A Minnesota Twin On The Rise: Carlos Gomez

Dan WadeSenior Analyst IJuly 18, 2009

NEW YORK - MAY 17:  Carlos Gomez #22 of the Minnesota Twins bats against the New York Yankees on May 17, 2009 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Yankees defeated the Twins 3-2 in ten innings.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

When the name Carlos Gomez gets brought up in conversation, one of two things are the likely subject.

It could be either A, players who are among the league’s elite defenders or B, guys who look awkward at best when hitting.

Gomez’s defense could use a bit of polish, but his speed makes up for the occasional poor route. He has Torri Hunter’s flare for the dramatic catch and a cannon arm; Gomez was the best defensive center fielder in 2008 despite being a rookie.

But as good as he has been in the outfield, he has been simply atrocious at the dish.

Gomez entered the second half of the season hitting a paltry .235/.291/.358 with just seven steals, a shame for a player who is quite possibly the fastest in baseball. With Nick Punto locked into the all-glove-no-hit position in the lineup, Gomez found himself frequently left out of lineups in favor of some permutation of Delmon Young, Michael Cuddyer, Denard Span, and/or Jason Kubel.

But there is reason for hope.

Gomez looks far better at the plate this season than he did even this time last year. He no longer looks like he’s going to leave his shoes at home plate due to the force of his swing. His pitch recognition is better, as evidenced by the fact that he has swung at 9% fewer pitches out of the zone, and he drew the same number of walks in the first half as he did last year in nearly 200 fewer at bats.

That’s all well and good, but the Twins are in a race now and while Gomez’s long-term development is important, it ought to be subservient to the overall needs of the team. If he can’t hack it this year, shouldn’t he be in Triple-A trying to learn it?

Thankfully, it appears that Gomez is learning just fine at the major league level. His lines by month have improved fairly steadily as the season has progressed.

April: .195/.250/.293  in 41 AB
May:  .237/.303/.322 in 59 AB
June: .242/.286/.364 in 66 AB
July (as of 17 July): .286/.348/.571 in 21 AB

While its unlikely that Gomez will post an OPS above .900 for the whole month of July and even less likely that it will rise again in August, there is an undeniably positive trend in these numbers.

With the Twins’ staff trending towards flyballs across the board, Gomez needs to be in the lineup every day; Delmon Young has been better offensively, but not enough to overcome the defensive disparity.

If Gomez can post a line anywhere like what he has done in July, the Twins will look like a much better team. He still isn’t the leadoff hitter Gardy wants him to be, but Denard Span has performed admirably in that role, making anything Gomez can contribute from the bottom of the order icing on the cake.

For a team that relies so heavily on Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Jason Kubel for its run production, having Gomez as a viable on-base threat at the bottom of the order will help the Twins make the run they’ll need to make in order to be considered a serious threat to win the AL Central.

Gomez isn’t a make or break player, yet, but there is ample evidence to suggest that if he begins to hit consistently, the Twins will score more runs without sacrificing a bit of defense, and to borrow a platitude so beloved by former GM Terry Ryan, that truly is every bit as good as making a trade.