The Houston Astros will need a healthy Carlos Gomez to compete in 2016.
That statement is just plain and simple. And yes, I realize that the Houston Astros did compete for the majority of 2015 without Carlos Gomez. But the fact remains that the fiery outfielder should be integral to any Astros success in the new year. As all may remember, Gomez came over to Houston via a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers at the trade deadline this past July. Not only is the now-30-year-old outfielder known for his defense, general manager Jeff Luhnow also desired his bat.
Gomez was originally planned to provide the team with the additional depth in the outfield by effectively moving fellow outfielder Jake Marisnick to the bench to become the fourth outfielder. Combine him with George Springer and Colby Rasmus, the outfield was seen as a position of strength with stellar defense and potent bats. But a slow start in an Astros uniform and left intercostal strain late in the season slammed the brakes on Gomez from fully rounding into form for the playoffs. In essence, the acquisition did not fully translate into the success like the Astros had hoped.
Now we are in the early going of 2016, which essentially means that the return of baseball is inching closer and closer. As I stated earlier, Gomez figures to play an important role in the Astros plans for the upcoming season. And per Mike Bertha of Cut4 from MLB.com, it appears that Gomez and his “12 abs” are doing everything possible to be ready. This is welcoming news as it appears that the former Brewer wants to do everything he can to ensure that he is as healthy as possible entering the 2016 season. Not only would that benefit the Astros, but it also means a great deal to Gomez’s future value as he is scheduled to be a free agent following the conclusion of the 2016 World Series.
But for Gomez’s earning power to be at its highest possible level, he will probably need to return to his 2013-14 form when he played at least 147 games each season while maintaining an average wRC+ of 130. Those were two seasons that the center fielder was at his absolute best. Of course, it would be somewhat irresponsible to expect wholeheartedly Gomez to replicate that kind of success in 2016. His 2013 season in particular, when he finished with a 7.4 WAR, would be a difficult level of productivity to repeat. But that doesn’t mean the center fielder won’t be a valuable player this year.
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According to Fangraphs Steamer Projections, Gomez is projected to hit .255/.314/.409 in 138 games next season. His wRC+ is predicted to finish at 103 with a .170 ISO. That is not too far off from his career numbers across the board. All of that is good enough for a 3.4 WAR, which is respectable for a center fielder. In fact, a 3.4 WAR would be good for 11th out of all qualified center fielders in baseball this past season. For example, Opening Day center fielder Marisnick finished the 2015 season with a 1.8 WAR. I bet the Astros would gladly take the increase of production from Gomez.
With improved health and more familiarity with his latest club, Gomez could be in line to meet or outperform his projections. If he makes the proper adjustments, say one that leads to an increase in Pull % and Hard hit %, and then he may find himself replicating his earlier seasons success. And if that happens then look for his exit velocity only to improve when compared to his 2015 chart.
At the end of the day, the Astros parted ways with multiple prospects in the deal to land Gomez. The team is surely expecting the talented outfielder to help lead the team going into next season. He will be part of one of the most promising outfields in baseball and hopefully one of the catalysts of a contending team.
No doubt that this his performance this upcoming season will not only greatly impact the Astros, but also Gomez himself in the long term.
**Statistics provided by Fangraphs**
**Exit velocity chart provided by Baseball Savant**