As I’m sure you’ve noticed by now, I try to hit a variety of topics in this blog. Part of that is simply due to interest on my own end (it’s more entertaining to write about different things) but also to allow all types of readers to become interested in the world of baseball.
As I discussed in my other article, Fantasy Baseball: Two Potentially Cheap Options: Rickie Weeks and Mark Reynolds , I have no desire to point out anyone in the top 100 of baseball as, if you’re reading this blog, you’re probably well aware of their existence. Instead, I seek to point out some of the lesser-known names of the game both for simple baseball knowledge for the casual fan and the benefit of the fantasy baseball player. Today I will depart from my posts about economics to focus on another Brewer, Carlos Gomez.
Carlos Gomez was one of the centerpieces of the Johan Santana deal that sent the ace to the Mets. The deal has gone down as one of the poorest in recent MLB history and, probably along with the other lackluster deals the Twins made in the 2000s, is why they are fighting the 100-loss season and signing such studs as Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey to fill out their rotation. Ultimately the Twins would flip the outfielder to the Brew for a year of J.J. Hardy after the shortstop had struggled through the 2009 season where he posted a .229 average with 11 homeruns in 115 games that included a demotion to AAA (kudos to him for remaking himself in the bigs).
The trade was seen largely as a “change of scenery” trade and made sense for the Brew Crew as they were passing on another year of then aging veteran Mike Cameron while making the position of shortstop available for upcoming Alcides Escobar who would be later flipped in part for Zack Greinke. At the time, Carlos Gomez was seen as an outfielder with tremendous speed but a “lack of baseball sense” to go along with relatively little pop and a struggling batting average. In the season before heading to the Crew (2009), Gomez also posted a .229 batting average (odd huh?) with a whopping 22 walks (sadly still his second highest number to date). Even his biggest advantage, his speed, wasn’t very helpful, as although he was able to steal 14 bases he was caught 7 times.
Coming to Milwaukee in 2010 fans and front office personnel had their concerns with completely giving him the full-time starting job in the outfield. He ended up only getting 318 plate appearances with a .247 batting average but a much better steal rate (18 successes in 21 attempts). His role was very similar again in 2011, much to the thanks of the dominance of Nyjer Morgan (aka: T-Plush) who was batting over .300 and bringing some swagger to the young Brewers offense as they powered their way into the playoffs. But when 2012 came, Nyjer ended up having less than 10 RBIs at the all-star break, allowing Carlos Gomez to reenter center. Adding to this was the injury to Mat Gamel, the replacement of Prince Fielder at first, who had to be replaced by then right fielder Corey Hart. Carlos Gomez had his first real chance to get consistent at-bats since 2009.
At age 26 the young outfielder put up a batting average of .260 with a .305 OBP, a .463 slugging, 20 walks, 98 strikeouts, 72 runs, 108 hits, 19 homers, and 37 stolen bases out of 43 attempts.
If you hadn’t heard by now, Brewers first baseman Corey Hart has been injured and is going to miss at least a couple months of the regular season. As such, Mat Gamel is getting yet another shot. In this process, Carlos Gomez has actually gained job security, as although Ryan Braun and Aoki are virtually guaranteed spots, there is no competition from any others for the third. Additionally, even though Gomez has had his issues on the offensive front, he’s always been viewed as above-average defensively, though sometimes his routes have been a little suspect. In 2012 his total zone fielding runs above average was an unfortunate -6, but 2011 showed a value of 15, so take that for however you feel like interpreting it. The point is, Carlos Gomez will definitely have the job out of spring training given that he doesn’t hurt himself and should have a relatively long leash.
