SSTN Mailbag: Dominguez, The Closer, And Outfield Alignment!
It has been an interesting first week of baseball. The Yankees have opened with a record of 4-2 against 2 teams that certainly didn't play like playoff teams, but much like last season, I felt like we watched two different Yankee teams. The team that won four games scored runs in multiple ways: stealing bases, moving runners over, making productive outs, and yes, swatting homers and doubles. In their four wins, the Yanks combined offense with mostly dominant pitching to overwhelm their opponent. In their two losses, we saw two different versions of a losing combination. In one, the Yanks' bats simply went silent with a lineup that consisted of two backups, IKF and Hicks, occupying important spots in the lineup in a game that didn't feature any major injuries that necessitated such a lineup. In their earlier loss, the Yankees went tit-for-tat with the Giants until the very end, when both the umps and the bullpen ultimately led to the Yankees' defeat. Obviously, the former is of greater concern than the latter.
It is infuriating to see the Yankees throw away potential wins to placate egos. I would almost understand the lineup if the Yankees were using to manage the loads of injury-prone players, like LeMahieu and Stanton, but that's not what happened here. Both LeMahieu and Stanton were in the lineup! And Oswaldo Cabrera, who is clearly better than both Hicks and IKF, sat, despite the fact that his load really doesn't need to be managed. I recognize that part of managing a clubhouse involves managing egos, but throwing away potential wins should not be acceptable for a team with championship aspirations. I also understand that the Yankees probably need to wait until Harrison Bader comes back to make some roster maneuvers, but playing a disgruntled player who hasn't earned playing time early in the season just to placate his ego doesn't make any sense. It's an easier pill to swallow when the Yankees lose because they aren't good enough than it is when they get in their own way.
As always, thanks for the great questions and keep them coming to SSTNReadermail@gmail.com. In this week's SSTN Mailbag, we'll revisit Jasson Dominguez's timeline, evaluate the Yankees' options at closer, and dig into the outfield alignment! Let's get at it:
Fuster asks: the Yankees are churning through fringy outfielders and the likely reason is that it's an effort undertaken out of diligence. they wish to find whatever might be freely available while demonstrating to the universe that they aren't facing any great, desperate need to trade for an outfielder...and thus will not be compelled to pay retail for one. truth is that they have a real need for an additional lefty bat. I would ask Andy whether Dominguez is able to fill that need and when he might be ready to do so.
I think Fuster is on the money here. There's zero harm in acquiring as many lottery tickets for whom you have both Major and minor league roster spots. Every so often, those tickets pan out, as the Yankees have demonstrated an aptitude for finding. In fact, I think the Yankees are on the verge of having one such player pan out: Jake Bauers.
Bauers was once a top prospect in the Rays organization as a 1B/OF who hit the ball hard from the left side to the gaps. Unfortunately, he never fulfilled that promise following a trade to Cleveland, and the Yankees picked him up last year on a seemingly bit deal. The Yankees have helped him rebuild his swing and confidence, and the early returns have been nothing short of elite. According to numbers acquired by Connor Foley, beat writer for the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Rail Riders, Jake Bauers has put up some impressive Exit Velocity numbers combined with excellent performance early in the AAA season (video game numbers that includes more walks than strikeouts), which is a continuation of his performance during Spring Training. Given his previous prospect status, Bauers clearly has tools, and it wouldn't shock me if he becomes the Yankees' left fielder at some point this season.
Per Fuster's point, the emergence of someone like Bauers would fulfill the Yankees' goal of finding an outfielder to effectively keep the seat warm until one of the kids pushes for playing time. The one that Yankee fans should obviously be most excited about is Jasson Dominguez.
I have never wavered regarding Dominguez's talent. I think this guy, in addition to being a physical specimen with at least 4/5 tools, has proven to be a fast-learner with an attitude that will allow him to maximize his talent. Reaching AA with as little professional experience as Dominguez is a real accomplishment. Volpe will surely lose prospect status this year, but even prior, as much as I love Volpe, I had trouble choosing between Volpe and Dominguez for top Yankee prospect. I think Dominguez has shown real feel on the basepaths, a powerful swing from both sides of the plate, improving patience and plate discipline, and good enough instincts in the outfield to stick in CF at least early in his career. In short, I think he's an All-Star at maturity.
I always say that once a player reaches AA, things can develop quickly with strong play, which gives Dominguez an outside shot at a cup of coffee in the Majors this year. I don't think he can earn an everyday role in the outfield in New York this year, but he's a special player, so maybe he'll prove me wrong. I do think Dominguez is in-play as a full time player in New York early-mid next year.
Brian asks: I have not been impressed with what I've seen from Clay Holmes since the end of last season, but his stuff still looks really good. If you had a choice between Clay Holmes, Jonathan Loaisiga, and Ron Marinaccio to close games right now, who would you choose?
That's a really tough one, as they all have their merits. You are 100% right that Holmes still has fantastic stuff, with a bowling ball high-90s sinker that's tough to square up and a slider that really seems to confuse hitters even though it doesn't look special on paper. However, I was worried after his appearance last weekend, as I noted in the game recap, because Holmes seemed to fall apart after Joc Pederson hit a sinker low and out of the zone for a single. It appeared that Holmes stopped trusting his stuff and stopped attacking the strike zone thereafter, which is not what I want to see out of a closer. That being said, Holmes looked dominant his last time out, striking out the side while peppering the edges of the zone.
Loaisiga is similar to Holmes, in that his stuff is awesome, but he also seems to occasionally lose his stuff and his command. At his best, I actually think Loaisiga is the best of this groupp, but I don't think he can find it consistently enough to be the closer.
This brings us to Marinaccio. I have been massively impressed by the kid since his call-up last season. His fastball/slider/change-up combination all play as plus offerings and he is able to work effectively against both tough lefties and righties because he has three pitches. If the question was who would close the most games over the next three seasons, my answer would be Marinaccio.
However, I think Holmes looks good enough to hold on to the job right now. If he can regain some confidence, I think he is a dominant closer. If he doesn't regain full confidence in his stuff, then he better look over his shoulder, because Marinaccio is gaining on him.
Dave asks: What is the Yankees' ideal outfield combination until Bader returns?
Honestly, it probably involves some mixing and matching, just like the Yankees are doing right now. Ideally, we'll see the following combinations:
Against RHP, I like the following combinations best:
Against LHP, I like the following combinations: