The Yankees have secured the top talent on the international market and continue to stock their system with elite international prospects.
Jasson Dominguez, the top prospect on MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 International Prospects list, has signed a deal with the Yankees for $5.1 million, and outfielder Jhon Diaz (No. 18) has agreed to $1.2 million, according to sources.
At the start of the international signing period Tuesday, the Yankees announced the signings of 11 prospects in total, six from the Dominican Republic, two from Colombia, two from Venezuela and one from Panama. Those 11 include Dominguez, but not Diaz, whose agreement has not been confirmed by the club.
Dominguez is strong, athletic and has a mature body for his age (16). The outfielder could be the first position player in his class to make it to the Major Leagues because he has the tools scouts love to see in emerging young prospects and is able to use them in games.
Dominguez was born to be a Yankee. He was named after Jason Giambi and has dreamed of being in pinstripes for much of his life. He had plenty of options, Dominguez said, but there was only one real destination.
“I’ve always wanted to be a Yankee,” Dominguez said by phone from the Dominican Republic. “It’s a dream come true. I’m very happy to be taking this first step of my professional career. My goal is to be the best I can be and be an example for generations in the future.”
At the plate, the teen has a smooth, compact swing with excellent bat speed from both sides of the plate. He has shown good bat control, can drive the ball into the gaps and hit for power to all fields. Dominguez squares up the ball and has an advanced approach with a good understanding of the strike zone. On defense, Dominguez has shown good footwork, soft hands and he takes good routes. He also has a strong arm.
“He is an elite level athlete, and he has elite baseball tools,” Yankees director of international scouting Donny Rowland said in a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon. “He’s the kind of player who makes the hair on your arm stand up.”
In acquiring Dominguez, the Yankees invested nearly all of their $5,398,300 international bonus pool funds on one player, a decision Rowland says was an easy one.
“Very rarely would I go that route. We’ve signed a lot of international players per year, and we like to diversify and we like volume,” Rowland said. “But in this case, every now and then the right player comes along, [and] this one’s worth it. To a man, everyone on my staff agreed.”
When he first saw Dominguez play, two years ago, Rowland needed to confirm with Yankees scouts that what he was seeing on the field was what they were seeing on a daily basis. It seemed unbelievable.
“The answer is yes,” Rowland said. “It was a bit shocking and very impressive. Over time, he just continued to show the same, if not better, tools and performance.”
Dominguez, whom the Yankees will develop as a center fielder, immediately becomes one of baseball’s most intriguing prospects. But when asked about the comparisons he’s drawn to Mike Trout, Rowland pushed back.
“I don’t like to put comparisons like that on a 16-year-old player, and I really don’t want to,” he said. “I think he’s going to be Jasson Dominguez, and I don’t want to put him in the same vein as some people who have done incredible things in our game. I don’t think it’s fair to them or to him.
“I do know that he’s got incredible tools, elite athleticism and he’s got incredible upside. Now it’s up to him -- and obviously we’re going to do a good job of developing him through our player development system -- and where it turns out and where he ends up being compared, you know, hopefully 20 years from now, I think that’ll all take care of itself.”
As for Diaz, he has a lot in common with players like Ozzie Albies and Rougned Odor when they were teens.
Among his biggest assets are his approach at the plate and good bat speed through the strike zone. He consistently makes hard contact, and he drives the ball to all fields. Scouts praise his smooth swing and hitting mechanics.
The teen is also a plus runner who has the type of speed that can make defenders rush their throws. On defense, he has the potential to be an above-average center fielder with an above-average arm.
The Yankees also announced the signings of the following players:
Gerardo Abrego, RHP, 18, Panama
Jeison Anilo, 2B, 17, Colombia
Jose Bernabe, RHP, 17, Dominican Republic
Jesus Bravo, C, 17, Colombia
Yordi Pichardo, RHP, 16, Dominican Republic
Miguel Pozo, LHP, 17, Dominican Republic
Angel Sanchez, RHP, 18, Venezuela
Geralmi Santana, RHP, 18, Dominican Republic
Felixander Severino, CF, 19, Dominican Republic
Luis Urbano, LHP, 16, Venezuela
New York has also been linked to power-hitting third baseman Enger Castellano.
Teams are allowed to trade as much of their international pool money as they would like, but can only acquire 60 percent of a team's initial pool amount. Additionally, signing bonuses of $10,000 or less do not count toward a club's bonus pool, and foreign professional players who are at least 25 years of age and have played in a foreign league for at least six seasons are also exempt.
Under the previous system, teams were penalized for exceeding their bonus pools with consequences that ranged from taxes on their spending to the maximum penalty, which was being prohibited from signing any prospect for more than $300,000 during the next two signing periods. That’s no longer the case and there are no longer penalties. Teams can only spend their allotted bonus pools and the monies acquired via trade.
Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com.