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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Previewing the 2011 Season: Carlos Gomez

What can we say about Carlos Gomez? A stellar defensive center fielder, the Mets rushed Gomez to the Majors at age 21, forcing him to develop his game on the big stage. Traded to the Twins, he played two seasons in Minnesota before coming to Milwaukee in exchange for J.J. Hardy. Thus far Gomez's career has been characterized by solid defense in center field, blazing speed, and an apparent lack of any plate discipline.

Thanks to the Greinke trade that sent Lorenzo Cain to Kansas City, Gomez again has a shot at being the Brewers everyday center fielder. He lost the job last year after struggling at the plate (2011: .247 BA, .298 OBP). Indeed, when he heard that Cain had been included in the deal, he said, "I [know] now I have a chance to be an everyday player again."

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said the same last week: "He's going to be our center fielder," though he qualified that statement by saying, "When you're in his spot, you always have to win your job." Roenicke added that Gomez needs to work on his plate discipline (17 BB vs 72 K in 319 PA in 2011), but has the tools to be a quality player.

The question remains as to whether Gomez can finally harness these tools. We've heard about his potential for years now, but he needs to prove he can be more than just a defensive center fielder. If he can stop swinging at so many pitches outside of the strike zone he will improve his average and on base percentage, allowing him to use his blazing speed to help the team win. Thankfully, he appears open to instruction and has been working with hitting coach Dale Sveum to improve his approach. Said Roenicke, "They've had conversations already and he's willing to do whatever Dale wants him to do to be the offensive player we want him to be."

If Gomez's potential remains just that, he'll languish near the bottom of the lineup and possibly again lose his starting job, this time probably to Chris Dickerson. One hopes that Gomez can figure it out at the plate and give the Brewers a return on their trade for J. J. Hardy. It could be worse, though. The Twins already cut their losses on that trade by sending Hardy to Baltimore this offseason for a couple of (not outstanding) relief pitchers.

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