While they say that the only certainties in life are death and taxes, another truism we can all seem to bank on is that change is inevitable. Nothing stays the same and evolution is a daily part of our lives in virtually every aspect. How you react and adjust to that change is the key to your survival. You can remain stuck in your ways, fight against the current and struggle each and every day or you can roll with the punches, accept the need to adapt and thrive through change. Last season Adrian Gonzalez found himself at one of those evolutionary crossroads, made the conscious decision to change and adapt, and now fantasy owners are left wondering if drafting this “new and improved” version of the formerly heavy-hitting first baseman is going to be worth the price of admission moving forward.
From 2007 through 2010, Gonzalez was as close to a no-brainer as you could find. He never hit fewer than 30 home runs in any of those four seasons and in three of four, he tallied over 100 RBI. The one he didn’t, he hit the 99 mark and he just couldn’t eke out that last one. To go along with that tasty power, he provided a rock solid batting average (nothing lower than .277) and monster on-base percentage numbers. And all of this, while playing half his games in cavernous Petco Park which ultimately helped keep his cost down at the start of each season.
But as time went on and Gonzalez got older, problems with his shoulder got worse and he was forced into multiple surgeries over the years. Despite leaving Petco, Gonzalez saw his power decrease and his owners had to adjust their expectations. He hit 27 home runs that first year in Boston and followed that season up with just 18 the year after that. To many, he was on his way out the door; a victim of both injury and age. Three straight years of declining numbers marked the beginning of the end to everyone. To everyone but Gonzalez himself, that is.
Rather than fight to be what he once was, Gonzalez took a different approach and re-invented himself at the plate. Once a man flush with power to all fields, Gonzalez understood his deficiencies and chose to evolve as a hitter. For the major details, I will happily take the lazy way out and direct you over to Jeff Sullivan’s piece from last week, but to sum it up quickly, he accepted the fact that he wasn’t able to generate as much power as he used to and with no Green Monster for those opposite field shots to bounce off of, it was time to pull the ball a little more if he wanted to increase his power totals and become a more consistent hitter. Here’s a quick glance:
That’s a pretty glaring change in his hit chart, but one that truly seemed to work for him. Despite not hitting the ball to left field too often, Gonzalez was able to improve his home run total while also maintain relative consistency across the board. The uptick in power made his fantasy owners really stop and take notice and suddenly it gave hope that the previous two seasons were simply aberration rather than the start to his fantasy dirt nap.
Now the only question that remains is, “Can this new approach produce consistent results?” While A-Gone will never be A-Gone again, he has all the earmarks of a man who has successfully reinvented himself and found a new way to produce. Of course, prolonged change could also induce some negative changes as well and as he searches for more power he increases his strikeouts and watches his average plummet. Personally, I think we’re more likely to see the former than the latter, but only time will tell. What’s important for you as a fantasy owner to realize though, is that because the scales could tip one way or the other and we’re still not exactly sure which way things will lean, the price you pay to draft him must come down to an appropriate cost. You are no longer drafting Adrian Gonzalez. You are now drafting Adrian Gonzalez 2.0 and that’s a completely different product.
Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over 10 years on a variety of websites. In addition to his work here, you can also find him at his site, RotobuzzGuy.com, Fantasy Alarm, RotoWire and Mock Draft Central. Follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or for more direct questions or comments, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org