Carlos Gonzalez is a star. Even with two seasons of disappointing numbers since his explosive 2010 campaign, that fact is not debatable. What is debatable, and what remains to be seen in the coming seasons, is whether or not CarGo is a superstar, whether or not he is one of those “rare 5 tool players,” and so on.
Such was the praise lavished on CarGo after the aforementioned 2010 season. That was the year in which he chased triple crown numbers, batting .336 with 34 home runs and 111 RBI. He played all three outfield spots with a unique flare and stole 26 bases. He was, as the cliche goes, the “total package.” That is the status that has since been called into question.
In 2012 CarGo’s numbers were disappointing by his standards. He batted .303 with 22 home runs and 85 RBI. The second half of the season was the culprit; it is easy to forget that CarGo started the All-Star Game as the designated hitter (and even participated in the home run derby). In terms of perception if nothing else, his season was not considered a flop at that point. It was only after an underwhelming second half that things seemed to fall flat.
More than once CarGo has attributed his struggles in 2012 to the lack of help he had. With little apparent concern for the feelings of his younger teammates, he has talked about feeling like he had to do everything “by himself” last season thanks to the injuries to Troy Tulowitzki, Michael Cuddyer, and Todd Helton. But it’s not just that. CarGo must improve two areas this season to regain his “superstar” status and start chasing MVP trophies again.
The first is his defense. Surely there are metrics and statistics to back this up, but I’d rather keep it simple. It looked like he was slacking off last season. It looked like he missed balls he should have caught and did not sprint to chase them down. He promised the organization that he would be more careful about crashing into walls, but I do not think anybody thought that would result in such a significant drop-off. There should be a happy medium, where CarGo can still bust it and cover lots of ground while picking his spots and not taking unnecessary risks. Whatever it takes, he needs to play elite defense again this season. The team’s defense must be markedly better, and he and Dexter Fowler can be a big part of that improvement by playing the way they should play in the outfield.
The second problem is those home/road splits. Last year CarGo hit 13 of his 22 home runs and drove in 58 of his 85 RBI at home. More distressing is his OPS split: 1.046 at home and .706 on the road. The next time CarGo levels out his home/road splits will be the first time in his young career. Even in his monstrous 2010 season, CarGo’s OPS split was 1.161 at home and .775 on the road. The Rockies have to win with offense. The offense has to hit on the road for that to happen. CarGo and Tulo have to lead the way.
CarGo can reassert himself in the superstar conversation if he plays elite defense and somehow finds a way to level out his home/road offensive production. The Rockies need him to do both to have any chance this season.
Where should CarGo be in 2013? Batting third and playing left.
Where will CarGo be in 2013? Batting third and playing left.