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San Francisco Giants: Chris Dominguez or Maikel Franco at third?

By Mark ONeill
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With Pablo Sandoval sidling off to Boston, San Francisco Giants GM, Brian Sabean, must consider which of three paths to follow, in order to find a replacement for the charismatic third baseman. He can sign a free agent, possibly Chase Headley, he can trade for a suitable candidate, or he can work from within the organization to fill the slot. The key is to figure out which one will have the most beneficial impact on the field, without pounding the payroll any more than absolutely necessary .

Richard Justice made an intriguing suggestion in his wrap-up of the Giants’ third base problem, citing the current dilemma, if it might be referred to as such, of the Philadelphia Phillies. Cody Asche is the incumbent hot bagger, but Maikel Franco, a promising rookie, is hammering at the door.

Franco’s stats from triple-A (Lehigh Valley, IL) indicate a player with some power (16 HR, 33 2B), but his .257 batting average and .299 on-base percentage are not especially inspiring, and he had only three stolen bases over the course of the season, an indication that speed is not high on his list of attributes.

Trading prospects for a prospect makes little sense. Why take the chance?

Besides, it would cost the Giants serious talent from the ranks, because Philadelphia is rebuilding, and just because they have a veteran third baseman that they want to keep in place, does not mean that they do not have other holes to fill.

Though Franco could very well make the jump, one question that crops up is why would San Francisco pursue a potentially costly, unproven rookie from another team, when it has a plausible candidate already available in Chris Dominguez, who made his debut on the parent club in the September call-ups, and got ahold of one for a home run, for his first-and only-hit of his major league career, in seventeen at-bats?  He has demonstrated power in the past, in Fresno, where he hit 21 home runs in 131 games, and had 21 stolen bases.

Sep 30, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Jon Lester (31) throws a pitch against the Kansas City Royals during the first inning of the 2014 American League Wild Card playoff baseball game at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Sabean has reportedly said that he will not seek Sandoval’s replacement from within, but if he pursues a big-name fifth starter, such as Max Scherzer or Jon Lester, then he will have to temper his expectations, when it comes to going after a player of Chase Headley’s caliber. Besides, filling the fifth rotation spot with a top-flight pitcher, gives Bochy the additional luxury of keeping Yusmeiro Petit in the bullpen, where he has thrived for two seasons now.

Dominguez has the added advantage of having played extensively at all three outfield positions, plus shortstop and first base, whereas Franco has played only at third and first base. Bochy is well-known for shifting around his players to make sure all get into the lineup, so Joaquin Arias may start at third, while Dominguez spells one of the outfielders. It would just be one more weapon amongst many.

With Angel Pagan returning to help defray some of Pablo’s offensive loss, there will be less pressure on Dominguez to produce immediately. He played a full season at the triple-A level, last year, and though he may not be one hundred percent ready for major league action, he should be close enough to be given a legitimate shot when spring training comes around.

Relying on rookies always involves a certain degree of risk; why include a price tag as well?

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