With the turn of the calendar to May, this is the time when your fantasy baseball team’s outlook starts to become a bit more clear. Slow starts begin to look like trends. That hot first week has normalized. This is actually the trickiest time in Fantasy Baseball. On one hand, you see your team close to the bottom of the standings. On the other, it’s still early. This is especially difficult to judge in the “only” leagues, American League or National League only. The American League player pool has a bunch of power-speed threats like Mookie Betts, Carlos Correa, and Todd Frazier. Even Jose Altuve has joined this list, adding a surprising 9 home runs to the early start of his season. There may not be too many 40+ stolen base threats, but there were a bunch of players who had the potential to make a difference in each of the four categories.
The Bounce Back Isn’t Bouncing
One player who was still pretty high on draft lists was Carlos Gomez of the Houston Astros. The 30 year old outfielder was coming off a very disappointing 2015 season that saw him hit .255/.314/.409 with 12 home runs, 56 RBI, and 17 stolen bases. That was a far cry from the player who averaged .277/.336/.483 with 22 home runs, 66 RBI, and 37 stolen bases the three previous seasons. Gomez suffered through an injury plagued 2015 season that likely sunk most fantasy teams as Gomez was going in the first round of most drafts or going for a high auction price.
This winter, it seemed that Gomez would be a great candidate to bounce back from that poor season. Along with better health, Gomez was heading into his walk year on a team that seemed to have a deep lineup that offered plenty of protection. Everything pointed towards Gomez getting closer to the player he was just two seasons ago.
Like his team, Gomez is off to an awful start. In 24 games, he is batting .227/.253/.318 with 0 home runs, 4 RBI, and 2 stolen bases. His strikeout rate is up nearly 10 percent more (30.8 percent) and his walk rate is at an all-time low 2.2 percent. His hard contact rate is down nearly 8 percent, while his soft contact rate is up 5 percent. Overall, his contact rate on pitches thrown for strikes is down 8 percent from his career average. He’s getting ripped in the local newspapers and is becoming somewhat of a scapegoat for the Astros’ poor start. Gomez was poor last season, but right now, he is likely the anchor keeping many fantasy teams in the second division.
What To Do: Keep
You can’t trade Carlos Gomez right now because he likely has negative value in any league, even in AL-Only leagues. There is a bit of hope in that Gomez is just getting back from rib cage soreness. In his return on Tuesday, he went 2 for 3 with 2 doubles and a run scored. He followed that up with another double the next night and 3 RBI. The extra base hits offer a little hope that he is over the rib injury. Historically, May is Gomez’s best power month so perhaps the home runs will follow. And, looking at his strikeout rates, walk rates, and swing and miss rates, they are so far from his norm that this could all just be a poor month in a collection of poor Houston Astros players’ months.
Unless someone in your league truly believes that Gomez is going to be a star, you are better off hanging on to Gomez with re-calibrated expectations. Gomez is no longer the player he was from 2012 through 2014. But, he is still the type of fantasy baseball player who can be an above average asset. He will hit some home runs and steal some bases. The Astros will have an offensive tear that will help with runs scored. Gomez may be the next in line to be called the Dan Gladden type player. Keep him and get some value in each category.
The ‘Dan Gladden’ Player?
Dan Gladden was an outfielder for the Giants, Twins, and Tigers from 1983 through 1993. He wasn’t a star, but he was a player who averaged .265/.320/.375 with 68 runs scored, 7 home runs, 65 RBI, and 25 stolen bases during his prime years. He was typically a cheap addition at the end of a fantasy draft and would be one of those guys who gave good production at a very cheap price. My father, who started our fantasy baseball league in 1985–it was Rotisserie Baseball back then–dubbed Gladden “Mr. Rotisserie”. Every fantasy championship team has someone like Dan Gladden on it. It’s that one player who gives a little in each category.
Carlos Gomez entered this season with far too high expectations to be considered the Dan Gladden type player. But, at this point, he will likely settle into a couple of seasons of being Mr. Rotisserie. For this season, it’s just about salvaging some value from him. Next season, he’ll come cheaper, which will enhance the value of someone who will hit in neighborhood of .260 with 12 home runs, and steal 15 bases. He’s no longer a star or a building block for a fantasy team, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be valuable.