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Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Gomes returns to the RedsPosted by Satchel Price at 10:30am
Yesterday, the Cincinnati Reds officially re-signed outfielder Jonny Gomes to a one-year Major League contract with an option for 2011. Gomes returns to Cincinnati after an impressive showing in 314 plate appearances there last season, during which he hit 20 home runs and posted a 126 wRC+. Like another former Devil Ray who failed to follow up on a breakout performance, Jorge Cantu, Gomes came to the Reds after being let go by Tampa Bay due to issues primarily with plate discipline and defense.
At 29, Gomes is still relatively young, but he's a very poor defensive outfielder (career UZR/150 of -22.3) so his value lies almost entirely in his ability at the plate. While Gomes is relatively limited as a hitter, his career strikeout rate is over 32% and his walk rate hasn't been above 10% since 2006, he's got big time power (.230 ISO ) and a track record of mashing left-handed pitching (career wRC+ of 135 vs. LHP). He seems likely to slot into a left field platoon with Chris Dickerson, which should enable Gomes to get around 300 plate appearances once again this season, primarily against lefties. His fluctuating line drive rates are concerning, as you can see from his marks from 2005 to 2009: 23.3%, 16.9%, 21.2%, 10.1% (!), and 19.7%, although the pathetic 10% mark was in just 177 plate appearances. On the other hand, he's also seen an uptick in his contact rate in the past two seasons, as he's at about 74% in 2008/2009 after being in the 68%-71% range during his other three years in Tampa Bay.
But what really interests me about Gomes is that there seems to be some potential for even more power in his bat. In 2009, Gomes' fly ball rate was a career low 46.0%, far below his previous percentages, which generally sat in the mid-50's. But Gomes made up for that decline in power by posting by far the best HR/FB of his career, a 22.0% mark. A decent amount of the change in his HR/FB can be attributed to the move from Tropicana Field to The Great American Ballpark. According to StatCorner, The Trop's home run factor is 98.8, with a score of 100 being neutral, while The Great American Ballpark has a home run factor of 112.3. If Gomes can get his fly ball rate back to where it was in previous seasons while maintaining a high HR/FB, which is reasonable given the change in ballparks, then he could potentially be an impact power bat for both the Reds and fantasy owners alike if he gets the proper playing time.
So while it's more likely that Gomes is once again good for around 20 home runs, 60 RBI, and a .250 average, there's upside for a lot more, especially in the the counting stats if he can take away playing from Dickerson while holding off Chris Heisey, Wladimir Balentien and Laynce Nix. Gomes shouldn't be a starting option for anyone in fantasy, he's got a long swing that leads to a lot of strikeouts which holds down his batting average, he's a poor baserunner which holds down his runs scored accumulated and he's unlikely to bat higher than sixth in the Reds' batting order, so realistically he's only a guy to look at in NL-only leagues if you're in need of some pop.
But whenever you see a guy with notable power like Gomes who has shown flashes of thriving in the majors (he's got two seasons in which he's posted a wRC+ over 125 in at least 300 PA), he's worth looking at, and Jonny's no different, especially given how much he benefited from the move to Ohio last season.
Satchel is a proud Cubs and White Sox fan, and if you squint really hard, it almost looks like his name is Satchel Paige. He also writes for Beyond the Box Score and can be reached for questions or comments via e-mail.
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