Carlos Gomez Should Hit Cleanup for Brewers
Carlos Gomez came to the Brewers in late 2009 as an enigma. He had all the potential to be a five tool player, but had yet to harness that talent. Gomez finally broke out in 2013, when he was the National League leader in WAR and won his first Gold Glove. Over the last two seasons, Gomez has proven to be the most dynamic hitter in the Brewers lineup. While Carlos led off 106 games in 2014, his combination of speed, power, and on base skills would be better served in Milwaukee as the everyday cleanup hitter in 2015.
Aramis Ramirez took the lion’s share of at bats last season in the number four spot, a position he has become accustomed to throughout his long career. While Ramirez will be back with the Brewers next year after both sides of his option were exercised, the time has come for Ramirez to be moved out of the cleanup slot.
Ramirez will be 37 going into next season and is coming off one of the poorest seasons of his career. His legs have given him trouble recently, and he has spent significant time on the disabled list in each of the last two seasons with knee and hamstring issues. In 2014, he failed to hit 20 home runs in a season that he played at least 100 games for the first time since 2002. His walk rate was an abysmal 4.0% and his ISO has fallen each year since 2012. This decline was especially evident in the second half of last year, when Ramirez put up a .110 ISO with only four home runs, struggling to a below average wRC+ of 98. Aramis was able to stave of father time longer than most and he could still be a solid contributor, but his days as a premium offensive player are likely over.
In 2014, Carlos led the Brewers everyday players with 23 home runs, a .477 slugging percentage, and 34 stolen bases. He tied Jonathon Lucroy with a .368 wOBA, and also put up a 132 wRC+ and a 130 OPS+. Gomez improved his OBP by nearly 20 points and his 7.3% walk rate was the highest of his career. Pitchers have taken notice of the strides Carlos has taken at the plate; only 41.3% of the 2301 pitches Gomez saw in 2014 were inside the strike zone, over 3% less than the year prior.
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Gomez was truly at his best with men on base last season. While he managed a .268/.340/.484 line with the bases empty, that jumps to .313/.384/.466 when there was a runner on base. With men on, Carlos becomes a much more patient hitter. His walk rate jumps from 7.1% to 7.6%, while his strikeout rate falls drastically from 24.9% to 16.8%. Once a runner gets in scoring position, Gomez mashes opposing pitchers to the tune of .331/.404/.477 with an 8.6% walk rate. Gomez proved he can handle the number four spot in 2014, sporting .289/.342/.430 slash across 162 plate appearances.
While Aramis Ramirez has been the erstwhile number four hitter when healthy, his decline leaves Carlos Gomez as the best cleanup candidate for the 2015 Championship Season. Though Carlos has the blazing speed that is desired from a leadoff hitter, the consistent power he provides and his splits with men on base make him much more valuable lower in the order. Instead of setting ‘em up, Carlos Gomez should be driving ‘em in for the Brewers as the “sexiest” cleanup man in Major League Baseball.