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Adrian Gonzalez’s value at the plate has been outstanding for years. His three Gold Gloves attest to his defensive prowess. Yet he ranks below Joey Votto on this list due to one red flag.
Shortly after the 2010 season, Gonzalez had shoulder surgery. Then he experienced shoulder weakness for at least the final month of the 2011 season. This ailment might explain some of the bizarre hitting outcomes for Gonzalez in 2011.
After establishing himself as a fly-ball hitter throughout his career, he suddenly turned in to a rather extreme ground-ball hitter in Boston. This resulted in a 40-point improvement in his batting average, for a career-high .338.
However, it is unlikely that he can sustain the .380 batting average on balls in play from 2012, which was well above his career mark of .322. Gonzalez likely cannot thrive by relying on ground balls getting through the infield.
If he remains a ground-ball hitter, this means the days of 30-plus home runs are behind him. In his first season at Fenway, he was fond of smacking doubles off of the Green Monster, especially early in 2011. An increase in doubles could partially offset a decline in home runs, but the larger issue of how much his shoulder weakness and ground-ball tendencies will sap his extra-base power remains.
Even with the worries that Gonzalez’s offense may lose some of the power from earlier in his career, he still remains the correct choice for No. 3 on this ranking. His top-notch fielding separates him from the rest of the pack.
For that reason, it would take a large offensive decline to close the gap between him and the next guy on this list.