Fans and collectors of New York’s two baseball teams got a glimpse of their future late last week. And the future might be now.
Three highly-anticipated prospects made their Major League debuts for the Yankees and Mets Friday night. All three had games memorable enough to make New York baseball fans temporarily forget about the disastrous seasons that have unfolded in front of them.
Second baseman Ronny Mauricio made his first appearance for the Mets in Houston against the Astros, while center fielder Jasson Dominguez and catcher Austin Wells saw their first Major League action for the Yankees. Based on the weekend, we will see a lot of these three players in September.
It’s been that kind of year. Six months ago, there was talk about a potential Subway Series in the Big Apple. No one would have foreseen the Mets unloading superstar pitchers Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, and the Yankees having one of their worst offensive seasons ever.
As the rosters were cleared out, players that were not expected to get playing time for the Yankees or Mets until 2024 or even 2025 are all of a sudden getting a chance. For the hobby, it’s another three highly anticipated players who will highlight the 2024 Topps rookie card class. Two of the three players have the potential to be franchise players, while all three are expected to become all-stars during their careers.
Mauricio Sets Record
The 22-year-old infielder was called up from Triple-A Syracuse Aug. 30 and saw his first action at Citi Field against the visiting Seattle Mariners Fri., Sept. 1. He was hitting .292/.346/.506 with 23 home runs over 116 games.
Naturally a shortstop, the Mets have been holding back Mauricio to give him time to improve as a second baseman. With Francisco Lindor locked into a long term contract with the Mets, there is no room for Mauricio as a shortstop.
In his first game, Mauricio hit a double that had an exit velocity of 117.3 mph. It was the hardest first Major hit recorded since the beginning of the StatsCast era in 2015. It was also the hardest hit ball by any member of the Mets this season. He added another hit to go two-for-three in his first game.
While his Topps Now card from his Major League debut is offered the first action from his big league career, there is no shortage of Mauricio cards on the market. Mauricio was only 16 years old when he was included in Panini baseball sets in 2017. He signed autographs in 2017 Panini Contenders Draft Picks and Panini Elite Extra Edition.
By 2018, Mauricio was in Bowman, Panini and Leaf products. Counting variations and parallels, there were nearly 1,300 different Mauricio cards that have been produced.
The Martian Debuts In Space City
Jasson Dominguez, who has one of baseball’s most unique nicknames as he is known as “The Martian”, blasted the second pitch he faced in the Major Leagues into the Minute Maid Park seats. Even more impressive was the fact that he hit his first home run off Justin Verlander.
The Yankees signed Dominguez and gave him a $5.1 million bonus four years ago, when he was only 16. They had been scouting him extensively since he was 14. A switch-hitting center fielder, the 20-year-old Dominguez became the youngest Yankee to play since 1984. He also became the sixth Yankee to get a home run in his first at-bat. The last was Aaron Judge. On Aug. 13, 2016, Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge hit back-to-back home runs in what was the first at bat for both players.
Dominguez homered again Sunday night in front of a national TV audience.
Our Favorite Martian 👽 pic.twitter.com/YUt0YK7js1
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) September 4, 2023
Dominguez had his family in Houston for the series. His first home run ended up in the Crawford boxes at Minute Maid. A woman who was attending the game with her daughter ended up with the home run ball. The Astros staff approached her about giving the ball to Dominguez, and she said she would exchange it for two autographed baseballs – one for her and one for her daughter. Dominguez obliged, and told reporters after the game that he was going to give the ball to his mother.
Although Dominguez didn’t get his first cards until 2019, he had close to 2,700 cards out before his Topps Now Major League debut card. He had Leaf and Panini cards in 2019 and his first Bowman cards in 2020, including autographs. The Dominguez hype has been brewing for awhile. Ten of those 2020 Bowmans have sold for $10,000 or more on eBay alone in the last year and a half.
Wells Gets First Action
The Yankees have not had an offensive threat at the catcher position since before Gary Sanchez went through the slump that led to his trade to Minnesota.
Austin Wells was selected by the Yankees out of the University of Arizona in the 2020 MLB Draft. He was drafted by the Yankees out of high school but opted to attend the University of Arizona, where his father played baseball and his mother competed in gymnastics. After his freshman year, he played in the Cape Cod League and was named the league’s top prospect. Wells went back in the draft in 2020, and the Yankees drafted him again, this time 28th overall in the first round.
He began his pro career at low-level A ball with the Tampa Tarpons and worked his way up the system. He hit two road bumps due to injuries. In 2022 he missed time after taking a foul tip in the groin. In spring training this year, he broke a rib which sidelined him for a while.
The knock on Wells is that he has had a low percentage of throwing out base runners on steal attempts. He does, however, draw high marks for the way he has handled pitchers.
Wells had a base hit in his first game as a Yankee and had a solid game behind the plate.
Youngest Line-Up in 54 Years
Wells and Dominguez joined Anthony Volpe (22), Everson Pereira (22) and Oswald Peraza (23) in the Yankees line-up against Houston Sept. 1. The last time the Yankees had five players 24 or younger start the same game was in 1984 when the line-up included Don Mattingly (23), Scott Bradley (24), Rex Hudler (24), Bob Meacham (24) and Mike Pagliarulo (24).
The last time before Sept. 1 that the Yankees had four players 23 or younger starting in the same game was in 1969 when Ron Blomberg (21), Frank Tepedino (21), Thurman Munson (22) and Bobby Murcer (23) all started in a game.