Matt Dominguez was the 12th overall pick of the 2007 draft by the then Florida Marlins. He hit well at Single-A in 2008, posting a .382 wOBA and .203 ISO, and that was enough to get him listed among Baseball America’s top 100 prospects at 64 for the 2009 season. Unfortunately, it all went downhill offensively from there. Since then, he failed to exceed a .347 wOBA, which he posted the following season at High-A. He then missed being ranked among the top 100 prospects in 2010 before making a return at 81 in 2011. Now a member of the Houston Astros, we fast forward to 2013, his first full season. Dominguez hit 21 home runs, which was enough to make him the 18th most valuable third baseman, the last one at the position to earn positive value.
As a prospect coming up through the minors, Dominguez was known for his slick glove at third base. Oddly, he has appeared in nearly 1,700 innings at the position, but has yet to crack a positive UZR in any year. Though his glove hasn’t been extremely detrimental, it clearly hasn’t added the type of value that had been expected. So without strong defense, Dominguez would have to contribute with the bat.
Alas, that did not happen. While his 21 home runs and 77 runs batted in were respectable totals, he was allergic to the base on balls and suffered from a poor BABIP that hampered his batting average. That all led to just a .301 wOBA. Of course, given his mediocre minor league track record, his performance should not have been surprising.
However, the power output may have been. ZiPS was essentially dead-on with its plate appearance projection, but figured just mid-teens homers. The Fans did as well, after extrapolating their projection over his actual at-bat total. So how did he manage to outperform his home run projections?
First off, he boosted his fly ball rate significantly. Although it was a small sample size, his two previous Major League stints resulted in FB% marks in the high 20% to low 30% range. In 2013, that rate jumped to 39%. Even though his HR/FB ratio was only a smidge higher than the league average, the high fly ball rate, combined with above average contact skills, were enough to push him over the 20 home run plateau.
His average batted ball distance was 279 feet, right around the league average, so his HR/FB rate looks rather sustainable. And he did show some decent home run power at times in the minors, so it wasn’t completely out of character.
While I don’t expect a whole lot of upside on the power front, there is one avenue for improvement. Too many pop-ups capped his BABIP and held it down to just .254. But even with an IFFB% that ranked ninth highest in baseball, his xBABIP was higher at .280. Better BABIP luck could push him into .260-.270 territory, which might actually benefit a fantasy team’s batting average.
Since Dominguez makes good contact, small increases in both BABIP and HR/FB rate could have a magnified effect on his results, which is a good thing for fantasy owners who are looking for reasons to be bullish. He’s unlikely to be overvalued, so he makes for a reasonable choice in AL-Only leagues.