Evaluating the Talent: Carlos Gonzalez

Both the starting rotation and the starting lineup for 2012 are terrifyingly uncertain right now, but there are a few guys we can (hopefully) rely on to start every day. One of those guys is Carlos Gonzalez, who will live in left field next season, unless Jim Tracy changes his mind again.

There’s little to complain about with Cargo. Yes, he went through a long and horrible slump early last season. His April slash line was a pitiful .228/.277/.304. But I think his character really showed through during that time. Even as he took ridiculous hacks at balls in the dirt, he kept his cool. He seemed to understand that losing it wasn’t going to help matters. He accepted the move from 3-hole to lead-off and used the reduced pressure of that spot to improve his plate discipline immensely. He had a stellar June in that spot, with 38 hits in 27 games. He was on his way to a great July, too, when he smashed into the wall at Coors and hurt his wrist. It was only the second-most cringe-inducing clip of a Rockies injury all season.

And that not-getting-injured thing will be the key for Cargo in ’12. In 2010 he led the National League with a .336 batting average, and there’s no reason to believe he can’t do that again, more than once. When he’s making good contact, his stroke is fantastic. He hits very well up the middle, and obviously he has a great power swing when he’s fully healthy. He’s as good a 3-hole hitter as you could ask for, in terms of potential anyway.

Defensively, he can play all outfield positions beautifully. It’s really unthinkable that he didn’t win a Gold Glove for last season. I’d want him in the field for any dream team I came up with. He led the league in outfield assists with 12, and his is an arm I wouldn’t test under most circumstances. Besides arm strength, he has such fantastic instincts in the field. He knows exactly when to lay out and when to pull up, and he always gets his ball. Always. Even though sometimes injury results. So while he’ll likely record nearly all his starts in left next season, I’d be glad to see him anywhere.

All this is to say that Cargo makes me happy no matter what he’s doing. I just really really hope he stays healthy. If he does, we’ve got a great left fielder and 3-hole hitter for 2012.

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