2008 Stats: .258/.296/.360, 7 HR, 59 RBI
Gomez is already an elite fielder, but must add more offense to become a star.
Potential Backups: Denard Span, Jason Pridie
I've made no secret of it: Carlos Gomez is my favorite Twin. That affinity is probably based more on emotion than logic. Sure, I think there's a tremendous amount of value in his ability to cover more range in center field than perhaps any other player in the league. And of course I can't help but love the potential packed into his athletic frame. But more than anything, I just find Gomez to be an immensely entertaining person. His quotes in the paper frequently crack me up. He is perpetually smiling on the field. His awesome speed allows him to flag down balls in the outfield that seem uncatchable, and to beat out the throw to first on seemingly routine plays.
Yep, I am a huge fan of Gomez. But there is no overlooking his gaping flaws, and it's impossible not to worry that they will continue to prevent him from blossoming into the incredible player who could ideally become.
Gomez's approach at the plate last season was atrocious. He struck out nearly six times for every walk, making his 3-to-1 ratio in the minors look downright reasonable, and went down flailing at that same down-and-away breaking ball seemingly once or twice per game. After going 16-for-18 on stolen bases in his first 32 games, he went just 17-for-26 in his final 121 games. Most troublesome were his painful, prolonged slumps at the plate, most notably a 30-game stretch in June/July where he hit .183/.219/.237, prompting a demotion from the lead-off spot to the No. 9 slot in the order.
On the bright side, Gomez did seem considerably more comfortable hitting in the nine-hole, where he posted a .286/.328/.400 while striking out at a slightly lower rate and stealing bases more successfully. Gomez is set to open the season batting last in the order, so hopefully he's able to show similar comfort and produce the same way he did last year.
If Gomez can keep his batting average up in the .280 range while adding a bit of power (something he's shown signs of this spring) and playing the same fantastic defense he did last year, he will be a very valuable asset for this team. If he fails to make strides offensively, his defensive value still makes him a deserving regular. He's got a long ways to go before he reaches the superstar status, but in my mind there's no question that Gomez deserves to be the starting center fielder for the Twins.
And that's not just because he's so fun to watch.
Predicted 2009 Hitting Line: .275/.320/.390, 12 HR, 45 RBI