HOUSTON — When the Yankees beat the Astros on Friday night, they did so with five rookies on their roster. Another came out of the enclosure.
With Jasson Domínguez (20), Everson Pereira (22), Oswald Peraza (23), Anthony Volpe (22) and Austin Wells (24) all starting, it was the second time since 1971 that the Yankees had five players aged 24 or under. start the same game. Randy Vásquez, also 24, then delivered two scoreless innings in relief.
“It’s very special,” Wells, who made his debut alongside Domínguez, said before the game. “I don’t know many guys who can say they started out with four or five guys from the minors that they played with.”
Domínguez, whose MLB debut had been highly anticipated since signing a $5.1 million contract at age 16, stole the show when the center hit Justin Verlander – who has two times his age – in his very first at bat.
Wells, meanwhile, tallied a single in his first plate appearance and made up the entire game.
But the Yankees’ youth movement, amid a disastrous season, isn’t just about the two players who played their first game on Friday.
Volpe could be a cornerstone in the making after becoming the first Yankee to record a 20-20 season as a rookie. Pereira is trying to show that he can be the left fielder of the future. Peraza’s versatility could make him a second or third goaltender, with Volpe in his natural shortstop position. Vásquez and Jhony Brito, 25, are hoping to make an impact on next year’s pitching team, while Oswaldo Cabrera, 24, has shown value as a super utility despite a difficult season at the plate.
“I am so happy for [Domínguez] and Wells and Everson and everyone,” said Volpe, who is the most experienced of the group. “I just told them to enjoy it and have as much fun as they can.”
In total, 10 of the 28 Yankees players on the active roster are 26 or younger. Nine are 25 or younger and seven are 24 or younger. It’s clear the team is focused on 2024 and beyond after an underperforming veteran core, poor roster construction and injuries put the Yanks out of the playoffs as September only to start.
Even though the Yankees aren’t where they want to be, their young players are eager to seize the opportunities that come their way. They are also excited to do it together.
“I’m very excited, especially to play with a lot of them in the minor leagues,” Pereira said. “To arrive in the big leagues is not easy. It’s a lot of work to get to the major leagues. But we played together for a while.
“So being here is very exciting.”
MARTIAN IN THE MIDDLE
Speaking of Domínguez, the hitter found himself third on Saturday after hitting fifth on his debut. Aaron Boone attributed the move to his “obsession with balance and having three lefties in” the lineup.
However, the coach is also happy with Domínguez’s ability to hit so high in the order in his second game.
“I feel like he’s totally cut out for this,” Boone said. “So I don’t worry about where he hits in the lineup. I really believe he will be a very good player. I feel like he expects to be here.
Wells, meanwhile, dropped from fifth to sixth while behind plate again.
Boone said it’s possible Vásquez and Brito will get a few starts in the final month of the season. The right-handers have mostly been starters and rotational substitutes when needed this year, but are currently in the bullpen with the team using Michael King on a five-day schedule.
Brito entered Saturday with a 5.12 ERA in 70.1 innings and 18 games, including 13 starts. Vásquez has a 2.22 ERA on 24.1 frames and six games, including four starts.
WHY NOT FLORAL?
Estevan Florial is a young Yankee who didn’t have a chance. The 25-year-old former top prospect had a monstrous year at Triple-A, but the Yankees repeatedly promoted other farmhands and minor league veterans.
On Saturday, Boone said Florial had been brought up in organizational talks but the fact that he wasn’t on the 40-man roster had “complicated things”. Florial fell off the roster when the Yankees designated him for assignment in April, but he was unclaimed and remained with the organization.
“He’s been in this conversation for much of the last two months,” Boone said while adding that Florial still had the tools to succeed. “Just a few other guys that, right now, we feel like watching ahead of him.”
Florial entered Saturday averaging .281/.381/.548 with 24 home runs, 66 RBIs and 23 stolen bases. However, it is removed on catches in 30% of cases.
I don’t think 0.500
The Yankees started the season with championship aspirations, but entered Saturday’s game with a last-place 66-69 record. With that in mind, Boone was asked if finishing above 0.500 was now a goal with a month to go.
“I don’t even see it that way right now. I get asked questions about it. I know where we [are]”, Boone said, adding that he didn’t want to think too far ahead. “So, of course, you want to finish strong, but I also feel like it will be in four weeks.
The reality is that the rest of the Yankees season will be focused on developing the aforementioned kids, not the team record. That said, the Yankees haven’t finished below .500 since 1992.
Boone said Gleyber Torres was doing better after his back froze ahead of Friday’s game. Boone said he would see the second baseman available on Saturday, but Torres did not have any tests done.