TAMPA, Fla. -- Not wanting to overload one of the most celebrated prospects in recent memory, Yankees staffers sometimes hesitate to add kindling to the Jasson Dominguez wildfire, recognizing that expectations are already sky-high for the switch-hitting wunderkind.
Those comparisons to Mickey Mantle, Mike Trout and Bo Jackson never seemed fair, voiced and printed before Dominguez faced so much as a single professional pitch. And yet -- when you watch (and hear) Dominguez barrel balls during a minicamp at the club’s Player Development complex, it’s impossible not to be excited about the 19-year-old’s future.
Dominguez has yet to set foot upon a New York City sidewalk, let alone pass through the gates of Yankee Stadium, though he sometimes watches big league games on television and thinks to himself: “I want to be there. I want to play.”
While director of player development Kevin Reese has yet to reveal where Dominguez will begin the upcoming Minor League season (the safe bet is Low-A Tampa), Dominguez said that he has already set a personal timetable for his arrival in the Bronx -- age 20 or 21, which would mean 2023 or ’24.
Dominguez seemingly has the tools to make that happen, boasting football-type explosiveness in a 5-foot-10, 190-pound package.
“On all of our measurables, he’s right up there with some of the elites in the Major Leagues -- max exit velo, his running speed, overall power for his body type,” Reese said. “It’s really, really good. So I have no concerns with how that plays out over time.”
Despite having appeared in just 56 pro games thus far -- all in 2021 -- Dominguez’s power, speed and athleticism have been well-chronicled. The Yankees spent $5.1 million, nearly all of their July 2019 international bonus pool, to make sure “The Martian” could be fitted for pinstripes.
Regarded as level-headed and mature, Dominguez said he used that instant fortune to purchase a house, then socked away the rest. Dominguez’s Minor League teammates gush about his positive demeanor around the clubhouse and practice fields, and they seem to be locked in on every swing.
When Dominguez launched a long drive toward Dale Mabry Highway in live batting practice on Wednesday afternoon, there was a roar heard from the players waiting their turn behind a chain-link fence on the third-base side. Another cheer was heard later, when he banged a ball off the tall batter’s eye in center field.
When Dominguez met a group of reporters after Wednesday’s workout, he asked to conduct most of the interview in English, proudly displaying language skills he has learned by using Duolingo and Rosetta Stone software.
“He wants to learn anything that he can to help himself, including English,” said Low-A Tampa manager Rachel Balkovec. “That’s pretty much all-around how he approaches baseball. He’s a really intelligent kid who wants the information, wants to know why and asks questions. What sticks out to me is the things you can’t see on the field; his aptitude and ability to think critically.”
“He has leadership skills,” added Yankees hitting coach Dillon Lawson. “What’s good about Jasson is that he is mature beyond his age. That helps us with expectations, being real with him and discussing some of the hardships that he might face … [playing in] the Futures Game or going through an airport and being noticed at that young of an age. He’s really done an exceptional job.”
After a seven-game cameo in Rookie ball, Dominguez played in 49 games for Tampa last season, posting a .258/.346/.398 slash line. Fifteen of his 48 hits were for extra bases, including five homers, and Dominguez drove in 18 runs.
His 67 strikeouts against 21 walks suggested room for improvement -- Dominguez acknowledges that the game initially felt “fast” to him at that level -- but the Yankees expect that a steady diet of additional reps will smooth his raw talent.
“Baseball is pretty humbling, even if you’re the best in the game,” Reese said. “You’re still getting out 60 percent of the time. So I think that’s good for him. He hasn’t played a ton of baseball in games, especially against this type of competition. We wanted to push him, and we will continue to do that.”
Until then, the best advice might be to sit back and enjoy the show.