By Eno Sarris //
It’s a little tough to make the case for Carlos Gonzalez next year when you agree with many of the points made by the other side, in this case by Eriq Gardner. A lot of luck on the batted ball does go into most .340 batting averages, and Gonzalez has certainly seen a few balls clear the fence that haven’t before. He probably won’t put up the same season next year, that much we can grant.
But how much will he regress? If he regresses just a little bit, he could still be an outfielder with a .300 batting average and 25+/25+ numbers, which would probably make his owners happy even if they spent an early first-round pick on him.
The .389 BABIP is an eyesore to the sabremetrically-inclined fantasy fan. That number seems like it includes a lot of luck. But we also know that every player has their own ‘true’ BABIP level, based on their unique blend of speed and batted ball mix. Peter Bendix once created an xBABIP calculator to see what an expected BABIP might be, given these factors, and using that calculator we find that CarGo’s xBABIP this year is .349. The difference in hits would be 18 hits if he featured his xBABIP instead of his BABIP, and his batting average would instead be .308 instead of .341. Gonzalez could be a little less lucky and still have a strong batting average next year.
The fact that he is showing the best power in his career doesn’t necessarily mean that he won’t come close again next year. His ISO this year is .270, last year it was .241. In the minor leagues, it was .194 overall, but .291 in his final stop. If he retreats to an ISO between his last two major league numbers, he’ll be in among Mark Reynolds, Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Quentin and Vernon Wells on the ISO leaderboard. His power likely won’t disappear completely in other words, especially if he still calls Coors Field home, since he has a career .292 ISO in 155 home games.
About his flyballs and the HR/FB rate, those numbers fluctuate from year to year. Last year, he hit 38.8% flyballs, and 16.7% HR/FB. This year, those numbers are 36.9% and 20.9%, respectively. In the minor leagues, his full-year flyball rates fluctuated from 30.7% to 43% at different stops. He could easily hit more flyballs next year, have fewer home runs per flyball, and not see a huge drop in his home run total.
One last note. Gardner mentions the lineup around Gonzalez as a negative, but it seems like more of a positive to this analyst. As Todd Helton and Clint Barmes have declined or shown their flaws, they have lost at-bats to younger players, and Ian Stewart, Dexter Fowler, Eric Young Jr. and Seth Smith all have upside beyond their current levels. Projecting an entire lineup is iffy either way, but let’s just say: Carlos Gonzalez is the number-three hitter for the Colorado Rockies. In 2009, the three-hitter for the Rockies accrued 92 runs and 100 RBI. As long as the offense stays somewhat similar and Gonzalez stays healthy, he will likely approach 100/100 numbers in those categories.
If you pro-rate out CarGo’s 2009 totals to 600 plate appearances – which is problematic considering he only accrued 317 PA, but let’s do this for the sake of comparison – he might have had 25 home runs and 30 stolen bases. Add a batting average close to .300, and you still have a very exciting young player worth a very high draft pick, especially in leagues that break out the outfielder positions and count CarGo as a center fielder.
Gonzalez’s numbers in 2011 might not look like 2010’s gaudy Triple Crown-contending statistics, but the power and speed are real, and there’s little reason to think that next year’s Rockies lineup won’t allow him to accrue 100 runs and 100 RBI yet again. He’s a great keeper and a great first-round investment next year. Auction managers should remember to temper their power expectations when bidding, but otherwise it’s all “go CarGo” here.
For more on Carlos Gonzalez and other power/speed outfielders, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.