When the Astros signed Jed Lowrie in December, Jonathan Villar probably figured his chances of starting were slim. Then Jeff Luhnow announced that Marwin Gonzalez will be given a chance to start at third base like he did towards the end of 2014. So, where does this leave the once hyped Jonathan Villar and Matt Dominguez?
While Villar was never the Astros shortstop of the future, with Carlos Correa on the horizon, he was thought to be the placeholder until Correa arrived. When he first came up in 2013, he brought excitement, speed, and hints of possible power down the road. His weakness from the beginning has been defense, committing 16 errors in his rookie year. He started 2014 on fire defensively, not committing an error in his first 20 games, but finished the year with 18.
In the minors, Villar showed a high error proficiency, especially in 2010-2012 where he had 56, 36, and 24 errors respectively. I wondered why the Astros didn’t promote Villar earlier, and looking at his high volume of errors, I now know why.
Hitting wise, in April of 2014, Jonathan Villar didn’t embarrass himself hitting 0.241 with 3 HR, 8 RBI’s and 4 SB’s. However after the decent start, his defense and hitting fell off the map. With the signing of Jed Lowrie, Evan Drellich Tweeted that…
Astros other middle infielders, Jonathan Villar, Marwin Gonzalez and Gregorio Petit all naturally become more expendable.
In 2015, with the release of Gregorio Pettit and Marwin Gonzalez possibly playing third, I see the Astros holding onto Villar until a better option at third or a backup to Lowrie appears. I know most Astros fans are not jumping for joy, but he is still young and offers speed off the bench. There is still a chance that Villar can be designated for assignment, especially if Ronald Torreyes emerges as a Enrique Hernandez type of utility player.
Jed Lowrie is the starting shortstop in 2015, and he will change positions when Carlos Correa is ready. The pressure is on for the Astros to win now, so they will decide what to do with Lowrie later when Correa and Ruiz/Moran arrive.
Matty-D was known for his defense and average pop for a third baseman. In his first full year with Houston in 2013, he broke out by hitting .257 with 21 HR and 77 RBI’s while striking out 96 times. However, in 2014 his numbers decreased to .215 with 16 HR’s and 57 RBI’s while collecting 125 strikeouts. This decline in offense caused him to lose his starting position to Marwin Gonzalez towards the end of 2014.
Defensively, Dominguez earned the dubious honor of winning the most errors by a third baseman in 2013 with 16, and followed that season up with 11 errors in 2014. He did win Astros defensive player of the year in 2013 with those 16 errors.
From Drellich’s article above, “Matt Dominguez has a chance to be a very good player,” Luhnow said recently. “Two years ago, he proved that. Last year, he slid back a little bit. We’re going to give him every opportunity to win that job, but we also have to protect ourselves as an organization. Marwin (Gonzalez) is still with us, and Marwin could end up being our third baseman. So we’ve got some options, and we also have a few months until spring training. We’re going to continue to look at ways to improve the club.”
“We’re going to give him every opportunity to win that job, but we also have to protect ourselves as an organization. Marwin (Gonzalez) is still with us, and Marwin could end up being our third baseman.”-Jeff Lihnow
The political response by A.J. Hinch will be that third and first bases will be an open competition. It will be earned by performance in spring training and not just handed out. So that leaves a competition between Matt Dominguez, Marwin Gonzalez, and Triple-A options Matt Duffy, and Ronald Torreyes to man the hot corner for 2015. In 2016 it is expected that Colin Moran or Rio Ruiz will take over third base duties. Matty-D could still win job out of spring training, but he has to impress new manager Hinch.
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I don’t see the Astros totally giving up on Villar or Dominguez yet, but patience is running thin right now. I see them both being available off the Astros’ bench, with maybe Matt Dominguez receiving occasional playing time at 1st. I’m okay with Marwin Gonzalez as a shortstop, but have issues with him being the everyday third baseman because of his lack of power at the plate. I will revisit the topic during spring training, because there are still moves to be made by the Astros.
What do you think the Astros can do to improve third base for 2015?