When you think fantasy first baseman, you generally think stud power hitter, right? You want your 30-40 home run potential; guys like Rizzo, Goldschmidt, Abreu, Encarnacion, etc. The thing is, I think not a lot of people lump Adrian Gonzalez in with the “stud” first baseman anymore. Adrian is maybe in the Joey Votto first base camp (I’d attend that camp) in that I wouldn’t necessarily call him a power hitter as much as just a good hitter who can hit home runs. Obviously A-Gon can hit homer runs; he has topped 30 dingers in four of his ten full major league seasons, but that 40 home run season is more of an anomaly for him that it would be for, say, your Paul Goldschmidt type. Now when it comes down to just all-around hitting, there are not a ton of hitters, especially at first base, that have been as consistent over the past decade as A-Gon.
First off, over the past ten seasons,Adrian Gonzalez has not played in less than 156 games in any one of them. That’s pretty darned consistent and seems, I think anyways, kind of rare these days. In only one of those ten seasons did A-Gon hit less than 22 home runs, and in seven of those ten seasons he hit 27 or more homers. That’s solid production any way you look at it, right? Rhetorical, that is pretty darned solid. Adrian has also topped 90 RBIs in nine consecutive seasons and knocked in 100 or more teammates in seven of his last ten seasons. There are some counting stats for you, but how about the somewhat more advanced stats?In the past ten seasons, A-Gon has had a wOBA of .346 or higher; not to shabby really. In only three of these past ten seasons we are discussing has A-Gon failed to have an ISO over .200. In none of the ten seasons has Gonzalez failed to post an OPS over .800, and in only three of those seasons has he posted an OPS below .830. I mean, do I need to add much more, here? Well, I will, anyways.
There is no denying that Gonzo’s numbers are extremely good, and over this past ten-year period there have not been many hitters that have had as good of a run at the plate. Looking at that span, only eight hitters have more home runs than Mr. Gonzalez: Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard, Miguel Cabrera, David Ortiz, Prince Fielder, Adam Dunn, Mark Teixeira, Jose Bautista. Only three hitters have more RBIs: Cabrera, Pujols, Howard. That’s not first baseman folks, that’s from every position. In that time span, Adrian Gonzalez is also still 24th in weighted runs created, 35th in wOBA and a bit further down, at 57th, in ISO. Nevertheless, those are all decent spots over the span of decade when you consider how many hitters have hit over the last decade. You cannot really argue that over the span of the past ten years A-Gon has been a top 10 first baseman.
In 2015, his average ESPN draft position was 48.5 and he finished the season at number at #58 on ESPN’s Player Rater. While his Player Rater spot did drop last year, only his RBI total really dropped a decent amount; it dropped to 90 which is still a highly respectable number in that category. Plus RBIs are hardly the most indicative of hitting prowess. Aside from RBIs, the rest of Gonzalez’s numbers were in line if not better than numbers in recent years. Adrian had his highest home run total since 2010, last season and his batting average (if you’re into that sort of thing) and ISO were just .001 lower than his 2014 totals in those respective categories. Now his OBP was at .350 which was 15 points higher than it was in 2014 and his SLG dropped a mere .002, so Gonzalez remains the picture of consistency.
Of course as Adrian ages, there is bound to be some drop in numbers, so is he still a top 50 pick? Is he headed for a downturn? Well, Gonzalez will be 34 in May so he is no Spring chicken. That’s not to say he’s ancient, but players tend to decline as they age. Look, aging is no fun – trust me. By the time I hit 33, my athletic ability had already taken a sharp decline, but there are some who think Adrian Gonzalez is, and has been, slightly better conditioned than yours truly, so that may be neither here nor there? Regardless of conditioning and such, everyone declines a bit as they get older; it is just a matter of when and how sharply that decline will be.
I cannot predict when this will happen for Adrian Gonzalez; if I could, I’d probably wouldn’t be living on bologna sandwiches (hyperbole alert). What I can do is look at Adrian Gonzalez’s numbers over the past few seasons and tell you that, yes, there may be some decline in 2016 and certainly, beyond. But, I think the sharp decline is still several years off. Come draft day, I think you can still grab A-Gon in the 4th or 5th round of a 12 team league and be happy with that choice as A-Gon should still finish in the top 50 or 60. There is no evidence of a his numbers falling completely off a cliff, so any statistical decline in 2016 should be minimal. This makes Adrian a nice choice at first base if you can’t land one of the “elite” players at the position (or choose to pass on them for other needs). So, whatever you do, don’t forget (or dismiss) Gonzalez come draft day.
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