Star Yankees prospect Jasson Dominguez shrugs off trade rumors, impresses Renegades

Before a cluster of reporters and public relations personnel, and before a question was posed to his interpreter, Jasson Dominguez took the microphone and cleared his throat.

“If you like piña coladas…”

Crooning the chorus of that old Rupert Holmes hit ― one released nearly a quarter century before his birth ― was a playful introduction to the local media, as the heralded Yankees prospect spoke publicly for the first time since being promoted last week to the Hudson Valley Renegades.

“He’s an awesome kid, the kind of person you like to be around,” Renegades manager Tyson Blaser said of the centerfielder Wednesday. “He likes to have fun and comes to work with a smile.”

His work with the Yankees’ High-A affiliate has been impressive thus far, the touted five-tool talent offering glimpses of his abilities in a five-game sampling.

Coinciding with his promotion and that first impression at this level, though, have been frequent mentions of his name in potential trade packages as the MLB deadline approaches Tuesday. For many Yankees fans and sports talk radio hosts in recent weeks, “Jasson Dominguez” has become a thought trigger that quickly leads to “Juan Soto,” the young superstar the Washington Nationals have reportedly put on the market.

Dominguez and shortstop Anthony Volpe, the organization's top prospect, would likely be the players most coveted should the Yankees attempt to acquire a big name before the Aug. 2 deadline. But, such is life as a young phenom in the farm system.

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Some of that talk probably will be quelled, though, after news broke late Wednesday of the Yankees trading for Kansas City Royals outfielder Andrew Benintendi. The addition of the All-Star crowds their outfield for now and, ostensibly, lessens the likelihood of them aggressively pursuing Soto.

It still is widely believed the Yankees are in need of pitching depth, so those prospects aren't yet in the clear.

Dominguez does follow the major leagues closely as a fan, and said he hears all the chatter. But those rumors are insignificant in his world, at least for the time being.

“I don’t pay attention to that,” the 19-year-old said through his translator during a conference with reporters before the Renegades hosted the Brooklyn Cyclones. “I don’t read social media in-depth or read the comments and all that. ... I can’t control that.”

The easygoing, even-keel demeanor that Blaser described will serve Dominguez well, particularly now as there will be increased attention on him, intensified scrutiny of his game and a bit of uncertainty about his future being with the organization that inked him to a $5.1 million contract three years ago.

“I don’t try to think too much about that,” Dominguez said of the lofty expectations, which included comparisons to Mike Trout when he first was signed out of the Dominican Republic. “I try to be as good as Trout is; that’s someone I look up to. But right now, I'm just trying to be Jasson. All I can do is my best and try to get (to the major leagues) as fast as I can.”

He grew up idolizing former Red Sox stars Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, fellow Dominicans, but does want desperately to be welcomed one day at Yankee Stadium ― about 65 miles from his current home in Fishkill.

Dominguez, whom MLB Pipeline has rated the Yankees’ third-best prospect, entered Thursday with a .333/.391/.571 slash line along with a homer, five RBI and two stolen bases in five games with the Renegades. He announced himself to their fans Tuesday in his home debut with a booming triple to center and went 2 for 5 with two RBI.

“His speed,” Blaser said of what most has impressed him thus far. “He hits a ball in the gap and he gets to first base and you’re not sure what it’s gonna turn into it, then he ends up at third base, standing up. He has range in tracking fly balls, and the power and the arm (strength) are easy to see, but the speed sneaks up on you.”

Blaser coached Dominguez last season with the Florida Complex League Yankees and marveled at the progress he has made since then. Dominguez’s star perhaps dimmed a bit when he didn’t dominate the rookie level or Low-A, hitting .252 with five homers and 73 strikeouts in 57 games altogether last year.

Blaser said he now is a “totally different” hitter, one who is significantly more disciplined and discerning at the plate.

“I definitely try to be more simple, not do too much,” the switch-hitter said of his adjustments. “The biggest thing is being patient. I know the pitchers are better, so I have to be patient and select good pitches to hit.”

He was batting .266 with an .814 OPS, nine homers and 19 steals in 75 games at Class A Tampa when he was called up to High-A last Friday. He drew 46 walks in 324 plate appearances there, which was indicative of that improved command of the strike zone, and he caught more eyes with a home run in the All-Star Futures Game.

American League's Jasson Dominguez connects for a home run during the third inning of the MLB All-Star Futures baseball game against the National League, Saturday, July 16, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)
American League's Jasson Dominguez connects for a home run during the third inning of the MLB All-Star Futures baseball game against the National League, Saturday, July 16, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)

"It’s fun to have those guys," Blaser said of managing a celebrated prospect. "He fits in well with the clubhouse. ... Any time you get someone with that amount of attention on them, the other guys feel that energy. He likes to have fun and he enjoys his teammates."

Dominguez did struggle Wednesday, though, going 0 for 4 with three strikeouts against the Cyclones. Chants of "overrated" could be heard from a few spectators at Dutchess Stadium ― most likely Mets fans there to cheer their team's affiliate ― after Dominguez took a called third strike to end an eight-pitch at-bat in the sixth inning. The Renegades were held scoreless until the eighth in a 6-2 loss to Brooklyn.

"I'm a patient person," Dominguez said. "I'm not overly excited, not emotional."

Again, that sanguine demeanor and unwavering confidence are necessary as there will be pressure, some of it undue, for his performance to match the hype.

There still are obvious areas of improvement needed in his game, including better recognition of breaking balls and making contact more consistently. Even within the early success, Dominguez has struck out seven times in his first 23 plate appearances with Hudson Valley. Observers should keep in mind, though, that he was born in 2003.

That aside, Dominguez could also use a little work on his pitch before he's ready for any karaoke competitions. But, we digress.

“The Yankees have a plan for him and the way he handles himself, the way he’s playing, makes it easier for them to make decisions,” Blaser said of Dominguez’s long-term path. “We want to see him grow and continue to become a better outfielder and hitter, but as long as he continues to make the progress he’s made over the last year, it’s gonna happen.”

Stephen Haynes:; 845-437-4826; Twitter: @StephenHaynes4

This article originally appeared on Poughkeepsie Journal: New York Yankees prospect Jasson Dominguez talks trade rumors