Is Matt Dominguez the Answer?

Despite the fact that he’s never played above AA ball, Matt Dominguez is the favorite to open the season as the starting third baseman for the Florida Marlins. Typically, a prospect that claims a starting job at such a young age is regarded as one of the strongest prospects in all of baseball. This, however, is not necessarily the case for Dominguez. Although Marc Hulet rated Dominguez as the Marlins’ top prospect coming into the 2011 season, Dominguez ranked 81st on Baseball America’s top prospect list. The Marlins’ aggressive promotion schedule with Dominguez is definitely a risky proposition considering his inexperience. 

Dominguez spent the entire 2010 season in AA, and, while promising, his performance left a lot of room for growth. In 577 plate appearances, Dominguez managed to hit .252/.333/.411, not exactly a performance that warrants such an aggressive promotion. The most troubling aspect of Dominguez’s minor league numbers is his elevated strikeout rate. Over the course of his minor league career, Dominguez has struck out once in every six plate appearances.

If Dominguez is exposed to major league pitching this season, his strikeout rate could balloon to astronomical heights. Thankfully, Dominguez has shown patience over his career, and could balance out his poor average with a strong walk rate. In 32 at-bats this Spring, Dominguez has hit .219/.324/.438, which probably isn’t a far cry from the batting line he would post during the upcoming season (higher average, but lower on-base and slugging percentages). Dominguez, however, is regarded as one of the best defensive third baseman in the minors, and should be able to gather a decent amount of value from his glove. Those skills might be enough to push him above the replacement level this season.

Still, the Marlins run the risk of ruining Dominguez if he flops at the major league level. If he struggles to raise his average above the Mendoza line and starts to press, his confidence could take a huge hit. The problem is, the Marlins don’t really have any better options at the position.

Neither Wes Helms nor Emilio Bonifacio inspire much confidence as starters. While their offensive performances could come close to matching Dominguez’s skill set, Helms and Bonifacio wouldn’t come close to matching Dominguez’s defensive value. If we dismiss those players from contention, we are left with Omar Infante and Chris Coghlan.

As Joe Pawlikowski recently explained, the Marlins could choose to alter their lineup due to the versatility of Coghlan and Infante. Both players have limited experience at third base throughout their careers, and it would be tough to predict how they would perform defensively at the position. Neither player profiles as an ideal hitter at third base, but both would probably churn out a more consistent offensive performance than Dominguez.

That said, the Marlins seem pretty committed to starting Infante at second and Coghlan in center. Based on all the buzz surrounding Dominguez this Spring, it looks like he’s going to win the job at third base. While some will suggest Coghlan or Infante be moved to other positions, it’s hard to argue with installing Dominguez at third. The cupboard is pretty bare for the Marlins at the position, and Dominguez is the only strongest option they have. He should provide the strongest defense of the bunch, and might hit just enough to justify the promotion. The Marlins are taking a significant risk with the move, however, and it’s now up to Dominguez to learn how to hit major league pitching on the fly. If he can’t, the Marlins have no one else to turn to this season.




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Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.


22 Responses to “Is Matt Dominguez the Answer?”

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  1. Ross Boss says:

    No one will go to the new stadium. It is too far and will lose a lot of fans from Palm Beach and Broward. Stanton is a beast 40 plus HR. Hanley is lazy. Where is Bobby Bonilla and Chuck Carr?

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    • Mark says:

      I wish there could be more lazy players like Hanley Ramirez. 900+ OPS SS’s that can steal 30+ bases…if that’s lazy then I wish all the players on my team were as lazy as he is.

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      • Jimmy the Greek says:

        You know what he was saying. Don’t pretend like intangibles don’t exist just because you can’t measure them. Ask anyone in the game and they take things like work ethic, leadership, and effort into consideration. As they should.

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      • DavidCEisen says:

        Really Hanley got to be the best SS in baseball by being lazy?

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      • The Ancient Mariner says:

        Jimmy the Greek, don’t pretend like results don’t exist just because they don’t fit your desire to denigrate players you don’t like.

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      • -C says:

        And a -8.9 career UZR/150…it’s the field where Hanley’s lackadaisical approach kills him.

