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When the Yankees’ top prospects turned their seasons around

After slow starts to the 2022 season, the Yankees’ top three prospects have really turned it on heading into the final stretch of the minor league season.

2021 New York Yankees Photo Day
Oswald Peraza
Photo by Mike Carlson/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Prospect development is not a linear path. Some players do not miss a step as they climb from level to level or start the season out on fire. Others take more time to figure it out. Whether it is a slow start or an adjustment to a new level, those statistics can skew just how well a player has adapted. Let’s take a look at when some of the Yankees’ best prospects turned their 2022 seasons around and how they have been performing since.

Jasson Domínguez came out of the gate very slowly this season. After a somewhat-middling 2021 campaign where he struck out 31.5 percent of the time, “The Martian” got off to a sluggish start back in Low-A Tampa this year, posting just a .204/.218/.278 line in his first 12 games while striking out 36 percent of the time. Combined with his 2021 showing, the grumblings of “bust” were only gaining volume.

However, Domínguez quickly started to turn it around though, as a multi-hit game on April 24th with a home run seemed to spark his offense. Over the next 17 contests, he posted an .804 OPS that was good for a 129 wRC+. It was a big jolt for the Tarpons and their offense, but there were clearly still areas of improvement. His strikeout rate remained high at 33 percent, including a stretch where he struck out eight times in nine plate appearances.

Domínguez took another big step forward starting on May 20th, as he started limiting his strikeouts while registering even better production. In the 63 games since May 20th, Domínguez has a 156 wRC+ while hitting .285/.423/.474 with eight doubles, four triples, and eight homers. The biggest indication that the 19-year-old is progressing is that his strikeout rate has cratered in that span down to just 22.9 percent in his last 267 plate appearances. Domínguez was promoted to High-A Hudson Valley as the result of his improved play and has played well at the level through 17 games.

Known for his elite exit velocities, Domínguez was held back in 2021 by a 50-percent groundball rate. Those numbers have also continued to come down during the season and he is currently putting the ball on the ground just 44 percent of the time at the High-A level. The Yankees and Domínguez will hope to see that number drop further, but it is a clear sign of progress for one of their highest-ceiling prospects.

While fans were waiting for Domínguez to debut and break out in 2021, Anthony Volpe created his own hype by putting together an amazing season. The Yankees’ top pick from the 2019 draft excelled early with Low-A Tampa, and then carried it right through the end of the season with High-A Hudson Valley. By the time the 2021 season was over, Volpe had a 1.027 OPS and was considered one of the best prospects in all of baseball.

There was tremendous excitement and expectations for Volpe’s follow-up in 2022, but he started out slowly at the Double-A level. Following a series with the Altoona Curve in mid-May, Volpe was hitting just .165 on the season with a 67 wRC+. Even for a highly-regarded talent, this is not terribly surprising, as the step up from A-ball to Double-A is considered to be perhaps more difficult than any other jump within the minors.

Starting the next series on May 17th, Volpe began to hit and largely has for the rest of the season. In the 64 games, since he has hit .286/.379/.524, which is good for a sterling 144 wRC+, much more in line with the expectations of a top prospect than his early-season slump.

The prospect who has been on the front of many Yankees fans minds recently is shortstop Oswald Peraza. The 22-year-old has risen through the Yankees system from an unheralded international free agent signing to one of the best prospects in the Yankees system and all of baseball.

After a big 2021 campaign, Peraza started slowly this season and following play on June 10th, he was hitting just .192/.267/.316. On June 11th, however, Peraza began an 11-game hitting streak, where he had multiple hits in seven of the games.

Now 38 games into his hot streak, Peraza is hitting .327/.388/.582, with 10 home runs and 9 doubles in that stretch. Some detractors have pointed to his overall batting average of .255 to point out that he only has mediocre overall numbers on the season, while ignoring the clear change in his performance that is quickly outpacing a small sample size hot streak.

Not every prospect comes out of the gate quickly or immediately ascends to a higher level of play. The overall stats of a season may not reflect the adjustments that a young player has made and where their true performance and ability currently stands. Many of the Yankees’ top prospects have battled through these stages and now they are heading towards the finish line of the Yankees season and putting up big numbers along the way.

All cited statistics were active as of the beginning of play on Friday, August 12th.