- Rating: 1.97
- Age: Turned 26 on 9/11/21
- 2021: Stats: 13 G, 24 PA, 0-22 , .000 B.A., w/ 2 Walks & 7 K’s
- 2021: Earnings: League minimum, prorated to days on roster
- 2022: No longer in Diamondbacks organization, Minor League Free Agent
Domingo Leyba was signed by the Detroit Tigers in 2012 as a switch hitting amateur Shortstop out of the Dominican Republic. The 17 year old started hitting right away in the DSL, batting .348 with a 1.023 OPS , thanks to rapping out 28 extra base hits in just 201 AB, and walking more than he struck out.
That earned him a promotion to the mainland USA in 2014 where produced a .323/.360/.423 triple slash across two levels, A-, & A That included a monster 30 game stretch in the Midwest league featuring a .397 B.A.
That December he was included in a three way trade between Arizona, Detroit, and the Yankees that also netted the D-backs Robbie Ray while sending Didi Gregorious to New York. He had a rough first year in his new organization, batting just .237 with a .588 OPS. for Visalia in the Cal League. However he rebounded in 2016, finishing the year in AA, batting .301 with an .809 OPS at that level. But the next year He seemed to stall out , as he missed almost all of 2017 with an injury, and played in just 83 games in 2018, batting .269 with a .725 OPS.
Still only 23, he had a breakout year in Reno in 2019, batting .300, with an .870 OPS which included 37 doubles, 3 triples and 19 HR. Due to the “Reno effect” that was good for just a 107 wRC+, but that was still pretty good for such a young middle infielder. That earned him a callup to the majors in September, where in 30 mostly PH appearances he batted .280/.367/.440, with 2 doubles, a triple, 4 walks and 9 K’s.
Unfortunately the source of his new found power was revealed during spring training on March 6th 2020, when he was suspended 80 games for testing positive for the PED Boldenone. Due to the shortened 60 game season that meant he didn’t play at all. The team sent him through waivers and he went unclaimed . He was removed from the 40 man roster but remained in the organization
Leyba had a poor spring, and failed to make the opening day roster due to going just 5 for 40, .125 avg, with 2 walks and 17K’s. Optioned to Reno, he raked for the first 8 games, batting .457/.486/.914, 1.401 OPS. (16 for 35 including 4 homers). He was added back to the 40 man roster and called up on May 15th to get another chance. On May 17th he addressed the media for the first time since his suspension. (Interview covered in that link) I remember seeing his pained , awkward expressions while answering the direct and hard hitting questions. He got through it, and answered all but one of the questions, albeit claiming he didn’t know how the Boldenone got in his system, as he said he was just taking “approved supplements”.
When news came out that he was getting another shot, I commented to a close friend and baseball “insider” that I thought Leyba had a good hit tool, and I always felt there was a chance he could be a decent switch hitting utility infielder with some pop in his bat. So of course, me being ever the “anti”, Leyba proceeded to go hitless in all 22 of his bats, and seemed to have zero idea of the strike zone. It seemed he swung at every breaking pitch in the dirt they threw him, so that’s mostly what they threw him. (He saw only 38% fastballs vs. League avg 51%)
My friend ceaselessly mocked me (and Leyba) by conferring the nickname “Hit Tool” when referring to him after about the 6th straight out or so. Because he was getting mostly pinch hit duty, 10 of his hitless 22 at bats came with runners in scoring position, with 6 of them in high leverage , key moments of games. He failed in each and every one of those at bats, while striking out 7 times.
The Diamondbacks had seen enough. He was DFA’d June 2nd and claimed by the Baltimore Orioles June 4th. They called him up June 27th and gave him a bit longer look, appearing in 21 of the Orioles next 24 games and getting 72 PA. But he still wasn’t hitting, going .154/.236/.215. , with 16 K’s. The Orioles released him, and he was later picked up by the Texas Rangers and played a month for their AAA Affiliate in Round Rock where he hit well, but not enough for them to put him on the 40 man roster.
Now a minor league free agent, Leyba will hope to get a minor league deal with some club and try to rediscover some semblance of plate discipline and contact skills that carried him through his minor league career. Perhaps he just needs more time to adjust, or perhaps his approach was always this poor and he got exposed at the major league level. I’m not sure because I never saw him play before his MLB stints with the D-backs. But don’t be surprised if he surfaces in MLB again at some point during the upcoming season.
One piece of advice I’d give him though: Give up switch hitting. He’s been a consistently better hitter with much more power left handed throughout his minor league career. Perhaps only focusing on keeping one swing in tune will help him make better and more importantly faster adjustments to MLB breaking stuff. Because if he does get another shot and fails, it could be his last.