The 2005 Houston Astros roster is a distant memory. The third baseman, Morgan Ensberg, that helped carry the team down the stretch by compiling a WAR of 6.3 is now an infield coach for the Lancaster Jethawks. The Astros have struggled since that season to find a solid third baseman as they have employed ten different players at the position. Perhaps a key component of the next playoff team will be a third baseman named Matt Dominguez.
A former first round draft pick of the Miami Marlins in the 2007 Amateur Draft, Dominguez is a 24-year old player who will turn 25 in late 2014. The Astros acquired him along with Rob Rasmussen in exchange for an aging and overpaid Carlos Lee. Dominguez had been ranked among the top 100 prospects in MiLB twice — following the 2008 and 2010 seasons. After the trade in 2012 Dominguez was assigned to AAA Oklahoma City where he hit .298/.347/.398 in 45 games. He was recalled to the Astros for the remainder of the 2012 season. Through a small sample of 31 games he managed a .284 batting average. In a series against Cincinnati he went 5 for 11 slugging two home runs and driving in six runs.
The 2013 campaign was Dominguez’ first full major league season. This is probably partially caused by the Astros’ not having a player to adequately play the position and maintain a solid presence in the lineup. He did, however, manage to club 21 home runs while driving in 77 runs. Three of those home runs were off of the Astros’ rival pitcher Yu Darvish.
Defensively he managed to record a .963 fielding percentage which ranked him 11th among third basemen. These statistics are overall better than his minor league numbers where he totaled 67 homers and a .953 fielding percentage. Dominguez hit a homer for approximately every 36 at bats in the minors while in 2013 he was able to hit a homer once in every 26 at bats. That is quite a considerable improvement.
Dominguez finished near the top in several categories for the Astros in 2013. I would like to see his strikeout rate shrink in 2014 while increasing his walk rate. His BABIP was the lowest ranked among third baseman in MLB for the 2013 season so he may need to increase his pitch recognition for the 2014 season. But Astros’ fans shouldn’t be too critical of one of the teams’ best players in 2013.
Through the Astros next few seasons player development will be critical to the success of the franchise. Dominguez has displayed an ability to learn from his minor league experience and apply those lessons in the major leagues. If he can supply the defensive and power improvements he displayed in 2013 along with improving some peripheral statistics, he will surely match his first round potential the Marlins saw back in 2007. He is still a young player and someone that will likely be a big piece of the club as he enters his prime along with the rest of the Astros’ growing foundation.