Third base has seemed like a difficult spot for the Milwaukee Brewers to fill for the better part of the last decade. The team has tried filling the role at various points by plugging in players like Bill Hall, Tony Graffanino, Craig Counsell, Casey McGehee, and Russell (the Muscle) Braynan without much sustained success. Former top prospects like Mat Gamel and Taylor Green failed to gain a foothold in the majors before injuries halted their respective careers. Ryan Braun was so awful defensively in his rookie year that he was moved to the outfield prior to the following season. Free Agent import Aramis Ramirez did his best to fit the bill for the better part of the last four years, though after a stellar debut campaign with Milwaukee in 2012, he missed extended time in each of the last three seasons due to injury.
Now with Ramirez traded and the Brewers rebuilding, the organization is again searching for a long term solution at the hot corner. Milwaukee doesn’t have a single third baseman in their top 30 prospects. The Brewers’ do have a wealth of middle infield depth, but most of the players are the glove-first type that haven’t shown the ‘pop’ desired from a third baseman. There are no clear cut candidates within the organization to take over at third next season, and this year’s free agent class is lacking for everyday options.
One player who appeared to be a candidate to get an audition for the third base gig was Matt Dominguez. Dominguez was formerly a top-100 prospect in the Astros organization, and posted a solid first campaign in 2013: .241/.286/.403 batting line with 21 home runs in 152 games, 11.9 FRAA (fielding runs above average), and a very serviceable 2.8 WARP. Dominguez struggled mightily in his sophomore campaign in 2014, however, and started this season as AAA before being claimed off of waivers by he Brewers back in June. Once the Brewers traded Aramis, it seemed like it would only be a matter of time before Dominguez got his stab at the hot corner position in Milwaukee.
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As we learned yesterday, however, that apparently wasn’t in the plans for the Brewers. Dominguez was allowed to be claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays, with Adam McCalvy reporting that the team apparently hadn’t seen enough from the recently turned 26 year old and wasn’t planning on calling him up at any point. In 72 games at Colorado Springs since being claimed, Dominguez slashed .281/.324/.434 with six home runs and 21 doubles. He posted an .859 OPS in August and ended his brief Brewers’ tenure on a 16 game hitting streak.
After seeing this move, I couldn’t do anything but scratch my head. I understand Dominguez has a mixed track record at the MLB level, but a .758 OPS and 28 extra base hits in 72 games for the Sky Sox should have been enough to warrant an MLB look over the last few weeks of the season. The team still had an open 40 man spot when they waived him and hasn’t added anyone since the news broke, so there doesn’t appear to be any immediately pressing roster need to be addressed. If he comes up and doesn’t perform, what does it hurt by waiting until the end to place him on waivers?
Craig Counsell hasn’t been shy about heaping praise on the Elian Herrera/Hernan Perez platoon that he is currently employing at the hot corner, but neither of those players appear to be anything more than a platoon or utility option for the long term (especially the 30 year old Herrera, who has been outrighted to AAA twice this year). The Brewers passed on former top 50 prospect Mike Olt when the DFA’d by the Cubs earlier this week, and they’ve now cut bait with Matt Dominguez without even giving him a look at the big league level despite a solid showing in AAA. The Brewers have an organizational hole at third base, but apparently trying to amass and audition young, controllable talent isn’t the way Milwaukee is seeking to fill that void.