Looking at the lineup, we can imagine Gomez hitting in the one, two, seventh, or ninth holes depending on how Roenicke sets it up. Although the seventh hole may be of some concern, he would likely be hitting in front of Jonathan Lucroy, an underrated catcher who actually enjoys (and prospers well) in the 8th spot. Given that there aren’t two outs (leading to a potential “to the pitcher intentional walk”), Lucroy should be able to hit him in well given that Gomez utilizes that speed to reach second base. I would be genuinely surprised if he was placed into the lead-off slot, as his numbers in that slot were absolutely atrocious last year (1 hit in 11 attempts), though we should note he put up solid numbers leading off an inning. If I had to take an educated guess, I would believe that young shortstop Jean Segura takes precedence hiding in the 7th slot, Aoki takes the leadoff spot (because of his better OBP), and Gomez ends up in the 2nd slot (because of his power). Absolutely no one will be walking Carlos Gomez to reach Ryan Braun, giving him his share of fastballs. Given that he gets on base, he should have the ability to score some runs. You should also notice one definite advantage this provides: since they do not want to walk Gomez, they will be unable to take advantage of his biggest flaw – his lack of plate discipline and thus low walk rate.
As to his running game: if Gomez is hitting in front of Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez, there be some hesitance to give him the green light allowing him to make outs on the base paths since first base is scoring position with those two in the batter’s box. However, manager Roenicke has been an advocate of the running game, a teaching of Mike Scioscia. Carlos should get his opportunities.
Why Gomez is worth Contemplating
In the first half of last season it was intended for Morgan to receive the majority of the playing time and his heroics from the previous season kept him in the job longer than should have been warranted. As such, Gomez only appeared in 62 games in the first portion, only starting 34 of those (he would often come in as a pinch hitter and defensive replacement). In here he would only hit five of his homeruns, get 18 of his RBI, and steal 11 of his bases.
The second half was a different story. Starting 64 games, Gomez was able to hit 14 homers putting up a slugging of .488. His OBP hit .321 with 26 stolen bases in 29 attempts and accumulating 70 hits with 46 runs. In addition, in the months of July, August, and September/October, Gomez was surprisingly consistent, hitting five homeruns in each of them respectively and 13, 11, and 12 RBI. His stolen bases were also consistent at 11, 9, and 9.
So are these numbers just a fluke? Well, I don’t think so.
Carlos Gomez’s slugging has been on a consistent rise since his premiere: .304, .360, .337, .357, .403, and most recently, .463. Although his OBP was over .300 for the first time in his major league career, we can definitely accept his .321 second half OBP (which would put him on par with the team average OBP of Atlanta last year).
But, as I mention, I’m not all about just the stats: he also passes my eye-ball test. When watching him throughout the season I was genuinely worried that he was getting a little “pull happy” and moving away from his competitive advantage in speed. However, the power genuinely seems to be there. The issue really seems to be, bluntly, intelligence of the situation. It would seem that at the beginning of his realization that he could hit for power, Gomez tried his best to inflate the statistic, as he went up swinging for the fences on consecutive at-bats throughout consecutive days. However, as the season went on, it seemed that some of the guys in the clubhouse were able to talk some sense into him in realizing the situations in which he was batting and understanding that swinging for the fences wasn’t always the correct move. We can suggest that this is why his OBP was able to increase.
If we were simply to extrapolate Carlos Gomez’s second half of the season last year, we could see about a .275-.285 batting average, a .310-.330 OBP, 55-70 RBI, 45-55 stolen bases, 80-100 runs scored, and 20-25 homers. If that doesn’t sound good to you, especially in the later rounds of a fantasy draft, I’m not sure which game you’re playing. Carlos Gomez has potential in the much desired speed/power combo categories.
Now of course there is significant risk here. Carlos did pull a hamstring last season, putting him on the 15-day DL. Although he came back fine, it did bring to the forefront some conversation about how he is always playing at 100% when he plays. While this is definitely a good thing (why wouldn’t you want the players you have trying their hardest?), that extra little effort definitely can lead to those types of injuries. In conjunction with that philosophy, Gomez has few inhibitions about running into the outfield walls. Paired with some hesitations about his “baseball intelligence” and “common sense”, you may find yourself with your hand on your face wondering what he was thinking. Gomez will get picked off between first and second and caught in a run-down at least five times this year, you can bank on that.
In my opinion, if you can get him in the round in which Nick Markakis or Angel Pagan is being selected, this may be an alternative you may want to consider pursuing. Perhaps Gomez will be the unexpected piece that the Brewers need to take that Central Division crown.