The Case Against Carlos Gonzalez

By Eriq Gardner //

Carlos Gonzalez of the Colorado Rockies is having a very charmed season. By season’s end, he’ll have roughly 35 HRs, 25 SBs, 120 RBIs, 110 Runs, and a .340 batting average. These numbers arguably earn him the title as the season’s Fantasy MVP and gain him consideration as one of the top few picks heading into next year. The case in his favor looks strong, at first glance.
But beware. The young stud outfielder carries plenty of risk – and smart fantasy enthusiasts may be wise to stay away.

Let’s start out with the obvious: CarGo has been the beneficiary of tremendous luck this season.

The biggest knock against Gonzalez is his plate discipline. He strikes out 23% of the time and only takes a walk 6% of the time. This has added up to a .389 BABIP, which puts him only behind Josh Hamilton and Austin Jackson among players with regular playing time who have benefited from better luck on balls hit in play. Certainly, we can expect a higher-than-normal BABIP considering Gonzalez’ great speed, but not this high. Expected regression could knock anywhere from 40 to 60 points off that lofty .340 batting average.

As for power, don’t expect 35 HRs again. Yes, he’s the beneficiary of playing in the tremendous hitting environment of Coors Field. But then again, CarGo is rather below-average in hitting for fly balls. His 37% rate is below average, roughly on par with Rajai Davis.or Alberto Callaspo. He’s knocked 35 out of the park this year thanks to the fact that nearly 21% of his fly balls have gone for HRs. Only Joey Votto, Carlos Pena, Jose Bautista, and Adam Dunn sport a higher percentage. At 6’1” and 210 pounds, Carlos Gonzalez carries less body mass than those other four to support such massive power.

Carlos Gonzalez’ great luck in average and power has contributed to him reaching triple digits in both runs and RBIs. The team has another excellent player in Troy Tulowitzki, but the decline of Todd Helton and the departure of Brad Hawpe leaves the lineup dependent on youngsters like Ian Stewart, Dexter Fowler, Eric Young Jr. and Seth Smith to get on base in front of CarGo or reciprocally drive him home. Any slippage in the ability to get on base or knock balls out of the park will erode his ability to post elite context stats in runs and RBIs like the production he’s given this season.

That’s part 1 of the case against Carlos Gonzalez.

All of which might be acceptable but for two more glaring facts about Carlos Gonzalez: First, to put it simply, he’s never done this before. And second, his price tag in fantasy leagues is going to be through the roof coming off such a stellar year.

Yes, he was a very fine prospect coming up through the minors, is only 24-years-old, and is still growing. 

But the road to superstardom for young elite players is rarely a linear curve upwards. There are ups and downs. Ask Matt Kemp, who was the fantasy pundit’s darling at this time last year. No amount of production this year can help us ferret out whether Carlos Gonzalez is one of the elite players who will consistently have one stellar year after another like other potential first round picks or rather is merely a fine player having a career season. We still need more evidence – especially in light of all the good luck factors described above that have contributed to his superlative year.

Carlos Gonzalez has great upside, no doubt, and deserves to be honored for the season he is enjoying. But once the season completes, none of that matters going forward. The only question is what he’s going to do for an encore. Unfortunately, it seems likely that in drafts and auctions, the price of admission will be too high on this young player at a non-scarce position. Consider yourself warned.

For more on Carlos Gonzalez and other power/speed outfielders, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.

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