The Marlins question: Cousins or Dominguez?


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A couple weeks ago, I asked the Palm Beach Post’s Joe Capozzi via Twitter about the Marlins’ insurance plan with regards to the potential Chris Coghlan problem and whether Scott Cousins wouldn’t be a better option in center field than having Coghlan move to center and Matt Dominguez play third base. The response I read was, to be honest, a bit ridiculous. Capozzi retorted that putting Cousins out there would be dependent on whether he could put up a strong enough bat for the majors.

Isn’t that the exact reason why we’re concerned about Dominguez starting at third base in 2011? How can this be overlooked so easily? Yes, Dominguez is likely defensively better at third base than Cousins is at center field, but how can this cloud the potential gap between Cousins and Dominguez at the plate? Well, I figured that, rather than speculating about how strong each of their bats were, we could take a look at a projection and estimate the potential differences. We can use the ZiPS projections by Dan Szymborski to find out just how different these two players are.

The Challengers

Player PA AVG OBP OBP wOBA Runs above avg
Cousins 550 .256 .307 .408 .314 -7
Dominguez 550 .231 .300 .372 .297 -15

As you can see, neither player is a particularly strong offensive option according to ZiPS. However, Cousins ability on the basepaths (projected 15 steals in 21 attempts) does lend itself to being useful in adding a little bit of value. Overall, the two players posted similar OBP, with Cousins’s batting average beating out Dominguez’s. The slugging differences were slight as well, but still significant. Cousins projects as eight runs better than Dominguez.

Now, on defense the two are reversed. Cousins is a strong corner outfielder who can play center field, though throughout much of his career he has been labeled a tweener who would not be good enough to handle center consistently. However, he’s been playing center field primarily for the past few seasons and has done well in the stats, so maybe he has approached being an average center fielder. Meanwhile, Dominguez is well renowned for his glove at third base, and I’d be inclined to call him a +10 third baseman at his peak. This would essentially make the difference between Dominguez and Cousins even when you consider the variability around these defensive estimates.

The Coghlan Factor

So it turns out that Cousins and Dominguez may project as pretty close to equally valuable in the majors. The difference then is in the placement of Chris Coghlan. Once again, this is where the Marlins and I differ in opinion; the Marlins feel Coghlan is capable of managing center field, while I think such a move is a disaster waiting to happen. Whichever way you feel, there is one thing that cannot be denied: an alignment with Cousins in center field puts Coghlan in his most familiar position. Coghlan was a third baseman in college and played some third base in the minors before being shifted to second base. He just started playing the outfield in 2009, and he hasn’t excelled in the corners yet. Moving to center field will likely require a little bit more adjusting than moving to third base would.

So since Dominguez and Cousins may project evenly (depending on those defensive numbers), the choice is once again on whether you think Coghlan would play better defense at third base or at center field. My projections based on the Fans say he’d be better in center utilizing his speed, but the knowledge that he was, at best, an average left fielder makes me believe he would be better off moving back into the infield. What do you Maniacs think? Let me know in the comments and on the newest Marlin Maniac poll at the front page!

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Tags: Chris Coghlan Matt Dominguez Miami Marlins Scott Cousins

  • http://marlinsdiehards.com tedhill

    Without having seen any Spring Training, and minimal big league experience to look at (only last September for Cousins), my first instinct would be to choose Cousins. Reason? CF is more important for us defensively than 3B. The CF area at Sun Life stadium is vast. To be honest though, I’d kill to see some decent 3B defense, since we haven’t seen any of that pretty much since Mike Lowell. It’s a tough call, but with improved middle infield defense, I’d say wait on Dominguez and go with Cousins.

    Real issue: it won’t matter. As bad as Coghlan might end up being in CF, it won’t show in Spring Training I think. I think he starts the year in CF, how long he lasts? Probably not that long.

    • Michael Jong

      Ted,

      Excellent point there. All of our speculating is really moot, as the Marlins have already made a decision it seems. It will be in the opening weeks of the season that the Marlins decide the fate of Coghlan’s center field play.

      I also agree with the point regarding the outfield in Florida. Sun Life has a killer deep center field, and if someone is going to man it, it has to be someone good. Cousins may be manageable, but he’s probably a lot better than Coghlan out there.

  • Ehsan K

    I agree that Cousins should be in CF while Dominguez starts the year in the minors. I do however disagree with you on that Coghlan should play 2B. I personally believe his next move should be his final move. If they put him in CF and he can handle that, leave him there. 3B isn’t an option IMO unless Dominguez is being moved. Move Infante to 3B if you don’t think Dominguez is ready and put Coghlan at 2B, which then should be his pernament position. Either way, take some pressure off of the kid and make his next move his final move.

