Saturday, August 4, 2012

Carlos Gomez should be the Brewers' starting center fielder

With the season lost and winning a secondary goal, fans should expect to see plenty of changes for the Brewers down the stretch. A few veterans will probably be moved in waiver deals with young players taking their place as the team tries to build for the future. But one development has already taken place; Carlos Gomez has seized the everyday center field job.

Frankly, he should. Everyone knows what Nyjer Morgan is at this point, and the Brewers will not achieve anything by giving him playing time besides the occasional start to give someone a day off. Gomez is only 26, and at this point full-time playing time can only help him as a hitter. He appears to be developing power and has already achieved a career-high in home runs with nine in just 247 at-bats (with a shiny .212 ISO). Over a full season of plate appearances, 20 home runs is now a real possibility for him. And we already know what his speed can do on the bases.

                                                     Not to mention all the bat flips.

As far as plate discipline goes, his raw numbers look awful (5.2 BB %, 22.2 K %) but I don't think it tells the whole story. The best way to say it is that his patience is extremely inconsistent. He goes through stretches where he's willing to take pitches and work to get into a favorable count, then goes through stretches where he swings at everything. Seeing as he's been a part-time player since 2009, it's still within the realm of possibilities that he can improve in that area if he plays every day.

While he's been used as a platoon player the last two years, that has been more for the benefit of Morgan than Gomez. Carlos has no discernible advantage against lefties (.242/.287/.398) or righties (.246/.297/.357) in his career and has actually been far better against RHP this season. Platooning him also keeps his defense out of center field every day, and as anyone who's watched him play can attest, he's an elite defender at an important defensive position.

I am not saying that Carlos Gomez is a great player, and calling him a good player might be a stretch. But if he's the worst hitter in your lineup, you've got a pretty damn good team. The playoff-bound Angels are currently getting away with using Peter Bourjos as their primary CF, and he's pretty much identical to Gomez in every way (not visually, of course). And is Gomez really any worse than Chris Young or BJ Upton? Brewers fans may be annoyed by his erratic play, but the truth is there aren't that many good center fielders out there, certainly not offensively. He's been roughly a two-win player each of the past two years in about half a season's worth of at-bats; if he's worth 4 WAR over a full season, that's pretty good for a CF. The chances of the Brewers finding an upgrade are minimal. If his power is real, and I think it is, the team should definitely consider him as their primary CF for next season and beyond.

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