TAMPA — For the much-maligned Yankee farm system, this spring is both the best of times and the worst of times.
The best of times is that of Jasson Dominguez, the phenomenal young switch-hitters center fielder, living up to all the hype that has come along since the Yankees signed him for $5.1 million from the Dominican Republic as the international prospect. 1 in 2019. As of Friday, Dominguez was 7-for-16 with three home runs, seven RBIs and a 1.526 OPS in Grapefruit League play while shouting “Marciano” (his colorful and appropriate nickname for his “out of this world” talent from five tools) have been reverberating through the stands at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
The best of times has been the rise of Jersey-bred fan favorite Anthony Volpe, who went from a shooter in the shortstop draft to an early spring favorite.
It’s been a while since there’s been such a rookie buzz in Yankees camp. Other than Aaron Judge (and admitting he’s pretty good), the Yankees haven’t developed a top-tier player since Brett Gardner in 2008, and before that Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada in the ’90s. It’s been the same with pitching. . Since Andy Pettitte in 1995, the Yankees had never recruited and developed a top starting pitcher in the rotation. We’ll see if that changes this year with Clarke Schmidt, their No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft out of South Carolina, who is getting a golden opportunity for a rotation spot with Frankie Montas who had shoulder surgery earlier. from spring training that will sideline him. him for months.
So what could be the worst of times?
Well, for one thing, as electrifying as Dominguez has been this spring, he’s played just five games above A-ball and most of his Grapefruit League at-bats have been as a replacement in the last inning against minor league pitchers in “garbage time.” So even with Harrison Bader’s oblique injury likely preventing him from opening the season in center field, much to the chagrin of fans, the Yankees’ brass isn’t about to rush the schedule with Dominguez. Everyone you talk to on the Yankees insists the guy is authentic, with unusual calm and plate discipline for a 20-year-old, but they also insist his time hasn’t come yet.
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The other “best of times, worst of times” scenario unfolding this spring involves the Yankees’ two other top prospects, Volpe and Oswald Peraza, who unfortunately both play the same position. It’s pretty clear that Volpe is a fan favorite, if only because of his North Jersey roots and his infectious personality. But like Dominguez, Volpe has limited experience, just 89 at-bats above Double-A compared to Peraza, who spent most of last season in Scranton-Wilkes-Barre, hitting .259 with 19 homers and 33 stolen bases.
Of the two, Peraza is perceived as the more natural shortstop, though Volpe’s supporters were quick to point the finger at Jeter in 1996, who had his doubts about being a true shortstop among the Yankee high command, and proved them wrong by flatly . win the job in spring training and never look back. It’s a real dilemma for Yankee brains, especially those who believe Volpe is better suited at second or third base in the long run.
( Aaron Judge praises top prospect Anthony Volpe: “If you’re the best player… you should help the New York Yankees” )
If Volpe continues to hit (6-for-20 with a home run and five runs scored through Friday) and shows he can handle the position, how do you tell him he’s not a shortstop? In fact, if, by late spring, Peraza is considered to be the Opening Day shortstop, how do they send Volpe to Triple-A as anything other than a shortstop?
I asked that question of a veteran scout who was tracking the Yankees this spring. “You can’t,” he said. “You have to let the player show that he can’t play the position. Volpe is only 21 years old and played shortstop his entire life. The Yankees have to be very careful here.”
At the end of the day, one of them will be the winner of this competition, but for now Brian Cashman is not going there. “Anthony Volpe is doing everything he has to do,” the general manager said Thursday when asked for his assessment of the shortstop situation. “I’m not surprised that he played well and that he’s here to be considered. We’ll see how he ultimately measures up compared to everyone else in our internal dialogues. That hasn’t happened yet. I know everyone would love to get an answer sooner rather than later, but we’re not ready to make those decisions yet.”
In 2022, the Yankees had the second-highest overall age average in the majors (behind the Mets) at 30.12 and it’s fair to say they could use an infusion of youth. Either way, they’ll get it at shortstop, but it could be tricky. In the meantime, what remains to be seen is the best-case scenario, which would be Dominguez working his way into the Yankees’ outfield sometime during the 2023 season.
In the ’80s, when he was coaching the Astros, Yogi Berra did a series of short shows, sponsored by Stroh’s Beer and created by the MLB TV guru Thomas Villante called “Yogi at the Movies” in which he would offer quick commentary on current movies. Well, now Yogi is the movies! On May 12, Sony Pictures Classics will release “It Ain’t Over,” a 95-minute documentary about Yogi’s life, opening in theaters in New York and Los Angeles and expanding nationwide shortly thereafter. i have to say documentarian Sean Mullin and his producers did a remarkable job of getting interviews with many of Yogi’s former teammates (bobby brown, tony kubeck, bobby richardson), Yankee legends (Don Mattingley, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, ron guidry, willie randolph), in addition to vin scully, billy crystal and bob shoresand the sons of Yogi, Tim, larry and Valley. It’s a highly entertaining tribute to an American treasure, and if Yogi were criticizing it, he’d probably say “you can tell a lot about this movie just by looking at it,” while also reminding us not to leave the theater early “because the movie’s not there.” . Finish until it’s over!”