Once a speedy, excellent defensive center fielder with questionable offensive skills, Carlos Gomez has made himself into a five category fantasy contributor. And with the value of his glove added in, he was baseball’s fourth best player this year by WAR. Though his breakout began in the second half of 2012, he carried over his new found batting talents and had himself a career year, posting a .363 wOBA and going 24-40 to the delight of his fantasy owners. Of course, this type of performance has fantasy owners giddy and in a recent mock draft, he was selected 25th overall. Fantasy owners are notorious for valuing players based on a “what have you done for me lately?” philosophy, so let’s figure out if this time it is warranted.
Before 2011, Gomez was an all-speed, little power guy whose highest ISO mark was just .142, posted at Double-A back in 2006 while in the Mets organization. Then something happened in 2011 during a partial season — his ISO jumped to .177 and his HR/FB rate climbed above 10% for the first time. His average home run and fly ball distance validated the power surge, rising from 274 feet in 2010 to 288 feet in 2011. At age 25, it was perfectly reasonable to believe that he was experiencing a legitimate power spike.
Sure enough, he carried that over to 2012 as he maintained the same batted ball distance, but boosted his ISO even higher to .202. Impressively, all this extra power didn’t stop him from running, as he still managed to steal 37 bases in 43 tries. But just a league average BABIP supported by too few line drives and too many pop-ups prevented him from being a true five category contributor.
Then 2013 came along and he was handed the every day center field job from the get go. His batted ball distance remained essentially the same as it was the previous two seasons, but once again, his ISO and HR/FB rates increased, this time to .222 and 16.4%, respectively. Even better, he took care of his one glaring weakness, his batting average. His BABIP soared to .344, as he posted a career best line drive rate and a career low IFFB%. His xBABIP of .324 suggests he was a bit lucky, but not overly so.
Unfortunately, with all the excitement, there are some red flags. He has been swinging and missing at a higher rate every year since 2009 and just set a new career high this season. He continues to swing at pitches outside the zone at a rate well above that of the average hitter. He rarely walks. Some fantasy owners like to think that a trend will just keep continuing, meaning that Gomez will keep getting better and his HR/FB rate will take another step up. That is not how it works though and the better bet is that he has peaked. His current performance is either sustainable or due for a bit of regression.
Because of his contact issues, Gomez is going to be at the mercy of his BABIP. With a career mark of just .311 and an xBABIP below what he posted this year, you have to assume a batting average decline is coming. That would hurt his OBP and all else being equal, reduce his stolen base opportunities. Luckily, Gomez has been an excellent base stealer, so he should continue running frequently for the foreseeable future.
The power appears to be mostly for real, although the percentage play is to project a bit of regression. Perhaps a 14% HR/FB rate and a .190-.200 ISO. The overall package remains pretty darn good for fantasy purposes, but it’s hard to imagine him earning his expected draft cost. Taking him 25th overall is just too expensive for me.
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.