Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Once a five-tool prospect, Carlos Gomez left a few tools in the shed when he made the jump to the major leagues in 2007. His defense was fantastic and his speed was second to none, but his hitting was nowhere to be found.
He spent only one season with the New York Mets before being shipped to the Minnesota Twins where he played for only two seasons. When the Twins traded him to the Milwaukee Brewers for J.J. Hardy before the 2010 season, Gomez had a career batting average of .245 and had only 12 home runs. His once promising future was darkening, and a career as a bench warmer seemed more likely than anything else.
But then 2012 rolled around and something clicked inside Gomez. And he started hitting.
He platooned with Nyjer Morgan in 2011 (Gomez hit .357 in the postseason) and was destined to repeat the role in 2012, but Morgan never got out of his early season slump and the starting job was given to Gomez – and he never looked back.
In the last two seasons, Gomez is hitting .273 with 45 home runs and his on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS have risen dramatically. He earned a three-year contract extension from the Brewers prior to the 2013 season which coincidentally was his best statistical year.
So what caused his turnaround? It’s simple really.
Confidence. Until he came to Milwaukee, no one was confident about him nor was he confident about himself.
Throughout his career, Gomez has been a stopgap in the outfield – he’s never been given a real shot to succeed. The Mets handed him 125 bats off the bench before they traded him. Granted, it was for Johan Santana but nonetheless, Gomez never had time to make a sincere impact.
Gomez hit .258 in 577 at-bats during his first season with the Twins, which I would call respectable for a first-time starter. But the Twins disagreed. He saw only 315 at-bats the following season and was used mainly as a defensive replacement in a crowded outfield. Once again, his confidence was shaken, begging the question if anyone believed in him.
When the Brewers traded for Gomez, general manager Doug Melvin said “In the end, there wasn’t anybody that matched the ability of Carlos Gomez.” Or in other words, “I have confidence in you, Carlos.”
His first two years in Milwaukee were spent on the bench, and he failed to impress, but for the first time in his career, his team didn’t give up on him, and in return, Gomez turned the Brewers into full-time believers. After hitting .260 in 2012 (only two points higher than his first season with the Twins), the Brewers signed him up for three more years for $24 million.
Gomez is the type of player who gets better with each at bat. If he sees 500 at-bats a season, he’ll hit somewhere in the high .200’s and blast 20+ home runs. Guaranteed. The Brewers were smart enough to realize this.
Without confidence, Gomez is a below average player who can run fast. With confidence, he’s the best center fielder to play in Milwaukee since Robin Yount and Gorman Thomas. And at age 28, he’s in the prime of his career and he’s finally turning into the five-tool player he was once thought to be.