If you drafted Adrian Gonzalez in your fantasy league, you’re likely disappointed with his numbers so far.
Wait, let me rephrase that.
You’re likely disappointed with his number so far. As in, the number one.
Red Sox Nation couldn’t have been happier when the Sox landed their new all-star first baseman this offseason. His track record of tremendous production in a pitcher’s park and with little or no lineup protection around him had many dreaming of a .300/.390/520, 40 HR, 100 RBI season.
So far, A-Gone is hitting for AVG and driving in runs, but he’s not exactly driving the ball over the fence with the frequency that most expected. Will this trend continue or are we on the verge of watching A-Gone go ballistic with the long-ball?
Before the start of the season, I passed along some information from Will Carroll, a writer whom I respect greatly, especially for his knowledge of injuries and how they relate/affect the game of baseball. His annual column, “Team Health Reports“, migrated from Baseball Prospectus to Sports Illustrated this past year, making the tremendous information free for all to ingest. In his review of the Red Sox, he had this to say about Adrian Gonzalez and his outlook for 2011 while recovering from shoulder surgery.
If you balance out the new park and the shoulder injury, Gonzalez is probably going to look about the same for the first few months of 2011 in terms of power. If you buy into Ultimate Zone Rating, Gonzalez isn’t as good defensively as Youkilis, so that’s an odd little quirk. In fact, he pretty much is Youkilis: an OBP machine with some pop. Having two of those is not a bad thing at all. The shoulder is a worry in the long term, especially if you’re counting on the power and RBIs.
Carroll’s initial outlook was good, however, he then followed up with an “Under the Knife” column toward the end of spring training.
Gonzalez has been quiet through most of the spring, hiding on the back fields as he works to get his bat speed back up after shoulder surgery. He’s passed a couple of tests over the last week, playing in back to back games and switching back to his normal bat. Things have been positive, though there’s still a discernible loss of bat speed. Observers differ on their opinions of where Gonzalez is. Some think he’ll be fine for the opener while others think that his slow bat can be exposed for the first few weeks.
The note about bat speed is particularly interesting, as bat speed is one big component to hitting for power, especially for A-Gone, who is less about muscle and more about this sweet lefty swing.
I think it’s rather clear that A-Gone’s shoulder is not 100 percent. The difference between his hit chart from this April and his hit chart from his 2010 April can tell us something.
A-Gone knows he can’t drive the ball like he wants to, so he’s compensating by using the whole field even more so than he usually does.
This trend, however, should prove to be a positive one in the long-run. As A-Gone gains strength in his shoulder, not only will he drive the ball deeper with more frequency, but his opposite field approach will translate to many more doubles and home runs off an over the green monster.
The A-Gone we have seen so far in 2011 is not the A-Gone that we will see as the season rolls along. His walk rate is currently three percent below his career average and that aspect of his offensive game is very likely to improve going forward. While it may seem good that his strikeout rate is below his career average, it’s really not. Because he’s not 100 percent, A-Gone is swinging the bat with a more contact oriented approach and not “letting loose” often enough. This may be a good thing with regard to his AVG, but he’s paid to slug over .500 along with the top-notch plate discipline.
Once A-Gone regains the strength/confidence in his surgically repaired shoulder, he’s going to start driving the ball with much greater frequency.
April has come and gone and his one home run in the month may suppress his overall total, but don’t be surprised if Adrian Gonzalez starts crushing home runs in majestic bunches as the season moves forward.