Dominguez’s Yankees return looms large, casting cloud over Verdugo’s future

Yankees' outfielders Jasson Dominguez and Alex Verdugo
Inna Zeyger
Sunday May 12, 2024

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Yankees manager Aaron Boone provided an encouraging update on the progress of top prospect Jasson Dominguez, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery performed on September 20, 2023. The 21-year-old phenom is set to embark on a rehab assignment with the Single-A Tampa Tarpons starting Tuesday.

According to Boone, Dominguez will serve as the designated hitter for the initial two weeks of the assignment before gradually returning to his defensive duties in the outfield.

Despite sliding to No. 37 in the overall MLB Pipeline rankings, Dominguez remains the Yankees’ top prospect. During the 2023 season, he showcased his offensive prowess, hitting .265 with 22 doubles, 15 home runs, 76 RBI, and an impressive 83 walks across 118 games split between Double-A (109 games) and Triple-A (nine games). His performance earned him a promotion to the majors in September, where he hit .258 with a double and four homers in eight games before suffering a torn UCL.

On May 7, Boone revealed that Dominguez has been participating in live batting practices and defensive drills over the past few weeks. The young outfielder commenced his throwing program in early February and started swinging off a tee by the end of that month.

Verdugo thriving, will Dominguez’s Yankees return displace him?

Jasson Dominguez, the New York Yankees’ highly touted prospect, enjoyed an impressive 2023 season, splitting time between the MiLB and the MLB. He showcased his offensive prowess on his debut making it a Yankees record. His homer off Justin Verlander was something that Yankees fans will remember for years to come.

As Dominguez nears his return to the Yankees’ outfield, questions arise about the potential impact on the current roster, with Newark Star-Ledger MLB columnist Bob Klapsich suggesting that Alex Verdugo could be the one to move to the bench.

Verdugo, known for his non-conformist personality, is well-liked by his teammates in the Yankees’ clubhouse. His true value, however, lies in his bat, particularly his contact ratio. Unfortunately, he encountered a rough patch on Saturday, striking out three times in his first three at-bats against Rays’ starter Taj Bradley.

Manager Aaron Boone has the option to field an outfield consisting of Dominguez, Juan Soto, and Aaron Judge, positioning them in center, left, or right field. The collective power of this trio would be formidable, but it would likely relegate Verdugo to the bench and potentially prompt the Yankees to part ways with Trent Grisham, who has seen limited playing time and is currently batting a meager .071.

Since joining the Yankees via a trade from the Boston Red Sox, Verdugo has been a key contributor, ranking among the top five on the team in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. Before the season, he agreed to a one-year, $8.7 million contract to avoid arbitration. He has even become a fan favorite and is credited with ending the Yankees’ revolving door in left field.

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Twitter-@TalkinYanks

If Dominguez successfully joins the Yankees’ outfield and forms a formidable power trio alongside Juan Soto and Aaron Judge, it could potentially spell the end of Alex Verdugo’s time with the team. 

As noted by Newark Star-Ledger MLB columnist Bob Klapsich, “Verdugo could be traded.” However, the columnist also suggested a variety of other scenarios that could unfold, depending on Dominguez’s progress through rehab, the evolving health of the rest of the roster, and various other factors at play.

The Yankees, however, are not rushing to make any drastic changes just yet. A source within the organization indicated that they will find a place for Dominguez when he is fully ready to come off the injured list, but not a moment sooner. 

Throughout Dominguez’s recovery process, the Yankees have consistently maintained that the earliest he could return would be during the summer months. Even so, there is no guarantee that the highly talented prospect will immediately rejoin the Yankees once his rehab assignment concludes. Despite his impressive performance before his injury last year, hitting four home runs in eight games for a struggling team focused on evaluating younger players, Dominguez is only 21 years old and has played in just nine Triple-A games.

While Domínguez possesses minor-league options and would provide an offensive upgrade over fourth outfielder Trent Grisham, his defensive skills may not be on par. Assigning Domínguez to a backup role could potentially hinder his development, presenting the Yankees with a dilemma.

Currently, regular playing time for Domínguez seems scarce, given the team’s established outfield. However, circumstances can change, and there’s a possibility that the Yankees may opt to keep Domínguez in the minors once his rehab assignment concludes.

Yankees' Alex Verdugo shows his swag after hitting a three-run homer off Astros' Verlander at Yankee Stadium on May 7, 2024.
Joey

Manager Aaron Boone expressed optimism about the future, hoping that the decision would become challenging due to positive developments within the team. He stressed the importance of addressing the situation when it arises, acknowledging the fluid nature of the roster.

Looking ahead, both Verdugo and Soto are set to enter free agency after this season. While they have enjoyed their time with the Yankees thus far, their return is not guaranteed. Their potential departures could create future outfield openings for Domínguez and fellow top prospect Spencer Jones, although that scenario is still in the distant future.

Regardless of the immediate path, Boone remains confident in his long-held belief in Dominguez’s character and talent, stating that he has consistently viewed him as a major league-caliber player since the previous spring. He underscores his confidence in the Martian’s future success at the highest level. But the exact timing of his return to the major league level, however, remains uncertain.

However, the Yankees fans may be hoping for a scenario where Verdugo can be justifiably benched or even traded for a return before free agency, as that would indicate Dominguez’s successful and healthy return, once again meeting the loftiest of expectations.

Anticipation is building

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Juan Soto eagerly awaits the return of Dominguez, expressing his enthusiasm to witness the young prospect’s performance on the field. Having heard numerous positive reports about Dominguez’s abilities the previous year, Soto looks forward to the day when they can share the same dugout.

Dominguez, equally impressed by his fellow Dominican, praised Soto’s exceptional performance during his first two months with the Yankees, describing it as “out of this world.”

The two players first met during spring training, discussing the possibility of one day being part of the same lineup. With Dominguez’s rehab progress, that dream seems closer to becoming a reality.

Just eight months after undergoing reconstructive surgery on his right elbow, Dominguez surprised onlookers by engaging in a 15-minute catch session at the Yankees’ minor league complex on Friday afternoon, demonstrating his rapid recovery.

Despite the excitement surrounding his potential, there is a possibility that Dominguez may spend a significant portion of his return this season in Triple-A. While some may view this as a disappointment, it could be a necessary step in his development and reintegration into the game.

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

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One thought on “Dominguez’s Yankees return looms large, casting cloud over Verdugo’s future

  1. I still think barring an injury, that Dominguez will be optioned to AAA when his rehab assignment is over.

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