NL West Debate: Carlos Gonzales or Chase Headley, Whose Impact Will Be Bigger?

David MartinAnalyst IMarch 10, 2009

The Colorado Rockies, less than two years removed from a National League pennant, traded away their best player in Matt Holliday to the Oakland Athletics for pitchers Huston Street, Greg Smith, and outfield prospect Carlos Gonzalez.

While Street and Smith were large factors in getting this trade done, and they add depth to the bullpen and starting rotation, Gonzalez was the centerpiece of the deal.

The San Diego Padres, in fire sale mode, have been attempting to sell off any of their players that have any significant contract. All-Star Jake Peavy was on the trade block for a large portion of the offseason.

Both the Rockies and Padres seem to be in a similar situation; they are depending on young players and prospects to pan out in order to have successful seasons.

The Padres have outfielder Chase Headley, who will be playing his first full season in the big leagues, as their go to player. A successful season by Headley could help the Padres play spoiler in the N.L. West.

The question posed is this: Who will have a bigger impact for his respective team, Headley or Gonzalez?

In 2008, Headley hit a respectable .269 with 9 home runs and 38 RBI in 331 at-bats. He appeared in 91 games.

Gonzalez, who was previously with the Diamondbacks organization before being part of the Dan Haren trade, hit .242 with four home runs and 26 RBI in 302 Major League at-bats.

Both players have similar numbers, and struggle in the same area.  Gonzalez had a tough time with the breaking ball and struck out 81 times while Headley hit for more power, but struck out at a record pace of 104 times.

Determining who will end up as the better player for his team this year is difficult based on the numbers. However, there is one number that could shed some light on who will have the bigger impact.

Headley is projected as an everyday starter for the Friars. He should see time in the outfield and at third base when Kevin Kouzmanoff needs a day off.

Gonzalez is projected to start the season in Headley's home town, Colorado Springs.

The Rockies are overloaded with outfielders who are looking to get a chance.  Currently, the Rockies are looking at an outfield of Brad Hawpe in right, Ryan Spilborghs in center, and Seth Smith in left.

Trying to find a way on to the team is the powerful left-handed hitting Ian Stewart, who has been getting some time in the outfield because it seems that Todd Helton is healthy, which will put Garrett Atkins back at third base and leave Stewart with no place to play. 

Getting Stewart's bat into the lineup is a priority to manager Clint Hurdle, so that means he will see some time in left field. Along with Stewart, speedster Scott Podsednik and another Athletic acquisition, Matt Murton are pushing for roster spots this spring.

These go along with highly touted center field prospect Dexter Fowler.

The Rockies have made it very clear the they think that Gonzalez could benefit from more seasoning in AAA. They think it will get him ready for the Major League breaking ball and cut down on his strike out totals.

Gonzalez could very well fit into the plans of the Rockies down the road, and due to injury or trade he could easily slide onto the Major League roster, but as of now, he looks subject to a year in the minors.

On the other hand, Headley seems to have his spot secure on the Padres opening day lineup. He has proven in his short time that he can produce at the Major League level. 

Comparing player to player, it would seem that Gonzalez has the overall edge in talent, but as far as which player will contribute more to their team this season, the easy answer is Chase Headley. He will be in the Majors from the beginning and has more of an opportunity to lead his team.