February 25, 2011
Donnybrook - Carlos Gomez
BP readers, it's time to leave the benches and bullpens and join the Donnybrook! Leave your comments below about which side you're on, or suggest another Donnybrook question for two BP writers to tussle over. Today's question: "Will Carlos Gomez ever become a viable leadoff (or even major-league) hitter?"
Mike Petriello: You just hate to ever count out a guy who has only just turned 25, but, well, no. What reason has he given us to think otherwise?
That, my friends, is an ugly offensive history. In real life, it’s mitigated somewhat by the fact that Gomez is a quality glove in center field, though that’s of course not going to help fantasy players. Even worse, we’re not seeing any improvement at all. At 24 in 2010, Gomez struck out more often and walked less than he did as a 21-year-old in 2007, with a bit more power, though still not anything noteworthy. A young player needs to at least show progress, and we’re just not seeing that here—his batted-ball stats (ground ball, fly ball, line drive) have been more or less consistent in each of his four years, meaning that he’s not that different of a player now than he was when he arrived.
The problem for Gomez is that he was very clearly rushed to the bigs in 2007 by the Mets, a team that had older outfield starters in Moises Alou and Shawn Green and ended up using 11 different outfielders. Forced to do most of his learning at the big-league level, he still hasn’t managed to put that OBP over .300 even once, and with a good-but-not-great .341 minor league OBP, it’s possible that his shiny tools and inclusion in the Johan Santana deal allowed him to be somewhat overrated in the first place.
It’s hard to say the future looks any brighter. In addition to the noted lack of progression, PECOTA sees him having another similar year at .239/.291./347, for a replacement-level .229 TAv. The humans aren’t any more optimistic; Marc Normandin has him in the “one-star” range of available center fielders, just below last year’s train wreck Nate McLouth, and Kevin Goldstein has him eighth on the Milwaukee “25 and under” list—a ranking which may be noteworthy with Kansas City, but is decidedly less so in a Brewer system decimated by the Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum trades.
I assume that any defense of Gomez is going to begin with how well he did to finish off 2010, hitting .378/.395/.432. That’s great, and maybe it’s the start of something, but when he has had over 1,400 PA with a career OBP under .300, it’s going to take more than 39 September PA against expanded rosters to prove himself. There’s also the hope that the Brewers will run more with Ken Macha gone, but even a few more stolen bases aren’t enough to overcome the total lack of on-base skills and power. He has the tools, and he has the youth… but there just hasn’t been enough production or progression to make me a believer.
Jason Collette: Sure, if he joins my local softball league. The guy has a career walk rate of five percent and (laughably) has been walked intentionally three times in his career. His career BB/K rate is 0.23 and his highest career OBP is .298, and that's in 1,420 career plate appearances.
He showed some gains from 2008 to 2009 in plate patience, increasing his BB/K from a Soriano-like 0.18 to 0.31, but gave it all back when he went back to the National League last season. Maybe some of that was from having to learn the new pitchers after being away from the senior circuit for two seasons, but his splits do not show any growth. In fact, he struck out 23 times in 120 plate appearances while walking just five times through May and June, but then struck out 25 times while walking just seven times in 74 July plate appearances.
If you are a trends guy, his OBP did raise four straight months to end the season, from .238 to .297 when he was seeing a lot of playing time, then up to .364 and .395 when his playing time was limited to just 50 plate appearances during the final two months of the season.
It is ironic that PECOTA shows Joey Gathright as one of Gomez's three comps, as both guys have games that are built entirely on speed, but the original car-jumping athlete's lowest-ever OBP is still 15 points higher than Gomez's best effort to date. His best chance at being a leadoff hitter is leading off the third inning in front of the pitcher, because Gomez is his own worst enemy.
Mike Petriello is an author of Baseball Prospectus.