young kid who is incredibly strong and athletic, making his presence on the field stick out among his peers. His speed, power, and arm strength are that of major leaguers in their prime.
In contrast, Volpe was not that person upon being drafted. He had impressive baseball skills that showed in game. He demonstrated quality barrel control and baseball instincts in high school but did not have the raw power that would project him to hit 27 home runs in his first full season of professional baseball. Along with that, he did not possess a swing that would indicate that type of in-game power either. Some people hinted at Volpe’s physical maturity being maxed out when he was drafted, but we know today that was not at all the case. Be wary of making those assumptions with kids.
Their development paths juxtapose one another as well. It’s been said over and over again that Dominguez did not play much organized ball while he was still an amateur player. The video on him was limited, as well as the stories of his batting practice. His path in the minor leagues will focus on bringing out what we have seen in practice style settings. Yes, he can hit the ball over 110 mph, but the next step will be refining his hit tool and ensuring he doesn’t become a one-dimensional hitter.
For Volpe, we have already seen what was probably the most important year in his development. He added muscle, proving those wrong that an 18-year-old kid had already maxed out his physical potential. In today’s game, even those who are already physically mature can change their bodies, let alone a teenager. On top of that, he added arm strength to his game, giving him an opportunity to stick at shortstop upon his arrival to the big leagues. Lastly, he added the loft to his swing that so many contact-oriented hitters attempt to do without sacrificing the bat control made him a first-round draft pick.
The credit here goes to both Volpe and the Yankees development staff. Empowering and enabling Volpe to make the changes necessary to dramatically change his future value outlook (which is now a 60 according to FanGraphs) is remarkable. Alternatively, making sure that Dominguez gets the most out of his tools as his career develops will be just as vital. I’m not talking about making sure Dominguez becomes Mickey Mantle. That’s not a fair expectation. However, I do think it will say a lot about the club if they do in fact guide Dominguez down a path which results in him getting above average outcomes relative to somebody with his tools.
To lead the development of two players with such juxtaposing profiles will prove that the Yankees are capable of making the most of a specific player’s skillset. By that, I mean this; There is a difference between a system falling in love with several players with similar tools and making that work, versus a system which finds players with outlier skills, no matter what those skills are, and makes the most out of them. Versatility in development paths will go a long, long way. It will help the team avoid creating unbalanced rosters, and keep the organization flexible into the future.
That’s not to say that targeting a specific player type is necessarily a bad thing. You should always be searching for the next competitive advantage. It’s more to say that diversifying your goals and development paths can ensure that you’re not missing out on the next big thing in player development.
All that said, it’s important to give these players time. Volpe and Dominguez are both young as can be, and neither have played in the upper levels of the minor leagues. Volpe is developing a body of work, and Dominguez has entered spring training looking fantastic. Barring poor health, I’m expecting both players to thrive this season in their own unique ways.