When we look at Mike Trout, we know we’re getting the best overall player in the game who can be a good-to-great contributor in all five fantasy stats. When we look at Miguel Cabrera, we see a guy who won’t steal any bases, but will absolutely dominate the other four standard stats.
But what do we get with Carlos Gonzalez? The Colorado Rockies superstar is a little harder to grasp. Where should you take him in the draft? What positives do you get? What risks do you get? Let’s have a look.
Good: His Skills
Nash and I were having a conversation about his piece predicting that Mike Trout will be 2014’s best offensive player. This won’t be the last time that we talk about this conversation, but it started like this.
Dixon: Man. Carlos Gonzalez really would be THE GUY if we could rely on him to play 150 games.
Nash: Completely agree
Gonzalez has the skills to put up numbers close enough to both Trout and Miguel Cabrera in the categories that they dominate over each other. Just how good are those skills? Well, his ESPN fantasy profile says it pretty well, so let’s let them do the talking.
A multi-category fantasy stud, one of only two players in baseball with at least a .300 batting average, 100 home runs and 50 stolen bases the past four seasons combined (Ryan Braun is the other).
He’s actually hit 108 homers with stolen 87 bases over those last four years, so we’re obviously talking about one of the game’s greatest talents, and 2014 will only be his Age 28 season.
Obviously a quick answer to that text is, “Yeah, can we rely on Gonzalez to get anywhere near 150 games?” No, we can’t. So if we return to the actual exchange, we’ll see this.
Dixon: I get the feeling we are gonna look back at him as a genuine star, but one who never quite reached his potential.
Nash: Yeah… Possibly… He just needs to figure out how to stay healthy…he’s young enough to have a pretty good run still.
Dixon: He’s like baseball’s Tracy McGrady. The talent is undeniable, but you always feel like something is missing, like you’re not watching a true great.
I went on to talk a little about the team he plays on that seems unable to field a consistent winner and how lack of playoff greatness will hinder people’s perception about Gonzalez.
But from a fantasy point of view, we’re talking about the inability to stay on the field. He’s only 28, been a big leaguer for four seasons and never played more than 145 games — and that was four years ago. Over the last three years, he’s never topped 135 and that’s not what you want to see out of someone getting closer to 30. No, 28 isn’t old, but it’s not young when we’re talking about someone who couldn’t even stay on the field in his mid-20’s.
Good: Coors Field
There is no park in the league like it. The quick infields, the big gaps, and the thin air that makes the ball carry better. It’s incredibly hard to pitch there and thus, easier to hit there. Cargo’s career splits would attest to that.
Carlos Gonzalez Career Splits
|All Other Parks||1389||370||184||51||166||57||.266|
Believe it or not, those massive home/road splits are a good thing. While 2013’s home/road splits were actually more favorable to the road side, the career splits tell a more complete story. In a nutshell, what they mean is that Cargo is not going anywhere. With his contract, Gonzalez would be hard to move anyway. But when you consider the haul that a team would have to give up to get someone like Gonzalez, they’d want someone that they know will be one of the game’s best in any ballpark. There’s plenty of reason to doubt that with Gonzalez.
That means that Carlos Gonzalez will still be taking roughly half of his at-bats in that dream ballpark. The injuries may prevent him from being worthy of a Top-5 selection, but his talent combined with that ballpark will keep him from being an absolute bust.
Bad: Rockies Teammates
The biggest negative with Gonzalez revolves around how many games he’ll likely miss. Similarly, the biggest question around his teammates is, how many games will they miss? I don’t know what happens in Colorado but for some reason, young stars like Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki just can’t seem to stay on the field. Add Michael Cuddyer into that mix and you just don’t know how often Gonzalez will be in the lineup with the team’s other two best hitters.
That doesn’t mean that the runs and RBI will be terrible by any means, but you have to wonder how likely it is that those stats will reach their max potential.
What the numbers tell us
Carlos Gonzalez: 2010-2013
The line drive numbers are about right for that batting average, especially when you factor Coors Field into things. I feel pretty good throwing Cargo somewhere in the .295-.305 range. But those counted numbers are a little more difficult to predict.
So let’s assume that he plays at the average clip (bottom row) and see what those numbers would like, depending on how many plate appearances he gets.
Carlos Gonzalez: 2014 Projections
Now for the ultimate question: Where should you draft Carlos Gonzalez?
Right now, this is what my first round looks like:
- Mike Trout
- Miguel Cabrera
- Paul Goldschmidt
- Andrew McCutchen
- Robinson Cano
- Adam Jones
- Carlos Gonzalez
Adrian Beltre would be on that list, but the word is that he’ll be protecting Prince Fielder and not the other way around. That drops him a few slots and I don’t quite trust Prince or Chris Davis enough to move them up this high. As good as Clayton Kershaw is, I couldn’t justify taking a pitcher in the first round, or really before the fourth.
Normally I wouldn’t even consider taking a guy with Gonzalez’s injury history that high, but look at this set of numbers again
Generally, if a first-round draft pick registers only 400 Plate Appearances, it’s an unmitigated disaster for your team. With Gonzalez, though, those numbers wouldn’t be good or anything, but they wouldn’t kill you, either, especially with a .300 average. If he can stay on the field, I actually see potential that Gonzalez could have a year similar to what Matt Kemp had in 2011 for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Realistically, I think you’re looking at something around the 500-550 plate appearance numbers above. Gonzalez carries undeniable risks and downside, but he’s always managed to put up good numbers even while missing games. I see no reason that that won’t continue this year.