NL West Debate: Carlos Gonzalez Or Chase Headley in '09?

Eric GomezAnalyst IMarch 7, 2009

While NL West headlines for this offseason and spring training have been dominated by Manny and the Dodgers, there are plenty of interesting stories that have been left untouched by mass media.

Only two years removed from a miraculous run that deposited them in the World Series, Colorado has since missed the playoffs and traded its biggest star (Matt Holliday) to Oakland.

Despite getting an established reliever and former Rookie of the Year, Huston Street, the most important player acquired from the A's may very well be OF Carlos González, a highly touted prospect who made his major league debut last season.

Whereas Colorado's moves may be softly termed as a "youth movement," there is no doubt that division rival San Diego's salary dumps and multiple trades have been part of a rebuilding process.

After four consecutive winning seasons and two playoff berths, San Diego was motivated in 2008 by mediocre results and owner John Moores' divorce to trade away Randy Wolf, Greg Maddux, Khalil Greene, and Tony Clark, as well as shop ace Jake Peavy and part ways with closer Trevor Hoffman.

San Diego's offense will now feature Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Kouzmananoff and Chase Headley in the middle of the lineup, an interesting trio that combined for nearly 70 home runs despite playing half of their games at pitcher-friendly Petco Park.

Headley is considered the team's slugger of the future, and he responded well in limited action last season, hitting nine home runs and adjusting well to major league pitchers.

With this in mind, who is primed to have a better 2009 season, Carlos Gonzalez, or Chase Headley? Let's break down their potential performance:


Headley hit .269 with 9 HR and 38 RBI in only 331 AB for San Diego last season. His aggressive approach was quite apparent, as he racked up 104 K and only 30 BB.

New hitting coach Jim Lefevbre will be sure to tone down Headley's excessive hacking, as well as helping him adopt Adrian Gonzalez's approach of gap hitting at spacious Petco Park. In 2008, 30 of Headley's 89 hits were for extra bases, a number that will certainly go up with a full season under his belt.

While Headley is set to become an instant starter, Carlos Gonzalez is still battling for a starting position. Should Gonzalez win a starting spot, pressure will be on him to produce numbers worthy of Coors Field.

In 302 AB last season, Gonzalez hit .242 and slammed 4 HR while knocking in 26 runs. Like Headley, Gonzalez had trouble laying off bad pitches, as he whiffed 81 times as  opposed to walking 13 times.

Headley hits lefties and righties nearly equally as a switch-hitter, while Gonzalez has had trouble with southpaws, hitting only .188 against them in 88 AB. Gonzalez will also have to adjust to the National League, which is less forgiving for hitters.

It also remains to be seen where Gonzalez will hit in Colorado's lineup, which features Garrett Atkins, Troy Tulowitzki and Brad Hawpe. His speed could place him at the top of the lineup, but his poor contact could drop him down to seventh or eighth.

Advantage: Headley



With Kevin Kouzmananoff at third base, Chase Headley was moved from his natural position to the outfield, where in 82 games, he committed a total of five errors. At times, Headley looked lost in Petco Park's cavernous outfield, but settled in as he obtained experience.

Due to his speed, Gonzalez is naturally groomed to tackle center field. In 69 games at the position, he showed excellent range and a great arm, with five total assists. He also has experience in the corner outfield, playing 36 games in right field.

Should Kouzmananoff be moved by the cost-cutting Padres, Headley will be better suited to become a defensive asset at third. Gonzalez, on the other hand, will be assured at least playing time as an excellent defensive replacement for Colorado should he begin the season on the bench.

Advantage: Gonzalez



Despite possessing great speed, Gonzalez was only able to swipe four bags in five tries last season. With 22 doubles and one triple in his lone major league season, he certainly showed that he's able to stretch base hits.

Headley had identical numbers on the base paths, stealing four bases and being caught once. Utilizing San Diego's spacious outfield to his advantage, he hit 19 doubles and two triples. On base a total of 125 times, Headley came around to score 34 times.

Advantage: Gonzalez



With a 3.63 GPA, Chase Headley was an Academic All-American at the University of Tennessee, only a few years after being class valedictorian at his high school. Headley has been hailed for his "mental makeup" and determination after enduring a knee surgery while he was still in college.

Gonzalez, on the other hand, has had his work ethic called into question, and has been a part of three organizations in the past year despite once being considered one of Baseball America's top 25 prospects.

After being drafted by Arizona, Gonzalez's production stalled after ascending from Class A. Oakland took him on as a project, and there he was able to show some of the promise that had attracted scouts in his home country of Venezuela.

However, with his roster spot still unsecured, the onus will be on Gonzalez to produce and do it fast. Should his offensive numbers not correspond with the relative ease of Coors Field, look for him to return to the minors.

Advantage: Headley