One of the cornerstones of the Houston Astros, third baseman Matt Dominguez has just 26 career home runs. The good news for Astros fans is that 21 of those home runs came last year in his first full season in the big leagues. The team needs more of the same from Dominguez this year if this rebuilding project is to be as successful as the last one.
In 1990, just four years after having narrowly lost the NLCS to the New York Mets, the Astros traded their best player, slugger Glenn Davis, to the Baltimore Orioles. The following season, the Astros lost 97 games and finished last. But that trade netted Curt Schilling, Steve Finley and Pete Harnisch, propelling the Astros to the playoffs six times in the late 1990s and early 2000s, including three consecutive first-place finishes between 1997 and 1999, along with a World Series appearance in 2005.
This time around, progress has been much slower. The 2014 Astros are coming off three consecutive 100-loss seasons, including a dismal 111 losses a year ago. Their payroll is by far the lowest in the AL. Dominguez was one of the few bright spots last year. In addition to his power at the plate, his .963 fielding percentage was fourth in the league, earning him the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Award.
Last year, Dominguez’s 96 strikeouts dragged his average down to.241. That has to change if the Astros are to become a factor in the increasingly-competitive AL West. He has to become more selective at the plate and force pitchers to throw more fastballs. If he can do that, both his batting average and power numbers should improve.
Defensively, he’s on the right track. Dominguez was pegged as a Gold Glove-caliber defender when he was drafted, and he may very well live up to that potential.