The SSTN Top 15 Yankee Prospects: How I Chose My #1
Photo Courtesy of the New York Yankees
I hope all of you have been enjoying our series on the SSTN Top 15 Prospects. What should be apparent by now is that there is a wealth of talent in the Yankee minor league system. It may not be the best farm system in baseball, but the Yankees have assembled a significant amount of high-ceiling talent. There are so many of these volatile prospects that perfectly reasonable people can disagree when ranking them. In fact, that has been the crux of the last few articles posted in this series: a guy that didn’t make one writer’s list of Top 15 Prospects could be as high as #6 on another person’s list. Over the last few weeks, we have highlighted many of these players, but now it is time to look at the cream of the crop in the Yankee system. Most prospect evaluators, baseball observers, and writers alike agree on the 3 inner circle prospects in the Yankee system (except for, of course, yours truly). The only real difference here is who people rank #1. In the SSTN rankings, only two of us chose a prospect other than Clarke Schmidt as the top prospect. You will hear from our other writers regarding their top selections next week, but this week you’ll read about how I selected my top choice among Yankee prospects.
As I have previously explained, I think the top prospect in a system should be someone with tools that allow you to dream big. Plenty of prospects in the Yankee minor league system certainly have that. However, raw tools alone do not make a player a top prospect. A hitter may look great in batting practice, but struggle with pitch recognition, or have a swing hitch that becomes a crippling defect in games. Pitchers may have great velocity and spin rates with great movement on a breaking ball, but show an inability to control/command their pitches over 5+ innings, or they falter in longer outings without a viable third pitch. Obviously, no prospects are finished products, and there is always some amount of risk that a prospect won’t reach their perceived potential.
I try to balance the risk and the reward when ranking prospects. Personally, when I see people describe a prospect as having a “high floor,” I smell a false narrative. There are no sure things when it comes to prospects, particularly when someone (be it a writer or unnamed scout) unfairly assigns a minimum performance expectation to a prospect. There are such a wide range of outcomes, even for guys that seem like sure things, that I really don’t like the term, “floor.”
However, I do think it is fair to call some prospects riskier than others, while it is also fair to say that players whose minimum tools have developed to a certain extent are relatively likely to reach a particular role. To use an example from the Yankee system, while Estevan Florial’s tools can make us dream of more, his ability to throw and play good defense at every position in the outfield provide decent levels of confidence that Florial will eventually play at least some baseball in the Majors as a reserve outfielder. Albert Abreu and Deivi Garcia are both pitchers who have reached the high minors and have good enough stuff that they will likely have some form of career in the Majors, even if it is in a bullpen role. Each of these players could be far more than that, but it would raise eyebrows if they didn’t reach those levels of play for at least some period of time.
This is the lens through which I view prospects. Functionally, this means that while I like prospects who have at least some likelihood to see Major League time, I want to see even a 5-10% chance at stardom. For me, there are a few players in the Yankee system that meet this threshold. Had I been asked to rank the Yankee prospects in July, my answers would have differed from today. Clarke Schmidt and Deivi Garcia are both pitchers who I believe have the potential to be rotation stalwarts in the next great Yankee rotation. I have always been a fan of Garcia’s and I have seen enough of Schmidt to say that he was on the verge of reaching a new level of performance prior to the shutdown. I also love Luis Medina’s seemingly endless potential, but acknowledge his risky profile.
This brings me (finally) to my top prospect in the Yankee system: Jasson Dominguez. It is true that Dominguez has not yet played a single official game as a professional baseball player. What we have are scouting reports, short video clips, and interviews to help us gain an opinion on Dominguez’s prospect status. On some level, it is not fair that many of us have elevated the expectations for Dominguez’s performance before he even plays a single game. However, the tools that Dominguez displays even in the short videos available are louder than most in professional baseball.
Even if Dominguez doesn’t grow any further physically, he is already enough of a physical specimen to compete at the highest levels. His swing is powerful, smooth, and mechanically sound. Dominguez displays excellent speed and a strong throwing arm, making him a good fit at multiple positions on the diamond. On tools alone, Dominguez may be the rare “5-Tool Prospect.” Guys like that come around once a generation.
More importantly, I see an impressive feel to play baseball that is rare for a teenager. In one of the clips available on the internet, Dominguez was at the plate as rain fell steadily from the sky. The pitcher delivered a fastball up and away in the strike zone. Rather than try to show off, Dominguez sat back, and let the ball travel deep into the zone before swinging. Dominguez took an opposite field approach, and with his prodigious power, knocked the ball 15+ feet beyond the fence in left-center. While that’s just one clip, I think it is indicative of the instincts that has scouts and the Yankee brass alike excited.
Just based on the fact that Dominguez has not yet played a game professionally, he is a far more volatile prospect than Schmidt, Garcia, or Medina. However, not even Medina can boast Dominguez’s tools or his instinctive way of playing the game. For a prospect that rare, it just seemed wrong not to rank Jasson Dominguez the #1 prospect in the Yankee system.