Deep Digging: Carlos Gonzalez

Carlos Gonzalez hit a home run on Thursday, and while that's a great accomplishment, I wouldn't expect it to happen another 33 times like it did last season. Ray got me thinking the other day when he asked if we had confidence in Carlos Gonzalez.

My initial thought? Hell no!

Let's be clear: what Gonzalez did last season was remarkable, and it actually happened, so there's that. The guy was a stud in 2010: a .336//376/.598 line, 34 home runs, 111 runs, 117 RBI, 26 stolen bases. Dynamite. What fantasy owners should consider, however, is what to expect going forward. And in short? Not that. There are reasons for this (duh):

First and foremost, Gonzalez' ridiculous .384 batting average on balls in play is due for a major dip. He had the third highest BABIP in all of baseball last year, behind only Austin Jackson (AHEM!) and Josh Hamilton. That's some significant luck, especially considering he never posted a BABIP above .364 at any stop in the minor leagues and was consistently in the range you'd more expect to see: .300-.350.

His rate of home runs per fly ball was also pretty high: fifth highest in the Majors at 20.6%. While he showed good power as a minor leaguer, I wouldn't expect to see him in such elite company going forward. A dip in BABIP and a dip in HR/FB% seem very likely to occur.

John Sickels at minorleagueball.com wrote a good piece on Gonzalez last year, which is well worth checking out. The biggest takeaway is the fact that the Rockies' slugger has struggled with plate discipline at every stop of his professional career, and that's something that continued last year as well with a below average walk rate of 6.3%. Since he swings at everything (he was 15th highest in swing percentage at balls outside the zone last year, at 37%) I wouldn't expect that to change overnight.

And then of course there's Coors Field. Obviously after reupping with the Rockies for roughly a bazillion dollars for a thousand years (actual terms: 7 years, $80 mil) he'll be playing in Colorado for the foreseeable future. In roto leagues that might not matter much, as long as the end results are where you'd hoped they'd be. In head-to-head leagues, though? Well, it's a problem. He hit .380/425/.787 at home and just .289/.322.453 on the road.

That's right, a guy with a 6% overall walk rate on-based .425 at home. Jeez. He hit a hundred points lower on the road, and his power was slashed in half. This isn't a case like Troy Tulowitzki where he's very good on the road and incredible at home. Basically at home Gonzalez is Albert Pujols, and on the road he's ... Michael Young. Pretty good, nothing to sneeze at, but nothing to write home about either. And certainly not a player worth blowing a first or second round pick on. Coors Field has a very famous effect on hitters, and last year it was the most hitter friendly park in the big leagues. The fact that Gonzalez demolished pitchers there but struggled to be much more than average on the road leads me to believe his true talent level is much lower than he's given credit for.

The fact that he's struggled early on is encouraging for me since I purposely avoided him in redraft league this spring, but it's also insanely early in the season. Crazy things happen this early. Troy Tulowitzki hits a home run every freaking day, apparently. My problem with Gonzalez has very little to do with his slow start to 2011, and it has everything to do with the underlying statistics that belie his amazing, MVP-esque 2010 campaign.

Advice: If you don't own Gonzalez, don't try to buy low. Let him be someone else's headache. If you do own him, do not sell low. Wait until the Rockies have an extended home stand, he puts together his first hot streak, and then pull the trigger. If you're in a roto league (which I hate, but that's another story for another day) you might have made your bed with CarGo. Unless you can get full value for the early pick you used on him, hang on to his power/speed combo and hope he can somehow reproduce his luck-driven superb 2010 season.

Note: If you have other players you'd like us to do some digging on, let us know in the comments.

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