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  • Writer's pictureAndy Singer

SSTN Mailbag: Dominguez Again, The Bullpen, And Oswaldo Again!

There's been a lot of negativity around the Yankees this season, much of it perfectly warranted. For the first time in a long time, I've even contributed to some of that negativity. The team has been predictably banged up, and the team's performance has suffered as a result. However, while the rampant negativity has continued, something funny has happened: the Yankees have started winning. As bad as the team looked in April, they were a .500 team, which is incredible considering how bad they looked at times. In May, the Yankees are 11-6, which includes splitting a series with the division-leading Rays (though that lead is shrinking), and taking 3 of 4 from the Jays, a team the Yankees will likely need to contend with all season long. In that timespan, they have a run differential of +19. Overall, while the roster scares many of us, the results are largely there.

There was a ton of talk in the Tri-State area about the Mets being the new top team in New York after a flashy off-season. I never bought in. I saw the Mets' roster as an even riskier proposition than the Yankees', despite costing significantly more. While the sample size is still relatively small, the early returns are pretty stunning. The Mets are 22-23. As a team, they are hitting .240/.322/.384, with a .706 OPS (95 OPS+), and 190 runs scored. Their pitching staff has produced the following line: 207 runs allowed, 4.72 ERA, 1.362 WHIP, 4.91 FIP. The Mets have produced a -17 run differential.

The Yankees have a 26-20 record. Their offense is hitting .236/.310/.415, with a .725 OPS (99 OPS+), and 209 runs scored. Their pitching staff has produced the following line: 188 runs allowed, 3.77 ERA, 1.248 WHIP, 4.17 WHIP. The Yankees have produced a +21 run differential.

Many of the same people who are ready to blow the Yankees up lavished praise upon the Mets this off-season. We'll see where their respective seasons end up, but I preferred the Yankees' roster to the Mets' in the off-season, and I prefer it now. The bottom-line stats back that up fairly definitively. The Yankees are trending up and hopefully getting healthier. I don't think the Yankees are out of the woods yet, but I know which New York team I'd rather have.

As always, thanks for the great questions and keep them coming to In this week's SSTN Mailbag, we'll revisit Jasson Dominguez, talk about the current bullpen configuration, and revisit Oswaldo Cabrera! Let's get at it:

Tom S. asks: I'm not sure where the positivity about Dominguez comes from when he's hitting .195 in AA. What am I not seeing, or what is everyone else getting wrong?

Scouting the stat line when it comes to prospects as the sole means of judging progression is never a good idea. Even worse is looking only at batting average (not calling out Tom here, it's just a more general issue that I'm seeing more of recently). Now that we have that out of the way, let's dig into Dominguez a bit deeper than I did last week.

Dominguez got off to a horrifically slow start to begin the season. To hear his coaches tell the story, it appears that he didn't see a lot of strikes to begin the year, and he expanded the zone a bit too often in an effort to make a splash, and his batting average and quality of contact suffered. That's an incredibly common tale for a young player, particularly one as young as Jasson Dominguez.

And that's where the real story begins: Dominguez is playing in AA in his age-20 season, a very rare feat, particularly for someone with as little professional game experience as Dominguez. When looking at a prospect statistically, it's important to note the separation in how they perform against pitchers both older and younger than the player in question. Want to understand how young Dominguez is for AA? He hasn't faced a single pitcher younger than he is this season.

Most importantly, Dominguez has let the game come to him more in the last month, and the results speak for themselves. Dominguez's patience has led to one of the most impressive strikeout-walk ratios in the upper minors this season. In the last 28 days, Dominguez has walked 17 times (!) while striking out 16 times. It is rare for any professional player to walk more than they strikeout. For a player this young to do it at AA is nearly unheard of. In that same timespan, Dominguez has hit .284/.430/.562, with a .997 OPS, 5 HR, 2 2B, 1 3B, and 5 SB (with 0 CS). Dominguez's full season numbers are also normalizing, with an .811 OPS.

Lastly, I have been most skeptical of Dominguez's right-handed swing, as it often looks unbalanced with more moving parts than his left-handed swing. In the videos I've seen this year, that swing looks cleaner and more level than I have seen it in the past, and the results bear that out, as he's hitting .316/.458/.474, with a .932 OPS from that side in an admittedly small sample size of plate appearances. I think Dominguez will always have more pop from the left side, but if he can still take pitches and make hard contact when hitting right-handed, he's that much more valuable in the big leagues.

Additionally, the Yankees clearly believe Dominguez might be ready to climb quickly given that he's getting exposure to both CF and LF this year. Given the Yankees' obvious need in LF and the outfield more generally, I think this decision speaks volumes, and I can't help but think that Omar Minaya and Brian Sabean are behind some of this. Cashman brought in those two specifically for their experience evaluating minor league talent, and I theorized that the Yankees wanted an outside perspective about their own internal prospects. I think the Yankees' plan of attack with Dominguez shows how that evaluation turned out.

In short, there is a lot more to Dominguez than his (improving!) batting average. I'm very interested to see where he ends the season, as it wouldn't shock me if he makes a Bronx cameo by August/September.

Mikey asks: The Yankees clearly need to release Albert Abreu so who from the minors should get a look?

I've been shocked that with all of the movement that's occurred in the bullpen that Matt Krook hasn't gotten a look. The lefty has a video game slider from the left side, and while he walks too many guys, no one can hit him: he's allowed just 3.3 H/9 down in Scranton this season while striking out guys at a 17.8 K/9 (!) clip.

To me, this is an easy swap, given that Krook has options. I said at the beginning of the year that I thought Krook would get an opportunity this season out of the bullpen and possibly make a run for a more permanent role. Nothing he's done down at AAA has deterred me from that opinion. Even if he walks a few, I don't think the Yankees have anything to lose by trying him out at Abreu's expense.

Dave asks: Since you talked about Cabrera, he's hit really well in the last week. Has anything changed with his swing in the last week or is this just dumb luck? I like the kid too and hope he has a future even if it isn't as a starter.

Sadly, I think most of the answer is positive regression to the mean...and some better swing decisions! In that time, Cabrera has laid off of some pitches below the zone, and when he has swung, he hasn't made contact as often (by my eye, though I don't have the stats yet to back it up).

More importantly, Cabrera does have average or better pop, so when he makes good swing decisions, particularly on balls low in the zone or at his belt, he can do damage just based on his swing plane. The more Cabrera can do to put himself in hitters counts to see more of those pitches, the better he'll be.

Frankly, I also think that the super utility role that he's played in the last week suits him better than playing one position. My hunch is that it keeps him a bit more engaged, but I have absolutely nothing to support that hunch. Cabrera has a .781 OPS in the last week, which I think is closer to his true talent level. I hope the performance continues.

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