TAMPA – Carlos Mendoza was part of a contingent of Yankees coaches – including coach Aaron Boone – who last month played at the team's Latin American Academy in the Dominican Republic, including key players like Gary Sanchez and tried Miguel Andujar.
During their stay, they also got a brief look at the future.
Jasson Dominguez turned just over seven months old on Friday, Friday, after becoming one of the organization's biggest amateur signings last July with a $ 5.1 million bonus.
"We saw him hit and he looked good," said Mendoza, who recently became a bank coach. “He was impressive when he was 16 years old. He is a strong child with great bat speed and strength. We only saw him take BP, but he hit balls with Gary and Miggy. He looks like one of them. He is quite advanced for this age. "
This is what the Yankees rely on after spending almost all of their international pool money last year on Esperanza's Center Fielder in the Dominican Republic.
The Yankees were satisfied with what they saw to a limited extent last summer. However, since Dominguez only signed in July, he played only a few training league games.
Spring training in the Dominican Republic has already started and is expected to debut in the Dominican Summer League in late May or early June.
A possible promotion to the Gulf Coast League in Tampa later in the summer is out of the question in his first professional season – but General Manager Brian Cashman insisted that Dominguez be judged like any other top candidate.
"He will be no different from other first division or high profile Latin American players," said Cashman. "The numbers may be different and there are more spotlights on him, but it is the same process. We are happy to have him. Now it is time to let his development take place. He is on the way."
This journey started in Esperanza and continued at the Ivan Noboa Academy in the Dominican Republic.
Donny Rowland, head of the Yankees' international boy scout agency, immediately noticed what his boy scouts were saying when he finally observed Dominguez personally.
"When I first saw him, my hair was up on my arm and my boys said it was just a good day for him," said Rowland about training at Noboa Academy. "He had tremendous strength. His skills are silly. You are stupid. You are crazy. "
When asked for an example, Rowland said Dominguez Homer struck from the left in 13 straight fields during striking practice.
Joel Lithgow, director of the Yankees Latin Baseball Academy, said Dominguez "had one of the best rehearsals I've ever seen. He was 16 but looked like a veteran."
"He's probably got the best tools I've seen here. He's just right with Sanchez, but he's a switch hitter and a great runner."
"What we heard before we picked and signed it was hard to believe," said Mario Garza, now the Yankees baseball development coordinator. "But after a while, it's the real deal."
Eric Schmitt, Director of Player Development, was in the Dominican Republic for an educational game last year, and Dominguez celebrated a home run in his first home game.
"I know it was a small sample, but it was easy to see," said Schmitt. "As soon as he walks on the field, he's impressive. The first thing you notice is this power from both sides."
The 5-foot-10, 190-pound dominguez has athletics, shortstop or catcher play, but its future is at the center.
"He wants to be great," said Rowland. "He doesn't want the money. He wants to be a great player and make money with it. He's a baseball rat."
Rowland said he scouted Dominguez about 50 times before the Yankees signed him, more than any other Latin American he saw. And not just because he wanted to make sure the talent was what he thought.
"We spent a lot of hours working with him before we signed him on," Rowland said. “From the beginning we found out everything about him. I heard what people said about him and watched how he did his business. "
What Rowland learned made him more confident about the investment.
"He lets his actions speak for themselves," said Rowland. "With what I've seen as an amateur, there's no reason why his makeup should stop him from reaching his potential. Maybe the slider or the change. You never know. A lot has to happen to to make it. "
And even if everything goes well, Rowland knows that there will be roadblocks.
"You need to make adjustments and fix bugs," said Rowland. “If he, like everyone else, wins 0 to 20, the world will panic because expectations are so high. He shouldn't panic. Everyone expects to be Superman. He has to keep the course. People change. Let’s hope he doesn't. "
There will also be the challenge of what Rowland calls "potential fatigue".
"People have heard of this child since he was 16," said Rowland. "In five years, if he's not a major, people will say," What happened to him? "But he's only going to be 21 years old. I think he has the makeup and toughness to handle it."
Not surprisingly, Yankee Brass remains confident that Dominguez is everything they hoped for.
"We signed him up and paid him what we did for a reason: he pledged to do it," said Rowland. “His skills left us with no choice. Someone would have given him more. "
For this reason, the Yankees have turned away from their usual strategy of distributing their international pool money among dozens of players.
"With Jasson's skills, it came to a point where there really wasn't a decision to make whether he was worth anything," said Rowland.
The next test will see Dominguez against real competition.
"Boys have to make their way to Tampa," said Schmitt of the move from DSL to the Gulf Coast League. "We will do the best for him in his development so that he can help us for many years to come."