It’s probably a little early to be digging deep anywhere and we haven’t had a rash of injuries strike the hot corner the way starting pitching was decimated recently. Still, you might be relying on a value play like Will Middlebrooks, Mike Moustakas, Chase Headley, or David Freese, all of whom have yet to do anything at all. Yeah, small sample size and all that, but it’s easy to panic when you’re not trotting superstars out there every day. Keeping an eye on plan C when plan B isn’t panning out isn’t a horrible idea — and a couple of third basemen are readily available in Cody Asche and Matt Dominguez.
Dominguez is owned in just 13% of Yahoo leagues, and those 13% of owners were probably fixated on his second half splits from 2013. Dominguez was largely ignored last year because of what amounted to a forgettable start to the season. Over his first 300 at bats, Dominguez slashed .227/.257/.383 with just a 3.6% walk rate, although he did manage to sock 11 home runs. But his second half was much improved — he hit .260/.323/.430, saw his walk rate double and his BABIP jumped from a first half .235 to .280. He finished with just a 7.6% swinging strike rate and posted an above league average contact rate over 91%.
Dominguez hits a few too many balls in the air and maintains just an 18% line drive rate, which isn’t awful, but you wouldn’t assume a BABIP much above that .280 second half rate. One way he could improve his chances in 2014 would be to cut his unseemly infield fly ball rate, which finished out 9th highest among qualified players at almost 16%. That figure also dipped in the second half of last year, so assuming he can keep it under control in 2014, perhaps a more respectable average is in order.
Projection systems generally like his chances, projecting home runs between 17 and 22 with runs and RBI in the high 60’s to low 70’s. Dominguez doesn’t run at all — like AT ALL — with one singular stolen base between the major and minor league levels. That’s one stolen base in over 3200 plate appearances. Anyway, don’t count on him to run. Plus, he’s not likely to best a .260 average. But if you can yoink a free third baseman capable of .260/20/70/70 you’ve done pretty well for yourself.
Another fiver who is readily available is Cody Asche, owned in just 7% of Yahoo leagues (is that pronounced “ash” or is it all hipster like “Az-key”? It’s probably “ash” since he has a Twitter account named “@Cody_Smasche” ostensibly named by The Hulk. I digress, badly.). Asche didn’t fare terribly well in his 50 games last season, slashing .235/.302/.389 with five home runs but he actually projects quite similarly to a guy like Matt Dominguez, with the added benefit of a handful of steals. ZiPS has him down for a .246/.296/.388 campaign with 15 home runs, 67 runs, 70 RBI, and seven steals. Both Steamer and Oliver feel like he might sniff .260 with a slugging percentage as high as .440.
Just 23, power should be still developing for Asche, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get to 20 home runs given regular playing time — and hitting in one of the happiest places on earth for flying balls ought to help. Although he has struggled in his brief time in the major leagues against left handers, it sounds like he’s not in danger of the dreaded platoon quite yet so he should have a shot at 600 plate appearances. If he can maintain a similar batted profile as he did in 2013, and perhaps get a little more luck on batted balls, his final line could be similar to that of Dominguez, and at this point he’s going to cost you far less.