In fantasy baseball, owners have all sorts of biases, which end up influencing how a player is ultimately valued. Generally speaking, the fantasy community loves younger talent with five-category upside – i.e., Trea Turner – those players’ value tends to be inflated and their warts are often overlooked. Fantasy owners are much more tepid about a down season for an older player – i.e., Jose Bautista – and will often overlook a nearly identical skillset and situation to his most successful seasons.
Another bias that will influence owners is injury bias. We have seen this with Nelson Cruz, who is annually under drafted despite an obscene offensive track record because of injuries that hounded him earlier in his career. Now, 36, there might be some age bias influencing Cruz’s value, but most casual players would be shocked to find out that Cruz has played 152 or more games in four of the last five seasons. Even with some age-related decline, 150 games of Nelson Cruz is a virtual lock for 30-35 HRs and 90+ RBIs.
Carlos Gonzalez might be following a very similar career path to that of Nelson Cruz. I think his ADP is also being suppressed by injury bias – 66.60 ADP. Simply put, there is no other way to explain how the Colorado Rockies likely clean-up hitter would be going at such a price. Similar to Cruz, I think most players would be surprised that Gonzalez has played 150+ games two years in a row.
While Gonzalez’s days of 20+ SBs are gone, he is still a good source of production in 4 of the 5 classic Roto categories. He’s a career .291 hitter, playing his home games in Coors field, you can safely pencil him in for a .280+ batting average due to BABIP inflation. Last year, Gonzalez was at .298 so a .300 batting average season is not out of the question. In a loaded lineup with players like Trevor Story, David Dahl and Ian Desmond likely hitting behind him, Gonzalez will have a good shot at 85+ runs to go with 100 RBIs.
In addition to the counting production and batting average, I think Gonzalez has some power upside. Gonzalez is still only 31 years old and we need only look to players like the aforementioned Cruz, Bautista along with Evan Longoria to see players, who have had non-traditional power aging curves. Gonzalez is just a year removed from his own 40 homer season.
Further, while the league enjoyed a 14% home run surge, Gonzalez’s homers declined by 37.5% despite a higher year-over-year Hard Ct% (37.1% compared to 34.1%). Gonzalez’s HR/FB rate sunk below his career average at 16.9% compared to 19.3% for his career. Plus, as if this needs to be emphasized again, he plays his home games in Coors, which will help aid that power even if he is declining in that department.
In terms of flyball-line drive velocity, Gonzalez keeps plenty of good company – Joey Votto, Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, Matt Kemp, and Daniel Murphy. If those players were situated in Coors, fantasy owners would have no issue projecting them for 30-35 HRs in this coming season. I will acknowledge that there is some risk that Gonzalez is traded from Coors this year, but the Rockies offseason indicates that they are preparing to compete. They signed Greg Holland and Desmond. In fact, they intend to play Desmond at an unfamiliar position to keep their best bats in the lineup. Their staff is young, but they have a centerpiece in Jon Gray with ace-stuff, who could overcome Coors.
Gonzalez’s numbers are muted by most for an injury-related discount. It’s a valid opinion and safety has its merits, much as risk does, but recent evidence indicates that Gonzalez’s injury troubles may be behind him. Gonzalez has not run much in either of the last two years and perhaps, avoiding these injuries were as simple as Gonzalez not maxing out on the basepaths and/or defensively anymore. Regardless of the explanation, there is now reason to project Gonzalez over 150 games and that projection is a major reward for owners taking him in the sixth round on average.
My Projection for Carlos Gonzalez: 151 GP, 85 R, 32 HR, 105 RBI, 3 SB, .285 AVG