Cleveland Indians: Could Matt LaPorta Be the Next Carlos Gonzalez?

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Cleveland Indians: Could Matt LaPorta Be the Next Carlos Gonzalez?
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

I know what you're thinking: How can Indians first baseman Matt LaPorta, a player who hit .221 last season, become the same type of power hitter as Colorado Rockies outfielder and NL MVP candidate, Carlos Gonzalez? 

Well, the answer to this question can be seen easier when breaking down both ballplayers.

When the Tribe traded ace C.C. Sabathia to the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008, they received four prospects: RHP Rob Bryson, LHP Zach Jackson, OF Michael Brantley and 1B/OF LaPorta. 

Of all four players, LaPorta was deemed by far as the key and deal breaker to the blockbuster trade. 

The former seventh overall pick by the Brewers in the 2007 MLB draft though has been anything but the type of player the Indians thought they were getting two seasons ago. 

In 376 AB's in 2010, LaPorta hit a dismal .221 with 12 HR and 41 RBI in 110 games. This came was after he soared at the AAA level in the 2008 and 2009 seasons, hitting a combined .289 with 39 HR and 134 RBI in 194 games.

Gonzalez, like LaPorta, was also a part of a blockbuster trade in 2008, being traded to the Rockies along with RHP Huston Street and LHP Greg Smith for All-Star outfielder Matt Holliday.

He, unlike LaPorta, was one of the most productive hitters in 2010. In 587 AB's, Gonzalez hit an NL leading .336 with 34 HR and 117 RBI in 145 games.

What if I told you 2011 could be different for LaPorta?

Different in the fact that LaPorta's numbers would be similar to that of Gonzalez's. That he would indeed become the type of power hitter the Tribe has been searching for since the departure of fan favorites Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome.

Let's start by comparing the stats of both ballplayers.

LaPorta has just two big league seasons under his belt while Gonzalez has three seasons. Both players though were named by Baseball America in 2008 as the top prospects in their respective organizations (LaPorta with the Brewers and Gonzalez with the Athletics). 

In order to see the comparison between both hitters, here are LaPorta and Gonzalez's career stats through their first two MLB seasons:

 

Gonzalez

174 G, 580 ABs, 84 R, 152 H, 36 2B, 17 HR, 55 RBI, 41 BB, 151 SO, .263 AVG, .313 OBP.

LaPorta

162 G, 557 ABs, 70 R, 129 H, 28 2B, 19 HR, 62 RBI, 58 BB, 119 SO, .232 AVG, .307 OBP.

 

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

When comparing both players through their first two seasons in the big leagues, one can easily see that LaPorta is not far off the track of Gonzalez, as he has even hit more home runs and drove in more RBI in less plate appearances. 

Does this automatically mean that LaPorta will become the type of hitter that has Gonzalez turned into? No. But one has to wonder when looking at these numbers, if 2011 will in fact be a breakout year for LaPorta and the Indians.

Now I am not saying LaPorta will be a .336 hitter and be in the running for the AL MVP, what I am saying is maybe we haven't simply given LaPorta his time to fully develop. 

Power hitters aren't born as soon as they reach the big leagues. Baseball fans have seen this through many players over the last few seasons, with Gonzalez and Toronto's Jose Bautista being just two of them.

Baseball is a game based on numbers and stats. Sure, anyone can say a .221 AVG is below average, or driving in just 41 runs in over 100 games is not productive when just glancing at a few baseball statistics. 

It is when you actually go behind the numbers that one really get a sense of what a player may or may not become. Comparing LaPorta to Gonzalez does show a different side of what many fans do not see.

It should be interesting to see if LaPorta does in fact breakout in 2011, as there are just 97 days until we find out what the 2011 season holds for LaPorta and the Indians.

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