Continuing our focus on the Marlins minor league system, today I’d like to provide a quick update on how Matt Dominguez, the Marlins’ top minor league prospect, is doing. The impetus of this update is based on the question I sent over to Seedlings to Stars this week regarding Dominguez and how good he would have to be in order to be major league quality in 2012 and beyond given his stellar defense. Let’s take a look at how well he has performed in 2011 in Triple-A and see what we gather from that information.
Honestly, those numbers are extremely reminiscent of his entire minor league career as a whole. Outside of his 2008 stay in the Sally League, Dominguez’s batting line has been thoroughly uninteresting. Indeed, his career batting line of .256/.327/.420 is indicative of the sort of player he may one day be in the future: thoroughly average offensively. Of course, in other leagues that sort of line may be average or even a bit better, and former Marlin Maniac contributor John Herold pointed out that after park adjustment, those numbers look even better. However, it is hard to paint a positive light with a line like this in a league like the Pacific Coast League, which is notoriously hitter-friendly.
Before we get too judgmental, however, you have to look at both the positives and negatives.
Negative: He is not developing
As mentioned, the fact that Dominguez has basically hit the same batting line throughout his entire minor league career, spanning now three different levels after that Single-A stint in the Sally League, speaks to something simply not changing in his game. His power has not changed much despite moving to friendlier parks and aging. Since 2009, many of his peripherals have remained static:
Three leagues, three seasons, very similar results. That sounds like the definition of a player who is simply getting by and not improving on his skills.
Positive: He has been young for each level
It’s hard to consider that Dominguez is still very young for the Triple-A level given that his fellow high school draftee Mike Stanton is up in the majors tearing up pitchers already. However, it is true that Dominguez was drafted out of high school and has been moved quickly through the minors, and as a result he may simply not be ready for the rigors of higher-level play. This means that the Marlins have plenty of time to let him figure out the kinks in his offensive game. Right now, he is just 21 years old. Logan Morrison did not make the big leagues until age 22 last season. Gaby Sanchez did not get his first full-time gig until age 26. Hanley Ramirez began playing full-time in the majors at age 22. In retrospect, it seems pretty ridiculous to expect Dominguez to come out and take over at third base right away at such a young age.
Negative: He does not have great hitting tools
Here is what Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus had to say about Dominguez’s capabilities at the plate:
The Bad: Dominguez lacks a star-level offensive ceiling. He just doesn’t have the pure hitting skills to hit for average, and will need to make up for it with power and walks. He’s a below-average runner.
That does not mean much, but when scouts are saying things like that at age 21, you might suspect that he may have problems in the majors at the plate. He has a very small chance of becoming a big-time hitter, but with the lack of development one might be scared that his ability to “make up for it with power and walks” may be compromised.
Positve: He has made mechanical improvements
It seems last season the Marlins tinkered with his swing a bit and made some promising changes that could improve his game, even if we have not seen the results as of yet. Here are the guys at Bullpen Banter (all friends of the Maniac) on the changes:
Michael Herrick (53): …The Marlins changed the position of Dominguez’s hands during the season, altering his swing and leading to improvements in his contact ability in the 2nd half of the year and providing optimism he can hit at the MLB level without worry.
Al Skorupa (45): …I’m actually pretty optimistic about the changes to his swing. I still don’t think he will ever be a high AVG hitter, but it’s no longer a major weakness in his game that could have become a fatal flaw.
Those are all good signs, and while I do not have the greatest trust in the Marlins’ minor league coaching staff, I am willing to give them time to get Dominguez fixed and working well again at the plate.
Positive: Oh, that defense
Ultimately it does all come down to the defense. In the Seedlings to Stars article, I asked FanSided’s Nathaniel Stoltz and Wally Fish about how well Dominguez would have to hit in order to be a major league starter at third base, considering his defense is ranked as the best in the minors at his position. Stoltz and Fish offered their opinions which included two interesting comps.
Nathaniel says: …An interesting comparison for Dominguez would be Kevin Kouzmanoff, a guy who’s always posted great defensive numbers at third but is hampered by a career OBP of exactly .300. Even with his offensive limitations, Kouzmanoff’s been worth 11 WAR in 645 career games, which is basically 2.5 WAR per season, a near-average starter.
Wally says: …Brandon Inge is a guy that could be a nice comp here. As a 3B, Inge has hit 0.245/.318/.406 in his major league career, which certainly isn’t anything to write home about in any of the slash stats. But, he could flash the leather – especially from 2006-2009 – and that kept him in Detroit’s lineup on a regular basis.
Kouzmanoff and Inge were both glove-heavy third basemen who were deserving of defensive praise but fairly absent at the plate. Kouzmanoff is a career .255/.300/.421 hitter, and Inge was a .245/.318/.406 hitter as a third baseman. Both lines seem very reasonable, with Inge’s being likely closer to Dominguez’s possible totals given his better walk rate (8.3 percent between 2005 and 2010). Neither player struck out a ton, though Kouzmanoff’s career 18.4 percent rate matches better with what Dominguez has done. Kozmanoff has collected 10.8 FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement since 2006, while Inge racked up 14.4 fWAR in a timespan between 2005 and 2010. If either of these players were Dominguez’s 50th percentile projection in terms of hitting, he should be able to rack up an above average career during his team-controlled years, which would be more than beneficial for the Marlins. Perhaps there is not as much to fear given Dominguez’s significant defensive talents as initially expected.