    • Michael Jong

      Ehsan,

      You make a good point that I neglected to mention. Coghlan’s move should be to second base, as Dominguez is eventually slated to take over third base. I’d like for Coghlan to finally take on a position permanently, provided it is one where his bat can handle the demands. He just doesn’t appear to be a good enough hitter to manage an easier position like LF/RF.

  • Mike

    I don’t see why anyone is giving Dominguez a chance…Yes he has not done that great with the bat but look at his second half numbers in the Southern League, while most people tire out he got better with the bat…Defense at 3rd base has been horrible since Mike Lowell…what he doesn’t get done at the plate he will save the runs at 3rd. Point in nobody is giving him a chance and I hope he makes the big league roster and proves everyone wrong.

    • Michael Jong

      Mike,

      It’s all a matter of preparing him to be the best he can be. I don’t know if rushing a player can affect his development in the future, but I’d rather not risk it; there’s no reason to rush Dominguez if we have an equally viable option in Cousins AND can move Coghlan into the infield where he is likely better defensively. As I mentioned, Cousins and Dominguez may be just about even in terms of production next year; the question actually comes down to how to best maximize Coghlan.

    • anthony

      Have you seen Cousins second half numbers? .386/.554/.930 in a tough hitters’ park in New Orleans. And performed reasonably well in a few ABs with the Marlins. There’s an argument that Cousins finally figured it out. He was always a tools guy without production, maybe we should be paying attn to his 2nd half numbers?

      • Michael Jong

        Anthony,

        That is something to consider, though I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on second half numbers. Also, you have to keep in mind that even if New Orleans is a little pitcher-friendly (John, do you happen to know the factors?), the Pacific Coast League is a whole is VERY hitter friendly. In fact, Cousins’s season line of .283/.333/.459 was actually league average according to wRC+ (wRC+ of 99, where 100 is the league average). So we definitely need to temper those numbers a tad.

        Cousins’s strikeouts have dropped, which is a good thing for him, but his plate discipline will never be strong, and he needs to have some power to compensate for that. I’d like to see what he can do, however, because he is 26 years old and there isn’t much time left for him to capitalize on his “peak” years.

  • Marvin

    The long term effect also has to be considered. If Dominguez is thought of as the long term answer at 3rd base then perhaps Coghlan is better off at a different position, how about 2nd.

    • Michael Jong

      Marvin,

      Ehsan already made that point, and I absolutely agree. Coghlan should be moved to second base if he is moved into the infield in anticipation of the eventual arrival of Dominguez. Excellent point.

  • Tony

    I personally think that Coghlan would be best suited by returning to 2B, and that should be his FINAL move (as someone above me said already). Coghlan played a pretty fair 2B, and we already have a 3B waiting in the wings….who says we have to give 2B to recently-acquired Omar Infante? Let Coghlan take the position where he is comfortable in from the minors and let him stay there. He’s a great bat already, he deserves to have job security at 2B and continue to develop under the tutelage of infielding-master Perry Hill.

    Here’s how I see the line-up shaping out:

    Coghlan – 2B
    Morrison – LF
    Stanton – RF
    Ramirez – SS
    Sanchez – 1B
    Buck – C
    Dominguez, Infante, E. Bonifacio – 3B
    Cousins, D. Wise, J.Raynor, E. Bonifacio, Infante – CF
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    With Coghlan cemented at second, 3/4ths of the infield can be set…all pretty defensive-capable. The top 5 of the lineup is one of the best Batting AVG. line-ups Ive seen in recent memory. Infante can hit also, so he would be great to have at 3b to start the year and let Dominguez develop that bat. CF looks like it can get a bit of a temporary fix with the outstanding glove of Dwayne Wise, whom can either learn to hit or be a placeholder until the team acquires a better option (if they are competitive).

    With all this said, I think our bullpen will surprise a lot of people this year..lets just keep that rotation healthy…..and not let Coghlan celebrate any more walk-offs!

    Go Marlins! Let me know what you think, Mr. Jong.

    • Michael Jong

      Tony,

      The lineup you point out is pretty intelligently built, I like it. You have our five best hitters in the top five spots, which is automatically better than what the team is planning on throwing out there this season. I would probably drop Coghlan down in the lineup in favor of Ramirez leading off, but that is a bit of a nitpick.

      (Note: As part of the previews, I’ll be showing the team’s projected lineup and batting order and my optimized batting order via the rules from The Book.)

      Your point about Coghlan is similar to the points shared by many of us discerning Fish fans. We need to move Coghlan to a place where his bat will play, but moving his to CF is begging for a defensive disaster given his play in left field. Also, his move rightfully should be the last move, especially if he is to be a staple in the lineup for years to come. He isn’t the best defender overall, but he deserves one position to focus on.