2016 Projection: Why Even A Healthy Carlos Gonzalez Is Destined to Disappoint

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

It was obviously a monster 2015 campaign for the Rockies’ Carlos Gonzalez, which to an extent came out of nowhere. Not that he was bad in the first half, but he parlayed a huge second half into the following line:

554 At Bats
.271 Batting Average (150 Hits)
40 Home Runs
97 RBI
87 Runs
2 Stolen Bases
.325 On Base Percentage
.540 Slugging Percentage
.284 Batting Average on Balls in Play

The fact that he stayed on the field for the entire season was a “victory” in and of itself (it was only the third time he’s had at least 500 AB). Just how big was his second half, though? He hit .285 with 27 HR over 260 AB… Is anyone really buying that type of line?

With Corey Dickerson now in Tampa Bay at least we know Gonzalez is likely to stay in Colorado (at least for now). That certainly helps, considering his career home/road split:

  • Home – .324/.382/.604
  • Road – .255/.310/.441

That said last season’s second half power surge came courtesy of a 33.3% HR/FB (17.6% in the first half). He owns a 19.7% mark for his career, so which one seems closer to reality? Sure his average distance on non-groundballs of 291.490 from July 1 forward is impressive, but it’s hard to expect him to replicate that type of mark.

Could he hit 30+ HR if he stays healthy? Absolutely, we just wouldn’t bank on 40.

How about the average? A drop in power is going to help his average regress as well, since that was the skill that was keeping it elevated. As it is his line drive rate has been suppressed for back-to-back seasons (15.3% and 16.5%) and he’s consistently shown a poor command of then strike zone. Just look at the numbers for the past few seasons (SwStr% // O-Swing%):

  • 2011 – 11.4% // 35.6%
  • 2012 – 12.3% // 34.1%
  • 2013 – 13.2% // 35.7%
  • 2014 – 15.4% // 40.4%
  • 2015 – 15.2% // 38.6%

While any one season could be a small sample size, for Gonzalez his career marks are 12.8% and 35.9%. In other words, while he did post a 21.9% strikeout rate last season it is easy to imagine the number moving toward the 27.1% and 24.9% marks he had posted the previous two seasons.

Increasing strikeout rate + Decrease in power (though, as we said, he isn’t going to be void of HR) + Suppressed line drive rate? That’s a recipe for disaster when it comes to the average.

Throw in the constant risk of injury and the disappearance of his speed (5 total SB over the past two seasons) and there is obvious risk. It all comes together for the following 2016 projection:

.260 (130-500), 29 HR, 85 RBI, 75 R, 4 SB, .299 BABIP, .324 OBP, .506 SLG

Are they usable numbers? Absolutely, but don’t overpay based on his name and gaudy second half run. He will likely fall far short of those numbers, making him a “bust” waiting to happen.

Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Heat Maps

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