This is the life of a New York Yankees fan these days, isn't it? Exciting rookie arrives. Exciting rookie immediately changes trajectory of franchise. Exciting rookie sets record for "Most Good Thing in Fewest Days." Exciting rookie wakes team from slumber and gives fan base something to count on for next season.
Exciting rookie is lost to surgery, with no inciting incident to blame. Jasson Dominguez didn't run into a wall or a sprinkler drain, like Dustin Fowler or Mickey Mantle. He didn't feel a pop. He didn't collapse to the ground. He played. He was scratched. He was revealed to need life-altering surgery. Nothing happened. He simply disappeared.
As bleak as Monday feels, even coming off a 13-inning Yankees win for the ages, Dominguez's recovery from Tommy John surgery to repair a surprise UCL tear probably won't be absolutely disastrous. There could be complications, and he won't play the field right away, and if you wanted to be pessimistic, we'd understand. But recent history of position players undergoing this surgery portends a full recovery, and also a quicker one than we've grown accustomed to.
Pitchers used to miss 18 months automatically after having the procedure. Now, it's more like 12-16. The "average" recovery time for position players that's been thrown around in the wake of Dominguez's disastrous news has been 9-10 months, which would mean he'd be ready to return between June and July 1. That timeline has precious little to do with a 20-year-old going on 21, and doesn't factor in the miracles that baseball's freaks have displayed lately.
If the Yankees want to be very cautious with Dominguez's recovery, they might hold him back a bit (especially if they sign an exceptional stopgap). But if they want to be aggressive, there's a chance he could return far sooner than the summer.
When will Yankees' Jasson Dominguez return from Tommy John surgery?
At least it seems like Dominguez is content to have the surgery right away, which will expedite his recovery timeline somewhat. He will never pitch again (gasp!), which means his "offense only" rehab will be different than Shohei Ohtani's. Bryce Harper remains the all-time standard for Tommy John recovery, so it would be highly unfair to compare the two parties. Still, you'd think the decade Dominguez has on Harper could speed up his timeline a little, if he works as diligently as he intends to.
That's the reason Jeff Passan suggested that Dominguez wouldn't miss much of the 2024 season after all. He can return to DH before he can return to center field, which would mean a lot of Giancarlo Stanton in left and right, with Aaron Judge perhaps taking some familiar reps in center. Stanton might not survive so much outfield work without coming down with an injury of his own, but that's simply a risk the Yankees are going to have to take for the remainder of his contract. They can only do so much to keep an aging Stanton healthy; the slugger has largely shown an inability to hit high-velocity fastballs anyway this season.
Recent Tommy John recoveries for Yankees position players also paint a rosier picture. Aaron Hicks underwent surgery after the 2019 season (after playing through a UCL tear in the playoffs) and, while the 2020 season was the strangest year of our lives, he was ready for July Training. Didi Gregorius underwent an equally shocking TJ after the 2018 postseason in mid-October; he was back at shortstop, a highly demanding position, by June 7, 2019. Even Gleyber Torres went under the knife in mid-June 2017 to fix a UCL tear in his non-throwing arm, and was a full go for the start of 2018, sparking the team after being promoted in April. The procedure did not affect his future whatsoever.
There are always potential complications with any surgery, but Tommy John is not a death knell for anyone, let alone a position player. It's more shocking than disastrous to believe that Dominguez could be ripped away from Yankees fans as soon as he arrived, especially as a result of an utterly invisible injury. Considering his surgery should take place in mid-September, it wouldn't be unreasonable to believe he could be a big-league DH before the end of April. Odds are his first reps back will be in the minors, though, to keep him safe, and (the understatement of the year) this whole mess no doubt derails his campaign somewhat.
Dominguez's timeline for being a full go is quite a bit longer than his timeline for recovery, but it would be completely reasonable to hope to see him in mid-May (while still gearing up for worse news). It's fair to be worried about what he might look like. But -- don't kill us! -- Aaron Judge's nebulous toe injury might've had a higher chance to affect the slugger's future, considering how unprecedented and strange it was/how much of a player's power supply the pivot toe is responsible for. Judge has proven that the best version of himself is still inside his gargantuan frame, and he should look even stronger after a full offseason of recovery. Dominguez, God willing, will be in a similar boat, and will be ready when the Yankees need him next season.