While the pitching staff and a number of position players have made big contributions to the Milwaukee Brewers’ 32-22 start, center fielder Carlos Gomez has not only been the club’s best player — he’s a bona fide NL MVP candidate.
We’re just two months into the season so a lot can change, but Gomez is putting up phenomenal offensive numbers that should put him near the top of the MVP discussion. Throw in his Gold Glove defense in a premier position and his overall value spikes higher as one of the rare players who can contribute in all facets of the game. Gomez should be viewed as a legitimate five-tool player: power, speed, average, fielding ability and throwing ability.
Through Thursday’s games, Go-Go ranks in the top six in nine different categories that include traditional offensive statistics and new-school metrics. Essentially, when you break it down, he’s been an all-around threat with the bat and one of the most dangerous hitters to face in 2014.
Thanks in large part to his 11 home runs (sixth in NL) and 15 doubles, Gomez ranks fifth in the league in slugging percentage (.594) and fourth in OPS (.987). He also sits sixth in runs scored (35) and tenth in OBP with a .394 mark.
He also has the fourth-highest weighted on-base average (wOBA), which is a great “catch-all” offensive stat that measures his value more accurately. Typically a .300 wOBA is deemed average. Gomez currently owns a .426 wOBA.
With a ferocious swing, yet targeted swing this season, Gomez has been able to square up balls with greater frequency and drive them with authority. When manager Ron Roenicke finally moved him out of the leadoff spot to take advantage of his power, Gomez stepped up his game.
Though it’s a small sample size, in Gomez’s six games batting cleanup he’s hitting .500 with an .833 slugging percentage and an eye-popping 1.372 OPS, including five doubles and seven RBIs. The 28-year-old ball of energy told reporters that batting fourth gives him “a sexy feeling” when he steps to the dish.
However he wants to describe it, the move to the middle of the order plays to his skill set much better and increases his offensive impact on the club. It will also help him state his case for an MVP trophy by putting him a run-producing spot.
Gomez is at a prime age when it comes to position players as 28 seems to be the perfect time for guys to blend their physical tools and mental makeup. You clearly see a more calculated approach to his at bats this season, making his violent hack more effective and efficient.
You can expect some regression with his batting average and OBP for a number of reasons. Last year he was red hot early on with similar statistics but finished hitting .284 with a .338 OBP, still both career highs. Part of the sudden dip came on his batting average of balls in play (BABIP), which measures the effect of luck and defense in collecting hits.
The average BABIP often falls between .290 and .310. For his career, Gomez owns a .317 BABIP, while this season it’s currently at .405, the highest in the league. Part of the increased BABIP is the fact Gomez is hitting far more line drives; however, with a number that robust, he’s bound to see some bad luck come his way.
At his current pace, Gomez is looking at 40 doubles, 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases to go along with his stellar outfield play. Runs scored and RBIs are difficult to predict, but he could be looking at about 90 each, with an outside chance at more depending on the rest of the lineup’s output.
Regardless of where Go-Go ends up in the NL MVP race, his continued development as a player, contagious love for the game, and all-out effort will be an invaluable cog in the Brewers’ playoff push. Three years ago, most fans would have been happy if he played great defense and occasionally reached base to swipe some bags. They certainly would have laughed at the thought of Gomez being on anyone’s radar for an MVP.
That includes me, as it seemed like it would be in the Brewers’ best interest to deal Gomez in the offseason for a top-of-the-line starting pitcher, figuring 2013 was the peak of his ability.
The theoretical deal didn’t exist and Gomez appears poised for an even bigger campaign. Now it’s hard to imagine the Brewers without such a dynamic force on their side.