The Smoke Show: Carlos Gomez

Houston Astros LogoGood morning, good afternoon, or good evening– whichever is applicable to you. Take a moment to think back upon your high school days. You’re young, not a care in the world, and your lone concern in life is figuring out how to sneak the “smoke show” from 5th period out of her house on Saturday night.

Now back to reality; you’re staring at a monitor reading about a player profile that may or may not impact your fake baseball team. While it’s quite clear you’re winning in life, do you ever wonder what happened to the “smoke show” from years past? You may no longer know the person that life has made her, yet you will mentally see the same “smoke show” you burned the midnight oil with 15 years ago. Time may pass, memories may become more sporadic, but the wow moments rarely fade.

At one time Carlos Gomez had that wow factor. From 2012-2014, Carlos Gomez averaged 144 games, 562 plate appearances, 22 home runs, 37 stolen bases, to go with a very respectable .277 batting average and a .819 OPS. Without looking I’m quite confident that line netted a top-10 offensive player over that time period. After his 2012 breakout Gomez was drafted as such in many leagues; after 2013 the non-believers were converted and Gomez was a universal top-10 offensive player, and 2014 just further engraved his status among the games best offensive talents. By the start of the 2015 season Gomez was almost a universal top 10 overall pick, and more than one respected fantasy pundit valued Gomez as a top-3 option behind the likes of Trout and McCutchen.

By all accounts 2015 was a disappointment for Gomez owners. He battled injuries, only managed 115 games and failed to tally 500 PA. The season wasn’t a complete dumpster fire though as he did manage 12 home runs to pair with 17 stolen bases. As any Gomez supporter would tell you, extrapolate those numbers over a full season and you still have a good chance at an 18/30 talent. Naturally Gomez came into the season as a coveted fantasy commodity. Not the top 10 player from last season, but among the Top 30, drafted as a player with some injury risk and little hesitation regarding the production.

In a game of many great players Gomez really jumps off the screen when you watch him. He’s 6’3” but his compact stance makes him look 6’ to me. His speed is evident, and his pop combined with my perceived stature puts me in mind of Kirby Puckett in his youth. Hop steps after a big hit, a bat flip after a long fly and base running antics that would make Rickey Henderson blush is what comes to mind when I think of Gomez. For the better part of his career Gomez has possessed the wow factor in combination with the production a top-tier talent provides.

Let it be known I don’t panic. Every source you could possibly reference for fantasy has had a feature on panic moves this week. I whole heartily agree the time devoted to draft prep far outweighs anything that can happen in less than two weeks of action. However I am also confident that one should not deal in absolutes.

  • What if all the draft prep was wrong?
  • What if your prep work was done with blinders on and you were simply unable to see the reality that was right in front of you?

I have done no less than 5 posts regarding 2016 disappointments, and not once did I consider Carlos Gomez. I have read countless fantasy articles around the web or in magazines, and not one single time did I see Carlos Gomez as a buyer-beware type. I apologize for my oversight, but I’m now here, ready and willing, to push the panic button on Carlos Gomez.

Even Gomez the superstar had his faults. He was one of the few elite players who failed to embrace the plate discipline badge of honor. A career .26 BB/K ratio and a BB% less than 6.0 doesn’t exactly fit the mold. His 2015 season, while injury shortened, still produced a 20% decrease in both the HR and SB pace compared to his 2012-2014 average per season. The SB success rate over the 3 year period was 82%, but in 2015 that total was 65%.

As fantasy owners it seems to me we failed to properly account for the decline in production in 2015, finding it easier to paint injuries with a brush and letting it define 2015 for what it was. The warning signs weren’t painted in bright orange, but there were some that stuck out. His GB/FB% of 1.12 was his highest since 2010. Generally speaking a higher GB rate could help your average, but if Gomez has lost a step the additional stolen base potential could be minimized. Gomez’ HR/FB% tanked in 2015, posting a 9.7% – once again his lowest total since his days with the Twins.

My concerns moving forward have plenty to do with injuries. While Gomez certainly played with plenty of flash, his effort should not be questioned. Gomez played hard, and those years could easily chip away at some of the talent. As the talent chips away the plate discipline issues become more of a focal point. The chatter begins, teams begin to hammer home the message, and all of a sudden you have a veteran hitter who is void of comfort when he steps into the box. Last season Gomez increased his O-Contact% for the second consecutive season to 64.4%. While Contact rate is considered a plus, contact outside of the strike zone rarely results in good contact, thus it was no surprise Gomez managed a 30.2% hard hit rate which continued a three-year trend in the wrong direction.

Another troubling finding was Gomez’s new home. While I’m sure his home offers plenty of exquisite options, I’m referencing Minute Maid Park. MMP is known as a playground for offensive fireworks, but the reality is Gomez has been downright terrible throughout his career there. In 154 PA (excluding this season) Gomez has managed a .190 AVG with a .495 OPS. As a Brewer last season Gomez managed a .262 AVG with a .751 OPS; as a member of the Astros he was a .242 hitter with a .670 OPS. The road average during that span .268 – home .222. Small sample sizes or pressures of a midseason move could easily explain these inequities, but they just as easily provide further doubt that the Carlos Gomez of days past is anywhere to be found.

I’m not suggesting dropping Carlos Gomez. Too many owners have the same blinders I wore all offseason on. It’s always a tough sell to offer up a sub .200 hitter, but if you’re reasonable there will be someone who’ll bite. Do you wait for a hot streak? Perhaps, but realize doing so may put you at risk if the early season struggles never fully get corrected. In addition, if you have a hard time accepting 50-75 cents on the dollar you’re going to be hard pressed to find a move that will suit you. Prepare to buckle up, expect rough terrain, and hope by seasons end I’m the village idiot. It’s quite possible that could be the case.

Arizona Diamondbacks v Houston AstrosCarlos Gomez is the “smoke show” from High School. Some people still view him as the Top 15 talent who produced at a top level for those 3 seasons, and it’s why he remained a Top 30 player. Isn’t it clear to you by now, injuries are cause for regression with superstars, and injuries breed concern for those several years in the superstar rear view? If you were to sit and share memories (and a few drinks) with the “smoke show” today, your initial thoughts of her would be based on the events of 15 years ago. As the night went on, stories of the years gone by would alter your perception. Ultimately your new perception of the “smoke show” would be the person you see in front of you.

Those three seasons of CARLOS GOMEZ were a helluva ride but it’s time we see him for what he has become.

 

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Josh Coleman
Father of four SP1 children. Replacement level husband to a top tier wife. I love my family, value my friendships, and spend as much time as possible (too much according to the aforementioned Mrs. Coleman) dedicated to the pursuit, of another Fantasy Championship. I'm the oddball at the bar who prefers Fantasy Baseball to Fantasy Football.