NEW YORK -- Jasson Dominguez is one of baseball’s top prospects, a switch-hitting wunderkind who has drawn physical comparisons to Bo Jackson, Mickey Mantle and Mike Trout. The Yankees still want to treat him like one of the guys, and they had some fun delivering his assignment to begin the 2021 season.
Dominguez will begin the season in extended Spring Training, with a chance of making his professional debut with Low-A Tampa later this year. According to Kevin Reese, the Yankees’ senior director of player development, Dominguez was pulled aside recently for a conversation that outlined the organization’s thinking.
“He had this look on his face, like, ‘What did I do?’” Reese said on Monday afternoon. “We made a joke with him that we heard he snuck out of the hotel. Immediately, without hesitation, he goes: ‘Foul ball! No, no, no, that didn’t happen!’ He’s funny, he’s mature. He took it all in stride, had no issues or questions since. And he’s out there doing his work right now.”
In that chat, Reese and director of player development Eric Schmitt explained why they believe extended Spring Training will provide the 18-year-old with opportunities for individualized attention before he begins what should be a rapid climb toward the Majors. Dominguez is rated as the Yankees’ top prospect and the No. 27 prospect overall by MLB Pipeline.
“He’s got a ton of talent, a lot of skill, but he hasn’t played in a ton of games,” Reese said. “We’ll be able to iron out anything that he needs to work through, and then once he gets rolling, I’m sure he’s going to be a steamroller through the Minor Leagues. … I apologize that you have to wait a little bit longer for that mystery to unveil itself, but when it comes, you’ll know.”
Dominguez is playing center field exclusively at this time, according to Reese. The highly touted prospect recently worked with Nick Swisher, who was in Minor League camp for about a month as part of his role as a special assistant to general manager Brian Cashman. Swisher said that he was impressed by Dominguez, who received a $5.1 million signing bonus out of the Dominican Republic in July 2019.
“Wow, I’m telling you what: If you’re going on raw skills and tools, he’s up there in all facets,” Swisher told MLB.com. “Speed, power, arm strength, bat-to-ball skills. One thing, in my mind, that I really appreciated was his calm demeanor. He comes to the ballpark each and every day ready to work. He’s very focused, he’s not a loud guy, but then the kid is hitting balls 110, 115 mph. When he puts it all together, it’s going to be pretty special to watch.”
With the Minor Leagues set to begin play on Tuesday, Reese said that he anticipates there being significant challenges in handling players -- especially pitchers -- who have not been on the field competitively in a year and a half, in addition to monitoring the COVID-19 protocols that are a necessary part of the landscape.
“We’re going to try to ramp up guys very slowly, and hopefully put them in the best position to succeed long term,” Reese said. “It’s not like, ‘Hey, let’s get rolling and fire away.’ We’ve been discussing that as an organization, both at the Major League and Minor League levels.”
Reese offered an encouraging update on right-hander Clarke Schmidt, the club’s No. 2 prospect. Reese said that Schmidt has been rehabbing in Tampa and “looks fantastic” after missing all of Spring Training with a right elbow strain.
“I do believe that he will be able to help us, at some point this year, in the big leagues,” Reese said.
“The first word that comes to mind is ‘excitement,’ on both guys,” Reese said.