TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees know there is excitement surrounding Anthony Volpe and Jasson Dominguez, who will enter the season ranked as the organization’s top two prospects by MLB Pipeline. That buzz also brings expectations, but the club believes they can help the promising young players reach their potential.
According to Kevin Reese, the Yankees’ vice president of player development, Volpe and Dominguez are apprised of the challenges ahead on their respective paths toward the Bronx. So far, Reese said, Volpe and Dominguez have shown themselves to be beyond their years.
“You want these guys to succeed; you want these guys to have fun and not have to deal with unnecessary stresses,” Reese said. “I think everybody reads the articles. Everybody reads social media, knows what the hype is and what’s expected. That’s always a challenge for everybody to deal with. It’s something we try to be open, to talk about with them and try to help them manage.”
Volpe, 20, was tabbed as baseball’s No. 15 prospect after a breakout 2021 season in which the shortstop posted a combined .294/.423/.604 slash line in 109 games at Low-A Tampa and High-A Hudson Valley.
The Yanks’ first-round selection in the 2019 MLB Draft (30th overall) from the Delbarton School in Morristown, N.J., Volpe received a $2,740,300 signing bonus. He used the pandemic shutdown to add muscle, showcasing that power by belting 35 doubles, six triples and 27 homers, with 86 RBIs, in '21.
Dominguez heads into 2022 as baseball’s No. 17 prospect. The switch-hitting 19-year-old outfielder from the Dominican Republic has garnered breathless scouting comparisons to legendary specimens like Mickey Mantle, Mike Trout and Bo Jackson.
The Yankees’ $5.1 million investment in Dominguez, a franchise record for an international free agent, set the bar high in many eyes. Though Dominguez has only played in 56 pro games thus far, batting .252/.353/.379 in Rookie ball and at Low-A last season, the Yankees believe he is ready to handle a brighter spotlight.
“They’re very mature for their age, very professional and off the charts in work ethic,” Reese said. “You don’t get that type of hype, draft value or signing bonus if you don’t have some of that. There’s definitely some God-given talent in there, but the work that they put in, it shows when they compete with everybody else.”
Reese added that he considers Volpe and Dominguez “leaders amongst their peers,” players who the organization relies upon to help deliver messages to others. Both are popular figures on the practice fields at the Yanks’ complex, and Dominguez received praise after conducting a group interview in English with the New York media recently, having taught himself the language with apps.
Rachel Balkovec, who helped coach Dominguez’s hitting last season and could be his manager if he remains at Low-A this year, called Dominguez a “joy to work with” and pointed out that he seems to strive for perfection -- from his on-field fundamentals to making sure that he cleans up any trash from the dugout bench.
“We try to hold them accountable and develop them as people as well,” Balkovec said.
It remains to be seen how 2020’s lost Minor League season will impact this next generation of prospects; in the cases of Volpe and Dominguez, the Yankees would have loved to accelerate their experiences against live competition. On the bright side, Reese believes that the club already sees the benefits of the individual training that many players conducted during that period.
“I’m obviously excited to have everybody in [camp], just seeing the all-around hard work, good environments, people having fun and getting better,” Reese said. “It’s hard to pinpoint just one or two people that are crushing it. To see the work that the staff is putting in -- these guys are getting after it.”