Unworthiest Regulars: Matt Dominguez, Chris Johnson

It took a special kind of player to be, on the whole, a useless regular position player in mixed fantasy baseball leagues of 10 or 12 teams in 2014. Offense is down. One’s offense is downright offensive against that backdrop when he manages to accrue 600 plate appearances and put up numbers that earn negative dollars.

Many players made a run at the honor of being unworthy of a roster spot for the duration of the season in standard mixed leagues. A dozen in all accumulated 500 or more PAs and returned negative value. Andrelton Simmons came up a couple of dozen PAs short of 600. But in the end, only two players reached the 600-PA plateau and were still bums, according to the Zach Sanders’ end-of-season rankings due to hit RotoGraphs shelves in the next week. Keep your eyes peeled.

Matt Dominguez’s .215/.256/.330 slash line in 607 PAs this year resulted in a loss of more than $5. He belted 16 homers but provided little else on his way to a futile final line. Last season, he was barely a money earner, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that his 26-point dip in AVG, five fewer round-trippers, 20 fewer RBIs, and a run total a handful short of last year’s resulted in a loss. The line between useful and not for the balance of a season is fine for fringe commodities.

A couple of folks around here wondered if Dominguez, entering the season at age 24, might be on the cusp of a breakthrough with the bat. Eno Sarris – not holding his breath, I don’t think – suggested that Dominguez could be such a thing should he solve his problem with pop-ups. Unfortunately, it appears Dominguez decided that the least circuitous route to that issue’s solution was simply not to put the ball in play as often as he had in 2013.

I don’t think that anyone expected Chris Johnson to produce an AVG anywhere close to the .321 clip that basically made him a $5 earner last year. This season, his AVG sunk below the .281 mark he posted in 2012. He ended up with a .263/.292/.361 slash line, with 10 home runs and six stolen bases, in 611 PAs and thus lose about a dollar this year. Johnson’s PT increased, but his power decreased: He scored a sub-.100 ISO for the first time in his major league career.

Johnson, like Dominguez, reached the 600-PA threshold for the first time. This past season is Johnson’s age-29 campaign, however, so he’s had a few more cracks at it. CJ159K (that’s kind of a play on the football player’s nickname, for those who wonder what the hell is going on there) rewarded the Atlanta Braves’ faith (another uptick in playing time) by performing quite unfavorably against RHPs (.231/.256/.314 in 486 PAs, 27.6 K%), his worst marks against them since his debut season of 2009 (which is comprised of a whopping 29 PAs total).

Johnson also responded in that manner to what at this point can only be classified as generosity: the three-year, $23.5 million contract extension he signed in May that includes a 2018 club option. Today, by the way, Johnson turned 30. Happy birthday. Perhaps one thing that led to Frank Wren’s firing.

The fact that both of these loot losers are third basemen shouldn’t be lost. In a visual survey, the hot corner looks to have been only slightly less depressing than shortstop. Rotisserie and head-to-head baseball managers knew that the position wasn’t the bastion of depth it used to be, but this year’s results might have taken it to a low they didn’t expect. For the record, Mr. Dominguez and Mr. Johnson, Luis Valbuena, Brock Holt, and Justin Turner earned money as third basemen – with less PT.

Kudos to Dominguez and Johnson. They couldn’t make 600 PAs mean something – in a year in which it didn’t take much to make 600 PAs mean something. Fantasy baseball players salute you.

We hoped you liked reading Unworthiest Regulars: Matt Dominguez, Chris Johnson by Nicholas Minnix!

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Nicholas Minnix oversaw baseball content for six years at KFFL, where he held the loose title of Managing Editor for seven and a half before he joined FanGraphs. He played in both Tout Wars and LABR from 2010 through 2014. Follow him on Twitter @NicholasMinnix.

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Did Zach not rank Derek Jeter’s 685 PAs?

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