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Early season prospect overreactions to avoid

The Yankees’ affiliates are just getting started, and it’s never too early to be wary about snap judgments.

MLB: FEB 28 Spring Training - Yankees at Rays
Spencer Jones
Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s early in the minor league season, really early even. Teams have barely played 10 percent of their schedule so far, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early for some fans to make snap judgments about some of these prospects. Overreactions are the hallmark of the fan, and social media buzzes with hot takes throughout the season.

Below are some rational responses to those lightly-formed opinions.

Overreaction: Jasson Domínguez is struggling

He’s really not.

Yes, Domínguez’s numbers don’t look good right now. He’s .081/.286/.189 in 49 plate appearances. He has a .095 BABIP, which implies he isn’t hitting the ball hard. He has a strikeout rate of 32.7 percent, which is higher than we’d like it to be.

On the other hand, there’s a difference between having poor results and having a poor process. Domínguez isn’t overmatched. His at-bats have still been good. His walk rate of 22.4 percent is terrific, and when you start putting these ideas together it seems like Domínguez is getting deep into counts and making good swing decisions, but he’s not having enough in-zone contact or contact quality. He launched his first home run on April 18, and it was the type of majestic bomb that reminds us all of his pure ability. We’re likely going to see more of that going forward, and it is probably just a matter of time before his numbers straighten out.

Overreaction: Spencer Jones is now the Yankees’ clear-cut top prospect

Maybe! But only maybe. Coming out of spring training, Anthony Volpe had made the big league club, Oswald Peraza had been sent to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and Jasson Domínguez had created a ton of buzz with his loud performance in the games of March. It would be natural to anoint the Martian as the clear top prospect in the organization, and he very well may be, but now here comes Spencer Jones.

Other than an unfavorable strikeout percentage of 31.9, all of Jones’ numbers are what you’d like to see from a talented first-round draft pick jumping to High-A in his first full season. A slash line of .317/.363/.659 looks pretty good after a couple weeks of games, and his three home runs have each gone to a different part of the ballpark. A .417 BABIP helps indicate that Jones is hitting the ball hard, and he’s cut his groundball rate by 20 percentage points from last year. Hitting the ball hard in the air is a recipe of success for Jones, and when you add in that he’s been able to show speed on the bases and an arm in center field, you have the total package the organization was hoping to see.

It’s still very early in the season, and it would not be a surprise if Jones had a prolonged slump at some point, but it is just as likely he hits his way to Double-A by some time this summer.

Overreaction: Justin Lange is now a top-10 prospect in the system

Hold on. It’s been two starts. They’ve been two really good starts, but only two nonetheless. It’s fair to be excited about how they’ve looked and my colleague Andrés recently detailed Lange’s promise, but he wouldn’t argue for Lange to be a top-10 prospect, either.

Lange struggling with control outweighs what we’ve seen so far in April, but the first couple of outings give us reason for hope. In the previous two seasons, Lange had walk percentages of 14.7 and 17.4, respectively, but this year he’s started off at 5.4. The pitch data is really exciting so far:

If he can harness that consistently, Lange is going to take off. He’s a good athlete, he has an electric arm, and he absolutely has the talent to finish the year as one of the ten best prospects in the Yankees’ organization, but he will need to get at least 50 or 75 innings under his belt in Tampa before excitement turns into confidence.

Overreaction: Andrés Chaparro is hitting his way into the Yankees’ lineup

Chaparro is hitting, but it’s not clear how, when, or why he’ll get a chance with the Yankees. They had a chance to protect him from selection in the Rule 5 Draft this winter and didn’t do it, which was probably more of a calculated risk than a statement about their lack of belief in the player. Chaparro still doesn’t have a clear defensive home or project to play even average defense at either corner in the big leagues, and we’ve seen the Yankees go with defense over offense in recent personnel moves.

That’s not to say Chaparro’s defense will keep him out of the Bronx altogether, but, coupled with the necessary 40-man roster move it would take to get him there, it makes it more difficult for him to break through. Chaparro now has 7 home runs in his last 10 games, he’s hitting .333 during that time, and the Yankees are down right-handed power hitters Giancarlo Stanton and Josh Donaldson. More injuries or an extended lack of power from the offense might change the mind of the front office, and there are perhaps some DH at-bats to be had, but it still appears for the time being that Chaparro’s Bronx debut is not imminent.

Overreaction: Tampa has no position player prospects

Not so fast. The oldest players on the position player roster are 22 years old. While it is fair to have performance expectations relative to age, you also have to take into account the number of innings and at-bats players have been able to experience.

For example, the Tarpons’ leader in OPS (.926) is outfielder Nelson Medina. He is 22, but he has 509 career at-bats, and he’s been in the organization since 2018. That’s a season’s worth of at-bats spread out a little over five years, and a grand total of 33 of those at-bats have come in a full-season league. Yes, the Tarpons have struggled to score runs, they’ve struck out a lot, and they are hitting .186/.299/.264 as a team, but it’s early, they’re young and inexperienced, and outfielder Anthony Hall (last year’s fourth-rounder out of Oregon) has just started to play.

This group of players will need to work on swing decisions and controlling the strike zone throughout the season, and players may begin to emerge if improvements are made in those areas. At the very least, Hall, catcher Agustin Ramirez, and second baseman Jared Serna are worth following in the box scores right now, and eyes can be kept on the progress of players like Medina and outfielder Daury Arias.

All cited numbers were active as of the beginning of play on Friday, April 21st.