The Marlins question: Cousins or Dominguez?

Update: Poll mentioned at the end of this article is updated at the front page. Please vote!

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

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