The Yankees need to bench starting center fielder in favor of top prospect

harrison bader, yankees
May 28, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Harrison Bader (22) reacts to hitting a home run as he rounds the bases against the San Diego Padres during the eighth inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

As the regular season winds down with just one month to go, the New York Yankees are in a tricky spot. The team has already adopted a future-facing strategy, promoting several prospects to gather invaluable data before winter. With both Manager Aaron Boone and General Manager Brian Cashman likely to keep their positions, the spotlight now turns to strengthening the roster for a triumphant return to the playoffs in 2024.

The Strategy: Balancing Experience and Youth

Crafting a championship-caliber team will require a mix of shrewd acquisitions and nurturing homegrown talent. While the Yankees will likely focus on bringing in some key players, promoting top prospects like Jasson Dominguez for a shot during spring training is also on the table.

Harrison Bader’s Uncertain Future

Currently, Harrison Bader occupies the centerfield position, but he’s set to hit free agency and may not be donning the pinstripes next season. The 29-year-old has posted a .242 batting average and a .279 OBP this year, along with seven home runs and 37 RBIs. While those numbers don’t scream liability, his 18.2% strikeout rate, 4.3% walk rate, and 78 wRC+ have raised some eyebrows.

The Bader Conundrum

The downside of having a walk rate below 30% is that if a player like Bader isn’t cranking out at least 25 home runs a season, they risk becoming more of a burden than an asset. His performance in August has not helped his case; a .207 batting average, .270 OBP, and .526 OPS are not numbers that inspire confidence.

Enter Jasson Dominguez: The Triple-A Phenom

If the Yankees decide to bench Bader, promoting Dominguez could be the next logical step. Recently bumped up to Scranton, the 20-year-old has been red-hot, boasting a .478 batting average, a .556 OBP, and a .652 slugging rate. These stats include 10 RBIs, a 14.8% walk rate, a 7.4% strikeout rate, and a whopping 206 wRC+.

Evaluating Minor League Performance

While seven games at Scranton may not be a large sample size, there’s merit to arguing that Double-A is the most challenging level for prospects to conquer. Dominguez’s eye-popping stats may indicate that further experience at the Triple-A level might not be all that beneficial.

Lessons from Anthony Volpe’s Promotion

The Yankees’ approach to prospect Anthony Volpe could serve as a precedent. Volpe was largely fast-tracked past Triple-A and has seen significant improvements in plate discipline and power over the past two months. Dominguez, similarly, has showcased elite plate discipline, if not quite the same slugging power, alongside competent defensive skills.

The Yankees are Grooming Dominguez for 2024 and Beyond

If the Yankees view Dominguez as a potential cornerstone in their outfield come 2024, giving him a taste of Major League Baseball could be the ideal prep course. This experience might just be the seasoning he needs for the challenges and triumphs that lie ahead.

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