Here's what to know about Domínguez's debut

September 2nd, 2023

HOUSTON -- Jasson Domínguez's aggressive burst out of the batter’s box caught Aaron Boone’s attention, prompting the Yankees manager to perk up at his dugout perch. It was the ninth inning of a Grapefruit League game -- March 16 against the Pirates, to be exact -- and the super-prospect known as “The Martian” was spicing up a sleepy affair by legging out a hustle double.

“You really saw him accelerate and see him run the way he is able to when he really gets to top speed,” Boone recalled this week. “For being built the way he is, kind of stocky and thick, that jumped out at me -- like, ‘Whoa, there's another gear there.’”

One of the most celebrated international prospects in recent memory -- having drawn early comparisons to Bo Jackson, Mickey Mantle and Mike Trout before scoring a $5.1 million signing bonus out of the Dominican Republic -- Domínguez can begin forging his own big league story on Friday. The Yankees added the switch-hitting outfielder to the active roster, along with catcher Austin Wells, from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Domínguez batted fifth in the lineup and played center field in his debut.

"I think it's going to be a very special moment, when you look back and I see where I've come from, where I was born, the journey to get here," Domínguez said through an interpreter. "When you start thinking about all that, it's definitely going to be a special moment."

What position will Domínguez play?

With Harrison Bader having been claimed off waivers by the Reds on Thursday, center field is open for Domínguez to pick up regular playing time through September.

The majority of Domínguez’s professional experience has been in center field (208 starts in 295 games), though with a nod to their needs at the big league level, the Yankees did begin offering him reps in left field this season (47 starts, 44 of which came with Double-A Somerset).

“He’s capable playing out there [in center field],” Boone said. “We've obviously played him in left some, too, this year, trying to start to introduce the corner to him. He has, again, all the raw tools to do it: arm strength, speed, but still an improving player out there as well.”

Why is this happening now?

With the Yankees last in the American League East and in danger of their first losing season since 1992, management has made a conscious shift toward next season. Domínguez’s promotion follows moves to offer more playing time to younger prospects like infielder Oswald Peraza and outfielder Everson Pereira.

It helps that Domínguez has been on fire since his promotion to Triple-A, batting .419 (13-for-31) with three doubles, one triple, 10 RBIs and three stolen bases in nine games. Domínguez slashed .254/.367/.414 with 15 homers, 66 RBIs and 37 stolen bases in 109 games at Somerset, and the Yankees were going to have to add him to the 40-man roster this offseason anyway to prevent Domínguez from being claimed in the Rule 5 Draft.

As should be expected of a 20-year-old, Domínguez is hardly a finished product; in some respects, he’s still quite raw. It will be a challenge to cut down his swings and misses against big league pitching; he has struck out 133 times in 456 at-bats this season, though those numbers improved in the second half.

“He's got power, bat speed and strike zone discipline. He's had that really from a young age, the ability to understand the strike zone,” Boone said. “We even saw that in Spring Training; you just saw a lot of real quality at-bats. So he has all the physical and raw tools you need, coupled with the DNA to control the strike zone. Now it's a matter of, can you take that to the highest level in the land and do it consistently there? That's what we'll start to see.”

How highly is Domínguez rated?

MLB Pipeline ranked Domínguez as the Yankees’ No. 2 prospect and has him listed at No. 77 overall in baseball.

Will he play every day?

Boone said that he plans to use Domínguez as the starting center fielder. It's an extended audition as the Yankees evaluate if Domínguez could be their answer at that position for the 2024 season.

What uniform number will Domínguez wear?

No. 89, sticking with the number he was issued this spring (Wells will wear No. 88). Domínguez was wearing No. 7 at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, which is retired for Mantle. He was wearing No. 12 at Somerset, which currently belongs to Isiah Kiner-Falefa.

Anything else fans should know?

At 20 years and 206 days old, Domínguez is the youngest Yankee to appear in a Major League game since right-hander Jose Rijo on July 6, 1984, at Minnesota. He's the youngest Yankees position player since Stan Javier (20 years, 97 days) on April 15, 1984, vs. the White Sox.

With Domínguez, Wells, Pereira and Anthony Volpe all in the Yanks' starting lineup on Friday, it marks the first time since Sept. 18, 1969, that the Yankees had four players age 23 or younger start. Then, it was Ron Blomberg (21), Frank Tepedino (21), Thurman Munson (22) and Bobby Murcer (23) against the Washington Senators.