CLEARWATER, Fla. — About three and a half years after the Yankees signed Jasson Dominguez for $5.1 million, they’re now getting their best look at the man dubbed “The Martian.”
In his first real opportunity, the 20-year-old switch-hitter gave a glimpse of why the Yankees are so excited about him when he crushed a home run in his Grapefruit League debut Saturday at BayCare Ballpark.
Facing Phillies left-hander Ben Bowden in his second at-bat, Dominguez took a first-string slider and put an easy swing on it, drilling it 420 feet into left-center for a solo homer.
“Obviously I felt good,” a smiling Dominguez, who started at center, said through an interpreter. “Just like the Futures game. He felt the same.”
Dominguez was referring to the Futures Game at Dodger Stadium last summer, in which he also blew up his home base to put the spotlight on him.
Saturday’s homestand wasn’t all that big, but it was Dominguez’s first chance to make an impression in an exhibition game during his first major league camp.
“It was pretty good,” he said as the Yankees lost to the Phillies 7-4. “A learning experience, really, and a lot of fun.”
Manager Aaron Boone was also encouraged by Dominguez’s other two at-bats Saturday, in which he threw a 102.7 mph ground ball to first base and then flew out to left.
“He’s talented,” Boone said. “Just good, quality at-bats. You could tell the guy has a real understanding and facility in the strike zone. No panic up there. It was good to see him actually get into one.”
After leaving the Dominican Republic in the summer of 2019, Dominguez was robbed of his 2020 minor league season due to the coronavirus pandemic. The entertaining prospect finally found his feet in pro ball in 2021 and then made up for lost time in 2022.
As Dominguez played at three different levels of the minor leagues last year — ending with a brief stint at Double-A Somerset — he continued to develop and make strides in important areas beyond the more visible stats, such as a combined .273 batting average. and . 837 OPS.
“I think the really exciting things when you start looking at his contact quality, his strikeout rates, his walk and strikeout rates, all those things, he got better as he went up and as the competition got better,” Boone said. . “So that was something from last year that was really encouraging for him. Obviously you have a full, regular year where you get a nice volume of at-bats, it’s that experience that starts to become so valuable as you go up. I think even more than the raw numbers, the fundamental things we’ve seen from him as he’s gone from level to level has been really encouraging.”
Once major league camp ends this spring, Dominguez is a candidate to start the season at Double-A and play a full season there. But suddenly, his arrival in the Bronx doesn’t seem as far off as it once did.
Dominguez, however, insisted he has not considered getting there since this season.
“Things like that, I have no control over,” he said. “For me, it’s just a mentality of laser focus on the task in front of me on a daily basis.”
As for where he fits in the outfield, Boone said the Yankees believe Dominguez has the tools to stick long-term in center field, where Harrison Bader — who is set to become a free agent after this season — currently resides.
“It always depends, when he’s ready to be a major leaguer or on this team, then obviously your staff right now falls into that,” Boone said. “But we see him as a center, yes. Whether that means he gets to play corner at some point because a Harrison Bader is here and stuff like that, that’s something. But we absolutely feel his skill set points to him being a central player.”