Who should be the Houston Astros third baseman?
Matt Dominguez (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)
The Houston Astros have numerous talented prospects throughout every level of their minor league system. I believe the position with the most depth in the entire organization is third base.
However, at the major league level, the Astros haven’t been getting much production from Matt Dominguez. Since the All-Star Break, Dominguez is hitting .194/.203/.295 with 26 strikeouts, 25 hits, and just two walks in 129 at-bats. That puts him at .225/.264/.347 with 14 home runs, 51 RBIs, 17 doubles, 106 strikeouts, 109 hits, and 25 walks on the season (and he has been the everyday third baseman for most of the year.)
The last couple games, Astros manager Bo Porter has given Gregorio Petit a chance to play. Petit is hitting .293/.310/.463 with one home run, five RBIs, four doubles, nine strikeouts, 12 hits, and one walk in 41 at-bats since getting called up in late July. He’s done a nice job for the Astros, but I don’t think the organization views him as “the third baseman of the future.”
Gregorio Petit (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)
With all the talent at this position throughout the organization, I think the Astros should explore their options behind Dominguez and Petit. The most realistic (and close to ready) choices are Joe Sclafani and Colin Moran, but the team also has the much younger Rio Ruiz and the possibility of adding a third baseman from outside the organization via trade or free agency.
Let’s start off with Sclafani. He plays the hot corner for the Oklahoma City RedHawks at Class AAA. Since getting moved up, he has put up some very impressive numbers. The 24-year-old switch-hitter, who the Astros drafted in the 14th Round of the 2012 MLB Draft, is hitting .343/.422/.420 with one home run, 23 RBIs, six doubles, 23 strikeouts, 58 hits, and 22 walks in just 56 games.
Moran is the third baseman for the Corpus Christi Hook at Class AA. He is hitting .295/.345/.423 with two home runs, 16 RBIs, four doubles, 18 strikeouts, 23 hits, and seven walks in just 20 games since getting traded from the Miami Marlins at the deadline. The 21-year-old, who Miami took in the first round of the draft in 2013, was one of the highest rated players in the Marlins organization before the Astros acquired him in the Jarred Cosart deal.
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It’s also worth mentioning Rio Ruiz, who is the very talented third baseman for the Lancaster JetHawks at Class A-Advanced. Ruiz is hitting .297/.389/.444 with 11 home runs, 73 RBIs, 35 doubles, 84 strikeouts, 145 hits, and 77 walks in 125 games. The 2012 fourth rounder could be the future for the Astros at third, but he’s not in the discussion for next season. At just 20-years-old, he still needs to make his way through the organization and won’t be ready for another couple years.
This offseason, I think the Astros will explore moving Dominguez. He has a nice glove and decent power, so he could have some value on the trade market. I think Petit could be a good utility player and I’d bet the team is hoping to give Sclafani a shot soon. Moran won’t be ready until next season, but I think he is closer than most people expect. (He could even be called up by July.)
In the long run, I think Ruiz will be terrific, but if we are talking about next season, I’m most excited for Moran. I think he has a very high ceiling and could surprise people with how quickly he is ready for the big leagues. In the end, the Astros should feel lucky to have this many talented options at third base. Very soon, it could become a position of strength for this team.