A few more walks may make Gomez more feast and less famine next season. (Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports)

What is the Verdict on Carlos Gomez?

As we inch ever closer to the beginning of the 2013 Milwaukee Brewers season, there are obviously more questions than answers heading our way.

Not all of them, however, deal strictly with team signings and contract extensions. There are some questions lingering within our very roster as it sits today. Most of them will need to be answered as we begin Cactus League play, but I think it is important we begin to get them out in the open now.

Probably because the sooner we deal with them, the less they need to nag at me as the season gets underway. The first one I’d like to deal with is the conundrum surrounding Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Carlos Gomez. A lot has been spoken of surrounding Gomez, especially this season. Still, one has to consider if Carlos Gomez is ready to truly breakout in 2013, or if we’re realizing potential before it materializes.

Gomez kept Milwaukee in a lot of games in 2012 with his bat, his glove, and his legs. Can he do it EVEN BETTER in 2013?(Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports)

Carlos Gomez is going into the seventh year of his Major League Baseball career, and his last season with the Brewers was unquestionably his best since coming up to the bigs. He hit .260, stole 37 bases, hit 19 home runs, drove in 51 runs, and scored 72 runs. His WAR was a career high 2.3, and his OPS climbed from .679 in 2012 to .768.

Very impressive stuff. If you take a look at the numbers in his career, you see that he has been making a marked improvement in most of these numbers since his biggest year in Minnesota in 2008. The big difference between then and now? As a Twin, his Win Probability Added was -2.8. In 2012, he jumped it up to 1.5.

As an outfielder, Gomez is essentially everything you could ask for in a center fielder in Miller Park. He has a consistently high range factor for his position, and his arm shows some amazing speed. His speed in the outfield can provide miraculous catches – sometimes it seems like every game – but can also be a detriment. He commits a few more errors than you’d probably like (but then again, isn’t one too many?) and it’s likely that overrunning, or perhaps even overconfidence in his ability to run down balls are to blame for that.

Even still, Gomez possesses a good combination of legs and arm strength that more than compensates for what I consider to be minor setback as a defensive player.

As a hitter though, it would seem that he is still lacking in a few vital tools. For a player with his speed, he still is showing a gap in understanding in how he can be even better utilized. Carlos Gomez struck out last year 21.7% of his at-bats. He has a K/BB ratio of 4.90 – one of the highest of his career. I understand that he doesn’t  want to be just a flight-footed gap hitter, but even as a would-be power hitter those numbers should be a little concerning.

Whether Gomez likes it or not, his legs on the base paths are a weapon this team needs. And they need them running from first to second on a steal, or first to third on an outfield hit – not walking back to the dugout after whiffing on a dirt pitch.

He may have fixed a hitch in his swing, and that’s all well and good, but he needs to fix his eyes at the plate just a bit and he might be the player we’ve been waiting for all along.

When he does connect, he can hit for power at an astonishing rate. He hit for extra bases in 2012 nearly 10% of his at-bats that resulted in a hit. He was driving in a run, on average, once every 8.1 at-bats. He’s getting very close to being a bona fide offensive power house. But careers aren’t necessarily made on that alone. He has the team around him to drive in runs now, but drawing a few more walks and giving up a few less at-bats will make him even more effective.

So, to my original question; What is the verdict on Carlos Gomez? For me – I’d say that he’s almost there. It’s hard to believe that Gomez is only 27, which is probably what he has going for him more than anything else. He is entering into prime territory for a player to be in his peak performance margin. There’s definitely room for improvement, but Carlos Gomez is only a fix or two away from being an impact player for the future of this Milwaukee Brewers clubhouse.

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