Our position-by-position look at the Astros continues today as Brian takes a closer look at the revolving door that has been third base for the past several seasons.
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Two positions for the Astros were essentially black holes in 2014. While Houston will rely on Jon Singleton again at first base, it’s likely the fans will see a change at the Hot Corner.
Last year, Matt Dominguez started 147 games at third, playing 153 there. While I’m always happy to see a skilled glove and arm at third — and Matty D uses the leather well — the Astros need a solid bat at third. If Dominguez can regain his 2013 form at the plate, maybe it’ll be him. But Jeff Luhnow obviously doesn’t have total faith in Matty D, otherwise he would not have said Marwin Gonzalez will compete for the job, then he went out and traded for Luis Valbuena.
And those are just the obvious options. Right now there’s a whole glut of people on the 40-man roster who could end up playing third base this season. After all, Jed Lowrie can play third, though he’s slated to pay shortstop. And while if Jonathan Villar gets any playing time outside of shortstop, it’ll more likely be at second base than third, it’s not like he couldn’t man the Hot Corner in a pinch. Oh, and then there’s Ronald Torreyes, who is fighting for the utility job.
OK, so those are the options on the 40-man roster.
Here’s what that looks like:
- Luis Valbuena, 478 AB, 113 K, 65 BB, 16 HR, .249/.341/.435
- Matt Dominguez, 564 AB, 125 K, 29 BB, 16 HR, .215/.256/.330
- Marwin Gonzalez, 285 AB, 58 K, 17 BB, 6 HR, .277/.327/.400
- Jed Lowrie, 502 AB, 79 K, 51 BB, 6 HR, .249/.321/.355
- Jonathan Villar, 263 AB, 80 K, 19 BB, 7 HR, .209/.267/.354
- Ronald Torreyes (at AAA), 460 AB, 26 K, 25 BB, 2 HR, .298/.345/.376
Whew! Those are a lot of options on the 40-man roster.
- Colin Moran (playing at high-A Jupiter for the Marlins and a venti cup of coffee at Corpus Christi), 417 AB, 76 K, 37 BB, 7 HR, .296/.344/.397
- Matt Duffy (split between AA and AAA), 517 AB, 106 K, 28 BB, 18 HR, .288/.336/.451
- Gregorio Petit (first in AAA), 317 AB, 52 K, 20 BB, 10 HR, .297/.340/.457
- Gregorio Petit (in Houston), 97 AB, 25 K, 9 BB, 2 HR, .278/.300/.423
- Joe Sclafani (split between AA and AAA), 336 AB, 40 K, 36 BB, 3 HR, .315/.384/.405
The Rest of the Story
Down the road, options might include Nolan Fontana (.794 OPS at AA), Tony Kemp (.859 OPS between Lancaster and Corpus) and J.D. Davis (.878 OPS between Tri-Cities and Quad Cities … do we have a Penta Cities affiliate?) Between these three, only Davis is really a third baseman.
Moran is obviously the guy Houston is hoping will vie for the position in 2016. And Sclafani, with his nice K and BB rates, is an attractive option who apparently had a good run in the AFL this fall. If all the guys on the 40-man are out, or playing other positions, Duffy might sneak up to Houston if Moran struggles a bit.
Of course the gaping hole here is Rio Ruiz, who is now a member of the Braves organization. The conventional wisdom is that Moran made Ruiz expendable, but I don’t think that’s the case. Ruiz put up very good numbers in each of his three seasons, but I think the way J.D. Davis went from Tri to Quad — and is now likely slated for Lancaster — in just one season shows how Ruiz was expendable.
Hot Questions for the Hot Corner
Matty D has seen his OPS drop two years in a row, from his 109 AB 2012 at .787 to 2013 at .690 to last year when he was probably the worst full-time player in the majors with a .586 OPS. And while his BAbip has dropped each year (.299 to .254 to .244) his Line Drive Rate has increased (17%, 18%, 22%) and his Infield Flyball Rate has dropped (21%, 18%, 17%). So, did Matty D just have a really unlucky 2014? Maybe the answer is his Balls In Play Percentage, which dropped from 77% to 74% and finally 71%? Or it’s his rising K% going from 15% to 16.3% to 20.6%? Oh, Matty D, thou art an enigma.
- If Valbuena takes the starting job out of spring training, who is your backup at third, Matty D or MarGo.
- Will the Astros have enough spots on the 25-man roster to keep Matty D as a platoon with Valbuena? After all, he had a .677 OPS against lefties.
- Is Colin Moran really the 3B of the future, or does Sclafani or J.D. Davis usurp that spot from his this year?
- With a couple of backup SS who also play 3B and 2B, it’s likely the utility/super sub comes from this group. Would you like that spot to go to MarGo again, or Petit, who did it admirably last season? Or is it time to give Torreyes a look?
- And the big question: Are the Astros better off now at third base than they were on Sept. 28?