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Marlins considering options at third base after sending Matt Dominguez to minors

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As recently as last week 21-year-old prospect Matt Dominguez was considered the favorite to make the jump from Double-A and claim the Marlins’ starting job at third base, but today they sent him to the minors.

Florida newspapers were full of praise for Dominguez when it looked like he’d get the job and his defense gets universally outstanding reviews, but his bat simply isn’t big-league ready. He hit just .252 with a modest .744 OPS in 138 games at Double-A last season, more or less equaling his career marks, and went just 8-for-42 (.190) this spring.

There’s little sense in rushing any 21-year-old prospect to the majors for a team that’s unlikely to contend anyway, and doing so with a guy whose offensive game still has plenty of rough edges makes even less sense. Credit the Marlins for realizing that, although by putting so many eggs in the Dominguez basket they’re left with some pretty unappealing fallback options at third base.

In fact, their choices are so ugly that Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com speculated they might pursue 36-year-old Pedro Feliz, who’s currently in Royals camp and hit .218 with a ghastly .240 on-base percentage last year. In-house options include Wes Helms, Greg Dobbs, Donnie Murphy, and Emilio Bonifacio. Florida is no doubt hoping that whoever starts at third base on Opening Day is only keeping the position warm for Dominguez, but he’s no sure thing to light up Triple-A pitchers and force his way back into their plans at age 21. The jury is still very much out on his bat.

Brandon Belt signs $6.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with Giants

Brandon Belt
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In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.

Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.

He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.

Phillies acquire Taylor Featherston from Angels

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Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.

Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.

He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.

Keith Law: The Braves have the best farm system in baseball

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Flags fly forever! Hooray for The Process championship!

Ah, sorry. This is about as much rooting as I’ll get to do this year, so cut me some slack.

This is the week when ESPN’s Keith Law releases his prospect and farm system rankings. He kicks off his content this week with a top-to-bottom ranking of all 30 farm systems. As a rule he limits his analysis to players who are currently in the minors and who have not yet exhausted their rookie of the year eligibility. The top system: the Atlanta Braves. The bottom: the Los Angeles Angels, about whom Law says “I’ve been doing these rankings for eight years now, and this is by far the worst system I’ve ever seen.” Enjoy Mike Trout, though, you guys.

If you want to know the reasons and the rankings of everyone in between you’ll have to get an ESPN Insider subscription. Sorry, I know everyone hates to pay for content on the Internet, but Keith and others who do this kind of work put a lot of damn work into it and this is what pays their bills. I typically don’t like to pay for content myself, but I do pay for an ESPN Insider subscription. It’s worth it for Law’s work alone. And though he drives me crazy sometimes, Buster Olney’s daily column/notes thing is also worth the money over the course of the year.