Brian Todd continues our look at the 2014 Astros, checking in at the hot corner.
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In 2013, six players took at-bats while playing third base. The other five did not take one-tenth the at-bats that Matt Dominguez took at the Hot Corner.
We could talk about Marwin Gonzalez and Brett Wallace all we want at third base. But the fact remains that Matty D is the Astros’ third baseman. Barring injury, he is certain to take the lion’s share of time at third after putting up a batting line of .241/.286/.403.
At the plate, there were really two Matt Dominguezes last season, the one before the All-Star break and the one after. Before the ASB, he hit .227. After, he batted .260. On-base percentages: the splits were .257 vs. .323. Slugging: Matty D put up a so-so .383 before the break and slugged .430 after.
So, which Matty D will we get? What was the difference between first-half and second-half Dominguez? Well, before and after at-bats were 308 to 235. Strikeouts were 51 to 45 (note: overall, he whiffed less than 100 times in 543 at-bats), which means
proportionally he was striking out more in the second half. Homers were up proportionally in the second half (11 pre-ASB to 10 post-ASB), though doubles held about even at 15 to 10.
The big difference, it seemed, was walks. Dominguez walked 12 times in 308 at-bats before the ASB: that’s 1 BB per every 25.67 at-bats. Yep, he was THAT bad. In the second half, he took 18 BB in 235 ABs, which is a walk every 13 ABs.
Are we seeing what the difference is? We need a patient Matt Dominguez at the plate (are you listening Jose Altuve ?).
No matter, it’s Matty D or bust in 2014. Despite getting no love in certain defensive metrics, he places pretty high in assists plus putouts per chance. His error total is fairly low. His range factor is decent, but frankly I think he’s better than that stat indicates. If he’s not a Gold Glove-caliber defender, my eyes need adjusting.
Behind him on the depth chart is Wallace (see First Base) who might provide a day off or two for Dominguez during the course of the season. Marwin Gonzalez might be our AAA stop-gap. All I will say there is his MLB OPS is under .600. We don’t need to say more. Jonathan Meyer put up a .721 OPS at Corpus last season, striking out 109 times in 484 at-bats. The Astros also invited Gregorio Petit, a journeyman minor leaguer who’s had a cup and a refill with Oakland in 2008 and 2009. He looks like the organizational guy going to OKC.
Rio Ruiz might be the third baseman of the future, but he was in Quad Cities last season. After a slow start, he put up a .786 OPS. Nolan Fontana was in Lancaster in 2013, putting up a wind-aided .816 OPS that has more to do with his 102 BB in 386 ABs. Technically a shortstop, Fontana could slide over to third if he finds some power and a way to get on base other than his strict strike-zone discipline.
* Which Matt Dominguez do we get in 2014? First-half Matty, second-half Matty or something better? Or something worse? Why do you think so?
* Dominguez put up a 2.2 WAR last year (Baseball Reference). A lot of that comes from his defense. Is there anything about Matty D’s defense that needs to improve?
* If Dominguez is injured (Lord forbid!), who do you want to see over at third? Wallace? Gonzalez? Do we bring up Meyer or go with Petit?
* Are you looking forward to Rio Ruiz? When should he get his chance, in 2015 or 2016 or later?