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Fantasy: Be Patient, Adrian Gonzalez Owners

Jimmy HascupCorrespondent IJuly 18, 2009

ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 14:  Adrian Gonzalez #23 of the San Diego Padres walks back to the dugout against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium on June 14, 2009 in Anaheim, California. The Angels defeated the Padres 6-0.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

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Adrian Gonzalez would be a superstar if he played for a big market team.  However, playing on the San Diego Padres, Gonzalez is often the forgotten man.  You can’t help but appreciate how much he’s done with so little around him, especially when the Padres have the weakest lineup in the major leagues, with only 338 runs, and are fighting to stay out of the major league basement.

It may come as a surprise then, that Adrian Gonzalez has twenty four HR and fifty two RBI, yet he’s still in the midst of one of the worst funks of his entire career.  Gonzalez may have one of the most deceptive numbers to date.  The slick fielding first basemen may have the power numbers fantasy owners drool over, but his .246 batting average is something that’s dragging down his value, almost unfairly.  If Adrian Gonzalez can improve that average, he has a chance to be one of the most productive first basemen in the second half.  He also has the ability to be one of the NL’s best hitters, even with such little protection around him.  Let me show you why he’s such a great buy.

Playing in PETCO Park, we all have to realize that hitting numbers will be dragged down; Gonzalez is no exception. However, Gonzalez is a career .278 hitter in the majors and .296 hitter in the minors.  Gonzalez should have a higher batting average, even playing in such a pitcher’s park.  In his first three seasons in San Diego, Gonzalez batted .288 and averaged 30 HR and 100 RBI.  It’s safe to say that this season, he will most certainly hit more than thirty homeruns, and probably even shatter his career-mark of thirty six.

PETCO Park is supposed to be the place where hitters die, but Gonzalez is still producing at a top-tier pace.  Just imagine if was still playing in Texas, the origin of his career.  Some of the 116 doubles he hit from 2006 to 2008 would surely be homeruns in Arlington.  While he only has 10 doubles this season, his power pace is threatening career bests.  That is, if he learns how to hit a homerun again.  In the first two months of the season Gonzalez hit 20 HR.  He’s hit 4 since then- and hasn’t hit one since June 23rd.  As a matter of fact, since his last homerun Gonzalez has also gone 11 for 72 (.153 BA) with 5 RBI.

Gonzalez is facing two problems at the plate right now.  First of all, he doesn’t exactly have a potent hitter behind him, so he’s not getting quality pitches to hit.  With that being said, it’s not like Gonzalez ever played in a lethal lineup while in San Diego.  This year Gonzalez has swung at less pitches in the strikezone- 23.4 percent compared to last season’s 28 percent, so he’s shown a good eye at the plate.  Consequently, he’s only struckout 68 times and is on pace for less strikeouts than he had in either 2007 and 2008.  Secondly, Gonzalez has played in 297 consecutive games.  To say he’s drained is probably understatement.  He’s expected to receive more days off in the second half, which should keep him fresher during the second half.

Even though Gonzalez has faced some hardships at the plate lately, he has a .268 ISO, which ranks 13th in the major leagues.  ISO measures a player’s extra base hit prowess.  It’s amazing the rate is still so high, despite drastic power drop-off we’ve seen lately. 

Gonzalez’s hidden rates are even an improvement over last season’s.  He has walked 18.5 percent, a career best.  He’s striking out 21.7 percent of the time, which is right around the norm for him.  His SLG and OPS at .518 and .905 respectively are higher than they’ve ever been.

Gonzalez is due for a huge breakout at the plate, sooner or later.  His BABIP has been greatly holding down his value.  He’s been an extremely unlucky hitter, with a BABIP mark of only.242.  Compared to his career average of .309, Gonzalez is bound to bounce back.  Sooner or later the base hits will fall again for Gonzalez.  When that batting average comes around, he’s going to be nearly untouchable. A run that puts Gonzalez’s average in the .260s for the season is certainly possible.  Coupled with sustained power numbers, that’s the streak that could really boost your fantasy team. 

Now is your time to grab Adrian Gonzalez, before it’s too late.  Even though GM Kevin Towers says the Padres aren’t looking to deal him, if another team puts together a convincing package, Towers can’t decline the offer.  Just imagine him batting in the 3-spot for a contender.

What do you guys think? Is it worth waiting out Gonzalez’s slump? Do you think he’ll be traded?

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