Return of 'The Martian': Domínguez singles on first pitch he sees in '24

May 15th, 2024

“The Martian” is back.

Healthy again, got back in the batter's box for the first time since last September.

MLB's No. 32 overall prospect grounded a single to right field on the first pitch he saw from former Yankees starter Domingo Germán, a 90.9 mph four-seam fastball. Domínguez finished 1-for-3 with a walk to start his rehab assignment as Single-A Tampa fell to Bradenton, 4-3, at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

"It feels nice to be back on the field and to do what I love," said after the game. "It feels good."

The emergence of the Yankees' top prospect down the stretch was a bright spot in a down season for the organization last year. Domínguez burst onto the big league scene by swatting four homers in eight games before undergoing Tommy John surgery in September. Two of those homers came at the expense of Justin Verlander and Cristian Javier, hinting at the massive upside Domínguez has shown since he signed for $5.1 million as the prize of the 2019 international signing class.

Domínguez's signing was maybe the most hyped for an amateur international prospect ever, and though he never quite lived up to those probably impossible standards in the Minors, he still performed well enough to arrive in the Bronx as a 20-year-old with a world of potential.

Due to the nature of his injury, the plan is for Domínguez to DH for the first two weeks of his rehab assignment. Outside of the game action, he is already throwing at 150 feet.

"Everything is going as it's planned," Domínguez said. "I was anxious before about when I would get back. But now that I'm playing, I'm good."

The question then becomes where he fits on the Yankees' current roster, and how ... and when. The rehab assignment only has a 20-day window, after which Domínguez must be reinstated to the big league roster or optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

New York's roster looked a lot different in September, when Domínguez seemed to be passing his audition for a starting outfield role. They traded for three outfielders this winter in Juan Soto, Alex Verdugo and reserve veteran Trent Grisham, have Aaron Judge healthy again and Giancarlo Stanton healthy and producing out of the regular DH spot. Grisham is not producing much (.069/.270/.172) but also isn’t playing much, with the bulk of the outfield and DH at-bats going to the four regulars.

Domínguez wouldn't be expected to displace Soto, Judge, Verdugo or Stanton, particularly when each is playing every day and performing well. And it's fair to assume the Yankees might not consider playing once or twice a week the best thing for the 21-year-old's development. Which means Domínguez might be headed back to Triple-A once his rehab is complete.

“Hopefully it is a tough decision at that point, because good things are happening here,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters last weekend. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

Though the Yankees’ current construction doesn’t look ideal for Domínguez getting regular at-bats in the big leagues right now, the prospect of that happening eventually feels inevitable. Soto and Verdugo are set to become free agents after this season, and for what it’s worth, Domínguez still has only 17 games of experience above Double-A. It shouldn’t be long until he gets the opportunity to impact the big league roster, even if it's not in the immediate future.

“I always feel like I’ve been one of the high guys on Jasson,” Boone said. “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.”