        -C

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      • Mark says:

        So he’s lazy on defense but not offense? That makes no sense. The more realistic answer is that he’s just not a good defender at short. I mean Jeter’s not a good defender, but we don’t see people calling him lazy.

        It’s really easy to just call a player lazy, but the fact of the matter is Hanley is one of the 4-5 best players in the game since 2006 (ie when he started fulltime). It bothers me a lot when people call him lazy or that he hasn’t reached his potential, when he’s hits like one of the best SS’s of all time.

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      • DavidCEisen says:

        I never knew UZR was how we measure desire.

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      • Jimmy the Greek says:

        The Ancient Mariner, I actually love Hanley as a baseball player. However, he’s quite obviously been lazy in the field before, and his leadership intangibles have been questioned multiple places (for whatever that’s worth).

        Those things actually do exist, despite what your amateur reading of Moneyball led you to believe. Ask the most stat-savvy front office in the world, and they’d tell you they still care quite a lot about makeup, work ethic, leadership, etc.

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      • DavidCEisen says:

        “amature reading,” what compared to your professional reading level? Ask even the most traditional front office in the league if they would trade their starting short stop for Hanley and with the exception of Colorado I think you’ll hear a lot of yea pleases.

        For what it’s worth I’ve never heard of any player saying that they didn’t like playing with Hanley.

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    • Jgainsey says:

      What the hell does Hanley Ramirez’s laziness, or next year’s attendance have to do with an article on Matt Dominguez?

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  2. jar75 says:

    Yeah, it’s pretty clear that he’s the best option, but I’m just not sure why they’d opt for him this year. I have a hard time seeing the Marlins seriously competing for the division, and it would improve their chances in the future to give Dominguez’s bat more development time in AAA.

    I do think, between his solid power / plate discipline and excellent defense, he can post a 2 win season, but it shouldn’t have been too difficult to find that type of production via free agency to hold them over for a season.

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    • S.M. Jenkins says:

      I don’t think he is the best option. If he really is. then the front office hasn’t done their job (as you partially allude to).

      I’m not a big believer in Matt Dominguez’s ceiling but I think that the risk of rushing him still outweighs any short term gains a (something of an unexpected productive 2011 would yield.

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  3. johan says:

    Why not? He isn’t ready to hit at the major league level yet, but since his glove is ready it can’t hurt too much. I don’t agree that the Marlins can’t compete this year, at least for a Wild Card.

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  4. Dan Greer says:

    Is Gaby Sanchez still capable of playing 3B, or is he so bad there that it’s not an option?

    Actually, the thought of Sanchez/Ramirez/Coghlan at the IF skill positions both intrigues and scares me. At least Morrison is supposed to be good at 1B (and terrible in LF).

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  5. Kenny says:

    Typo: “matching defensive* value”

    I don’t know why the Marlins would care if they put a marginally worse player like Wes Helms at third base for awhile. Nobody wants to see this kid go out there and hit .200. Put him in AAA, let him learn to hit.

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  6. broncosfan_101 says:

    Sign Luis Castillo, move Infante to 3rd. Dominguez is not ready, and he should be given the opportunity to hit in AAA for at least half a season.

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    • Undocorkscrew says:

      Apparently Loria is PISSED about the Marlins defense this spring, and since Dominguez has the fewest errors in the infield, we’ probably have our answer.

      Oh, and Stanton is a beast, Hanley’s lazy, and Vazquez is on PED’s and such.

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  7. :) says:

    Don’t understand why EVERYBODY always talks of Wes Helms and Bonifacio as the 3rd base options.

    Donnie Murphy: A slg-filled mid-700 OPS is far from a reach and probably more of what to expect.
    Osvaldo Martinez: Upper-600 OPS/low 700 OPS is what’s expected, just like Bonifacio/Helms/Dominguez. Difference is, he’s a good defensive SS, meaning he’s more than likely a VERY good defensive 2b or 3b.

    Also, something you’re ignoring with Bonifacio is the fact he’s one of the best base runners in baseball. That’s 5-10 runs being ignored.

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  8. Powder Blues says:

    Allen Iverson says “merhaba”

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  9. Bob says:

    Serious questions about his bat are fair, but if you’ve watched this kid, you know his defense is special. I’m talking Ryan Zimmerman-special. Dominguez may not hit enough to stay with the big club, but you really can’t do better defensively.

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