A version of this story was first published in November 2020.
Jasson Dominguez had big news and he couldn’t wait to share it.
It had been a few months since the outfielder had signed with the Yankees for $5.1 million, and apart from buying his parents a home in the Dominican Republic, he had not made any big purchases for himself. It had never been a priority.
But this day was different, and he wanted his agent, Gio Rodriguez, to see what a young millionaire could do with his money. Dominguez was now well-off -- rags-to-riches rich overnight -- and sometimes, being young and wealthy means buying an expensive high-performance sports car just because. Rodriguez nervously walked with Dominguez toward the only car in an otherwise empty parking lot.
“This is my Bugatti,” Dominguez said with a proud grin. Then the pair burst into belly-laughs.
“He bought himself a Honda Accord, and I’m not even sure it was new,” Rodriguez said. “That’s just the kind of person he is. There’s no flash. He just needed something safe and reliable to get back and forth from the field each day. This guy is not buying into the hype. His goal is to prove to the Yankees that they signed the right kid and earn everything he gets.”
Dominguez, who ranked No. 1 on MLB.com’s Top 30 International Prospects list in 2019, is the youngest prospect on the 2021 Top 100 Prospects list by more than a year and one of the most anticipated prospects in the game. When he debuted on MLB Pipeline's list of baseball's top 100 prospects in 2019, his No. 72 ranking was the highest ever given to an international amateur immediately after signing in July.
Not bad for a player who just turned 18 on Sunday.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dominguez is still waiting to make his pro debut, but has already drawn athletic comparisons to Bo Jackson, Mickey Mantle and Mike Trout. The Yankees did not select him to participate at the alternate training site during the regular season in 2020, and it’s uncertain where the switch-hitting outfielder will start or finish the '21 season.
“The year 2020 was a lot different than what I expected,” Dominguez said in Spanish. “I expected to play my first professional season and get to experience what that felt like. I wanted to live the experience, but COVID changed everything. But I learned how to adapt. What I’ve learned, and what I think everyone in the world is learning, is how to adapt and live with what is happening.”
Dominguez was in Florida training with the Yankees Minor Leaguers at the club’s complex in Tampa when baseball was shut down because of the virus. He quarantined at the team hotel and admits the adjustment to life without baseball and family was a challenge. Dominguez visited extended family in New Jersey to combat the loneliness and eventually returned home to the D.R. when the airports opened up. He never stopped training throughout the shutdown and his workouts intensified once he made it back to the island.
“My hope for next season is to meet the expectations I have for myself and people have of me,” Dominguez said. “That’s my goal and that’s why I’ve never stopped working out.”
Each day Dominguez drives two hours each way on the bumpy and curvy roads from his home in the northern city of Santiago to the outskirts of San Cristobal to work out at the Charlie Nova Baseball Academy with trainer Pedro Pichardo. The teen reluctantly bought a newer -- but not a brand-new -- mid-size sports utility vehicle after being convinced that the drive to and from the baseball academy was going to ruin his sedan.
“On a normal day, I wake up at 6, eat breakfast and spend the morning doing baseball activities,” Dominguez said. “In the afternoon, there’s a lot more hitting and gym time. It’s a normal routine.”
Dominguez is being modest. He routinely flips oversized tires as part of his workout and swings a heavy bat loaded with cement. There’s also lots of core work along with flexibility and agility drills. The goal is to add strength, improve his conditioning and make his body leaner. The approach seems to be working. The 5-foot-10 Dominguez weighed 190 pounds when he signed with the Yankees on July 2, 2019. He’s closer to 210 pounds now and videos of his physical prowess have gone viral on social media.
Dominguez often sleeps at the academy in his own dorm room alongside Dominican teens hoping to sign during upcoming international periods. In many ways, he acts like he is still chasing a big signing bonus. In other ways, he shows maturity beyond his 18 years. His makeup has been described as “out of this world,” which is fitting for a player nicknamed “The Martian” for his cosmic abilities.
“Being a professional is totally different,” Dominguez said. “It’s about discipline and respecting the game. There’s punctuality and getting better on the field. For me, I also want to get better at English.”
The life of a teenage millionaire is a unique one, so Dominguez leans on White Sox outfielder Nomar Mazara, who signed with the Rangers for $5 million at 16 in 2011, for advice on life, on and off the field. He also chats with former Mets outfielder Fernando Martinez, a former top international prospect who never lived up to the hype in the big leagues, about the game’s challenges. Dominguez has also spent time learning from Phillies shortstop Jean Segura and Cardinals prospect Elehuris Montero.
For their part, the Yankees remain in contact with their prized prospect and are keeping a close eye on him. Dominguez has been instructed to work on hitting breaking balls and offspeed pitches because he doesn’t expect to see a ton of fastballs. International scouting director Donny Rowland, assistant scouting director Edgar Mateo and staff discovered Dominguez and brought him into the organization. Kevin Reese, the club’s director of player development, and his staff will be instrumental in the teen’s development as a player, and they can’t wait to see more of him.
“I’ve known J.D. since he was 13 and he’s been working out two or three times a day since he was a kid,” Mateo said. “He’s relentless, just unstoppable and then he has God-given tools that separate him. He also understands that it’s a process and he’s a long way from the big leagues. He knows there’s a lot to be done before his mission is accomplished, and that’s why he works so hard.”
Off the field, Dominguez doesn’t take himself too seriously. He loves social media, goofing around with his friends, and is mastering the art of self-deprecating humor. He can’t believe that some of his baseball cards are being sold for thousands of dollars online and jokes that he should save a few cards for himself just in case the baseball thing doesn’t pan out.
Dominguez never stops smiling. Life is good.
“I’m just grateful to God that the Yankees were one of the teams that made me one of the biggest offers,” Dominguez said. “I’m very fortunate I was able to sign with them, and I’m going to show them what I can do.”