How The Martian fits in Yanks' outfield plans

May 27th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Bryan Hoch’s Yankees Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

The swing looked short, quick and powerful as ever, with powering a fastball over the right-field wall of a ballfield in New Hampshire this past Saturday, marking the top prospect’s first home run of the 2024 season.

It also represented “The Martian’s” first long ball in a game since undergoing Tommy John surgery, an encouraging sign as the switch-hitting outfielder continues to progress back toward the big leagues, where he impressed in an all-too-brief eight-game cameo last September.

But the Yankees have made it clear that they have no intention of rushing the 21-year-old back to The Show, and with a crowded outfield in the Bronx, Domínguez could be ticketed for several more weeks of riding buses in the high Minors.

MLB’s No. 31 prospect, Domínguez belted a two-run homer off New Hampshire Fisher Cats right-hander Trent Clifton on Saturday evening, coming in the eighth game of a Minor League rehab assignment. Domínguez collected three hits in the game, helping his Somerset Patriots to a 5-3 victory.

It was Domínguez’s first homer since Sept. 8, when he went deep off the Brewers’ Colin Rea at Yankee Stadium. Two days later, Domínguez was diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow, interrupting a rise to the Majors that began with a $5.1 million signing bonus in 2019.

How Domínguez fits into the puzzle for a first-place Yankees team with a 37-18 record, two games ahead of the Orioles in the American League East, remains to be seen. From left to right, the Bombers’ outfielders (Alex Verdugo, Aaron Judge and Juan Soto) are all healthy and productive. With Judge’s scorching May washing away a difficult April, the captain and Soto are both in the thick of the AL MVP discussion.

Trent Grisham is the club’s reserve outfielder, and though he has just two hits in 36 at-bats (.056), it makes little sense to have Domínguez in the Majors without the ability to offer significant playing time. Designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton is also punishing baseballs regularly, much healthier than he was at any point last season.

Thus, it’s likely that the Yankees will option Domínguez to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre when his rehab assignment expires, providing more development time for a player who only logged 37 plate appearances at the Triple-A level last season -- at least, until an opportunity to contribute opens up in the Bronx, or until rosters expand in September.

One thing is certain: once he gets that call, Domínguez should stick in the big leagues for a long time.

“I always feel like I’ve been one of the high guys on Jasson,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said earlier this month. “Going back to last spring, I’m like, 'This guy’s a big leaguer.' There’s no doubt in my mind he’s going to have a really good Major League career. … Now, when does that happen? When does he really take off and pop and all that? That always is an unknown and remains to be seen. Everyone’s trajectory is different. But I am confident in the person and the talent.”

Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre: Right-hander Alex Mauricio has lowered his ERA to 1.08, permitting a run in just two of 13 appearances. Over 25 innings, the 27-year-old has held opponents to four runs (three earned), with 26 strikeouts against eight walks. A 27th-round pick by the Yankees in 2017, Mauricio retired in December '19 but he returned to baseball for the ’22 season.

Double-A Somerset: The catching tandem of No. 20 prospect Agustín Ramírez (12 home runs, 86 total bases) and No. 12 prospect Ben Rice (11 home runs and 75 total bases) has combined for 23 home runs and 161 total bases this season, with Ramírez leading the Eastern League in both categories.

High-A Hudson Valley: Outfielder Rafael Flores has made an instant impact since being reinstated from the injured list on May 10. Over his last 14 games, Flores has 16 hits with seven doubles and 12 RBIs, raising his OPS from .676 to .829.

Single-A Tampa: Right-hander Cade Smith owns a 2.41 ERA across eight games (seven starts). In 37 1/3 innings, Smith has held opponents to 14 runs (10 earned) and 23 hits, with just one home run allowed. Smith, the Yanks’ No. 23 prospect, has struck out 46 batters against 18 walks.