What to expect from Yanks prospect Domínguez in bigs

August 31st, 2023

It would be nearly impossible for Jasson Domínguez to live up to advanced billing.

When you sign as a 16-year old and are compared to Bo Jackson, Mickey Mantle and Mike Trout -- add in the typical New York hype machine -- nothing short of a Triple Crown and a Nobel Peace Prize would do, right? And the crazy thing is, those comps came from a scouting industry that typically isn’t fond of hyperbole.

So here we are, on the verge of seeing the kid named “The Martian” (because of his otherworldly tools) make his Major League debut. How can we separate myth from reality, fact from fiction, to figure out what’s fair to expect of a 20-year-old phenom pushed to the highest level for the first time?

The hype machine only grew when we couldn’t see Domínguez in a competitive game until 2021, with video clips of him mashing baseballs whetting our collective appetite. The Yankees have never hesitated to give their No. 2 prospect aggressive assignments, starting with bumping him quickly to full-season Tampa in that debut season. MLB's No. 78 prospect played a total of 57 games that season, and while he certainly held his own as the second-youngest hitter in the league and showed off glimpses of the raw tools that had evaluators so excited from the outset, he also struck out in more than 30 percent of his plate appearances, concerning some.

To his credit, that strikeout rate shrank in a 2022 campaign that saw him play across three levels. He did his best work with High-A Hudson Valley (.306/.397/.510 in 40 games) and finished the year with an OPS of .837. His wRC+ of 135 put him in the top 60 of all Minor Leaguers with at least 400 plate appearances. Maybe that’s not extraterrestrial qualities, but given that he was just 19 and had already touched the upper levels, it was solid. Despite a rough Arizona Fall League campaign, we still ranked him No. 47 on our Top 100 list at the start of the 2023 season.

This year has been a tale of two halves. Domínguez looked lost for much of the first few months of the year. Starting back with Double-A Somerset, the outfielder was staring at a .197/.345/.357 line at the end of June. While he did have 10 homers and 17 steals to go along with a walk rate north of 18 percent, he also was striking out at a 28 percent clip. He seemed very human. Looking back, that clearly was a reason why when we did our full re-rank this month, many evaluators gave us feedback to pump the brakes a bit, which is why he’s at No. 78 currently.

Since the calendar flipped to July, though, he’s been much closer to the prospect many have expected to see. Including his brief but torrid stop in Triple-A before getting called up, Domínguez hit .346/.418/.507 from July 1 on, with five more home runs and 22 more steals. He still drew walks, albeit at a lower clip (11.3 percent), but his strikeout rate also plummeted down to 19.7 percent over that time span. That allowed him to raise his wRC+ to 121 (100 is average).

He played just nine games with Scranton-Wilkes Barre, posting a 1.094 OPS while with the RailRiders, and the last two months of performance have people once again very excited to see what comes next. But again to maybe try to offset the hype machine, that puts him No. 126 among all Minor Leaguers with at least 400 plate appearances. For comparison sake, the Orioles’ Jackson Holliday leads all of those hitters with 169 wRC+.

The switch-hitter still has a ton of bat speed and is capable of hitting the ball extremely hard. He continues to be a slightly better hitter from the left side of the plate; in 2023, he had a 25 percent miss rate as a left-handed hitter and 32 percent from the right side, according to Synergy. This isn’t a suggestion to rest him against tough southpaws the rest of the way, but more a warning to temper expectations when a lefty is facing the Yankees.

Early in the year, Domínguez seemed to be struggling with swing decisions, at times being too passive and then being overly aggressive in other plate appearances, leading to those walk and strikeout rates. Something has clicked over the past two months in that regard, and the Yankees have to hope that can continue against the toughest pitching he’s ever faced.

As with many young hitters, Domínguez doesn’t miss many fastballs, with just a 21 percent miss rate and an OPS of .856 against heaters. Expect him to see a lot of spin in the big leagues. This year in the Minors, Domínguez had a 30 percent miss rate against all breaking balls and a chase rate of 31 percent, and he also had a 35 percent miss rate against offspeed stuff. His ability to recognize and do damage against soft stuff will be a key to his offensive success.

While Domínguez has slowed down a bit and is very strong and compact at 5-foot-9, 190 pounds, he has continued to be an aggressive and successful asset on the basepaths, with 40 steals this year and 77 over the last two years combined. His ability to draw walks and steal bags should help him even if it takes him some time to adjust to big league pitching.

It seemed at the outset of his career that Domínguez might be a five-tool beast in center field. Now it seems that the jury is out on that, and some scouts don’t love his hands or his defensive instincts up the middle. He’s played a lot of left field this year, and he does have plenty of arm strength for either corner.

There could be some bumps at the outset as he gets his feet wet, but what he’s done in the Minors this year is a good sign that he’s able to make adjustments as he’s challenged.