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.

Hunter Pence is mashing for the Rangers

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Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.

Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.

Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.

What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.

That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.