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Athletics Minor Leaguer Doesn't Envy Players in 2020 MLB Draft

Right-handed pitcher Dominic Yearego was an undrafted signee by the A's exactly a year ago today and had a nice first season. The way the draft has been shortened to just five rounds, however, he suspects he wouldn't have gotten a chance if the draft had been five rounds last year.
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Dominic Yearego is about as far away from the Major Leagues as a guy can be and still be in a big-league organization.

A right-handed pitcher who doesn’t throw particularly hard, Yearego was bypassed in last June’s draft after spending four years at West Texas A&M, a Division II school just south of Amarillo, Texas. Three days after the draft, he was signed by the A’s.

He calls it being born at the right time, because he says he does not believe he’d have any chance to sign with the draft as it is now. The draft has been slashed from 40 rounds last year to five this year, and everybody not taken in those five rounds becomes a free agent, able to sign with anyone. Yearego lived that life of free agency a year ago.

“I’ll bet a lot of those guys are terrified they won’t go in those five rounds,” Yearego said Monday from Amarillo. “Five rounds? That is terrifying. It’s going to be very rough for a lot of people.”

“I don’t think I would have had a chance to sign if I was in this year’s draft. It’s such a struggle to get signed as an undrafted free agent anyways. All I can say is that I’m glad I finished my career in college last year and not this year.”

Yearego was reasonably certain that baseball might have passed him by as a player. He is two classes shy of getting his Master’s in Sports Management from West Texas A&M, and toward that end he took an internship after his senior season in 2019 with the local Double-A team, the Amarillo Sod Poodles, a San Diego Padres’ affiliate.

He was in his second week doing group sales and operations for the Sod Poodles, an alternate Texas name for a prairie dog and truly one of the great team nicknames ever, when A’s scout Chris Riley, who handles Oklahoma and West Texas, called him two days after the draft and got his name on a contract.

Yearego, a reliever with an upper 80-mph fastball that sinks and a circle changeup “that is the only reason I’m in pro baseball,” was assigned to the Athletics Green team in the Arizona League and went on to have a good year with Team Green, posting a 2.16 ERA with one save in 15 games.

He thought perhaps he’d be pitching for Class-A Beloit now, but the shutdown of baseball in March with the advent of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic meant he needed to be adaptable. In previous offseasons he’d worked as a merchandiser for the Scott lawn care conglomerate in the morning and as a pitching/hitting/fielding coach in the afternoon.

This year, he’s decided to coach on his own rather than at a facility or work in merchandising. He’s been able that way to continue to throw and continue to stay close to the game he loves. And he’s discovered he likes coaching. Not as much as pitching, perhaps, but a lot.

“You know, I really think I offer a lot more to high school kids than what any facility does,” he said. “These kids never get talked to about the recruiting process and what to expect. They go to school to play baseball, but they need to realize they have to take care of academics. One of the kids I’m coaching now, he’s a smart kid, and I had to say to him, `Dude, you’ve got to keep your options open.’

“It blows my mind what these kids don’t know, because no one tells them that, sure, everyone wants to go to a Division-I school, but sometimes you aren’t good enough and you need to keep your options open for college. If you go to a D-II school, it may not be quite the same and may not be quite a sexy and all that. But you’re there to get your college degree paid for. So, for a lot of these kids, and I was one, go to a D-II school and play some good baseball.”

Yearego is doing just that. He’s willing to take pitching as far as it goes. After that, maybe coaching will be an option, or a front office job.

It’s been a year to the day – June 8, 2019 – that Yearego got the call from Riley and signed with the A’s. Between signing and playing and being shut down and coaching, it’s been a bit of a nutso year.

“It’s been really wild and a lot of fun,” he said, “but it’s crazy to be where I am now.”

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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