Friday, March 19, 2010

Catching Up With: Carlos Gomez

Metsblog had an interesting post earlier today discussing some former Mets farmhands which we have traded away:
Yes… Bell and Matt Lindstrom, and maybe Xavier Nady and Jeff Keppinger, are players the Mets might wish they could have back... But, all in all, Omar Minaya has traded away a TON of minor leagues, very few of which he regrets.

For instance, in the five years he has been at the wheel, he’s traded away: Ian Bladergroen, Petit, Grant Posmas, Gaby Hernandez, Dante Brinkley, Jae Wong Seo, Evan Maclane, Victor Diaz, Brian Bannister, Lastings Milledge, Carlos Gomez, Deolis Guerra, Humber and Kevin Mulvey – very few of which would even have helped with adding depth to last season’s injury-plagued roster. He traded away Mike Jacobs, who signed with the team as a free agent a few months ago; and he traded Henry Owens, who was auditioning for a minor-league job at Tradition Field last month.

Yes, I do trust Minaya’s ability to asses his young talent, which is also a credit to his staff.
Now, I disagree with some of the assessments outright. Mike Jacobs was a very useful player for a couple of years, it is way too early to tell on Gaby Hernandez, Milledge is good and has the opportunity to be great, and Brian Bannister has been a very useful player. But I agree with the concept in general -- for all the hand wringing people have done about trading away prospects, we have not traded away a lot of impact players. And it's interesting to wonder whether that is luck, or whether Minaya has just been particularly adept at judging talent.

In any event, you'll notice Carlos Gomez in the above list. So I figured I would catch up with him really quick. I think that he may surprise some people this year with his performance.

Gomez, you already know, was traded from the Mets to the Twins as part of the Johan Santana deal. What you may not know, as Gomez has faded from relevance, is that he was traded again this offseason to the Brewers in an even swap for shortstop JJ Hardy. It was an interesting trade for a number of reasons, but primarily because it is somewhat rare to see two young players swapped for one another straight up. It's a challenge trade.

Gomez struggled last year, batting only .229/.287/.337. However, most of his statistics have been trending in a positive direction and he will play the entire season at the tender age of 24.

Last year Gomez was able to do a lot of very, very positive things. First, he was able to increase his walk rate from 4.1% to 6.3%, while his isolated power held steady at over .100. This means that he was able to draw more walks and have a more discerning batting eye without sacrificing any of his power.

In addition, he was able to hit more line drives (from 17.4% to 19.2%) while decreasing his fly ball percentage. For a burner like Gomez, this is important. He also decreased the number of pitches he swung at outside the strike zone from 36% to 30% while keeping all of his other swing and contact numbers almost identically the same.

In addition, he remained an excellent defensive centerfielder. He had an UZR/150 of +16 in his first year in Minnesota, but also posted a +10 last year in less innings. He is a great, great defender.

The most obvious factor holding back Gomez last season was luck. After posting a batting average on balls in play of .330 in the 2008 season, that number decreased to a paltry .286 last year. That number is extremely low for a fast, ground-ball and line-drive hitting athlete like Gomez. His BABIP belongs in the .330 range, or potentially higher - indicating that he had some bad luck last year[1].

If Gomez, who is still young, can make an incremental improvement in his walk rate, and have neutral luck, he can have a huge bounce-back season at the plate. Even if he doesn't, his sterling defense makes him a very valuable player. Overall, Gomez has been worth 2.9 Wins Above Replacement over the last 970 at bats. Given a full season of plate appearances as a centerfielder, and you are looking at a 2 WAR player (worth around $8 million dollars) even if he does not improve at all.

CHONE projects Gomez to hit .267/.329/.390 next season, but I am more bullish. I think Gomez can hit .275 and get on base around .340. This spring, he's been able to hit .289 so far and has added a perfect 7 steals and zero caught stealing in only 13 games.

Look for Gomez to make a big contribution to the Brewers this year, both offensively and defensively. If he plays every day, he can score 100 runs and steal 40 bases, and be in the running for a Gold Glove.


[1] It is also possible, gauging from his lower percentage of infield hits, that opposing defenses were better adapted to playing against Gomez. Perhaps they play the third baseman in more often, taking away one of his best strengths - bunting for hits. I would love it if a Twins fan could provide us more insight on this.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Comment by Tommy2cat:

The post that you cite from Mets Blog fails to note that Omar traded Matt Lindstrom and Heath Bell, and that he lost to free agency Darrin Oliver and Chad Bradford.

Omar's failure to maintain the Mets bullpen, a strength in 2006, is a proximate cause of the team's collapse in 2007-08.