Gotay, Murphy options at third base?

I was perusing my old stomping grounds at Beyond the Box Score when I saw this piece from former colleague Satcher Price (one of the best guys going on the Internets, by the way) touting a strange name for the Marlins third base job:

There are other guys that they’re likely to pepper in there, such as Emilio Bonifacio, Donnie Murphy, and possibly prospect Oswaldo Martinez, but there’s one wild card that people should really keep their eye on: Ruben Gotay. The 28-year-old may not have the youth of Dominguez or the veteran presence of Helms, but he does bring one thing to the table that’s unique among the team’s options: on-base skills. While Gotay reached the majors in 2004 at age 21, he never thrived in four different seasons and hasn’t been back to the big show since a 2008 stint with Atlanta. But over the past two seasons in Triple-A, he’s been nothing short of an on-base machine.

Satchel is absolutely right regarding Ruben Gotay and his on-base capabilities. Did you know that, in the past two seasons in two different Triple-A organizations, Gotay has gotten on base 440 times in 1056 PA, marking for an impressive .416 OBP? That says something about his approach at the plate, which seemed to have drastically changed two seasons ago. The Marlins picked up Gotay in early December in what I initially thought was a minor league depth move. However, given the team’s abyssal hole at third base, he may be an option to consider.

At the same time, the Marlins also have Donnie Murphy as another in-house option after his tear last season. Despite my trepidations regarding Murphy’s ability, I can’t say that the team shouldn’t at least give him a chance to win the job. So how would either Gotay or Murphy manage in the majors in 2011?

Two similar players (in different ways)

Check out the lines for Gotay and Murphy in 2009-2010 in the minors:

Player PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA
Gotay 1056 .280 .416 .442 .386
Murphy 234 .276 .333 .533 .370

Clearly neither player has much to do in Triple-A. Gotay has been a monster at getting on base in Triple-A, while Murphy has displayed significant power and has the benefit of a strong 47 PA sample in 2010. However, let’s take a look at a simple attempt at translating those inflated Triple-A stats into more realistic major league stats. Here are the 2010 Triple-A performances of both players as translated to major league equivalents using Baseball Prospectus’ Davenport Translations (as a comparison, I added Emilio Bonifacio‘s actual 2010 stats):

Player PA AVG OBP SLG *TAv
Gotay 577 .241 .340 .345 .245
Murphy 224 .237 .281 .412 .236
Bonifacio 201 .261 .320 .328 .253

*Note: TAv is similar to wOBA in that it is BP’s complete hitting stat; the difference is that it is scaled to the batting average scale.

Which of these guys would you rather have? Each have a skill but clearly none are impressive. Personally I’d rather have Gotay, as he has at least on recognizable skill, whereas Bonifacio has a tool that does not go well with his skillset (he can’t get on base, but his best asset is only useful when on base). However, none of them are ideal, and Wes Helms isn’t a whole lot better.

What about Dominguez?

The most important question for 2011 and beyond, however, is what the Marlins will do with Matt Dominguez. Everyone, even those inside the organization, have to know that he isn’t ready to hit in the majors. Joe Frisaro recently compared Dominguez’ nondescript batting performances to those of Hanley Ramirez before Ramirez’ major league debut in 2006 as a 22-year old. However, their overall minor league numbers weren’t even close:

Player PA AVG OBP SLG
Ramirez 1700 .297 .352 .430
Dominguez 1506 .257 .330 .422

The comparison holds no water. There is no way Dominguez breaks out in a way resembling Ramirez in 2006. He likely would not look good in 2011 in the majors. The question then is whether a full season or even some PT in the big leagues would be better for his development than a full season in Triple-A and a year of someone like Murphy or Gotay plugging the major league hole. That I can’t answer, as I just don’t know Dominguez that well. I hope the Marlins make the right decision, which in my opinion is to not jeopardize any development of a future prospect, however that may be. A season in Triple-A may not help Dominguez, but it can’t hurt him. A season in the majors, where he could appear lost and lose confidence? I’d rather see one of our in-house options look terrible for one year than to blow it with a young position player of the future.

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Tags: Donnie Murphy Matt Dominguez Miami Marlins Ruben Gotay

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