Let’s start with this: things didn’t go as planned with the Astros trade deadline acquisition of Carlos Gomez. He was supposed to upgrade the centerfield position, providing an offensive boost over Jake Marisnick while still playing excellent defense. Instead, Gomez disappointed both at the plate and in the field.
He’s also a player who inspires plenty of opinion, both positive and negative. His supporters see a guy who loves to play the game and wears his heart on his sleeve. His detractors see a showboat who doesn’t "play the game the right way".
One fact isn’t in dispute: at his best, he impacts the game in multiple ways. In his career year of 2013, he hit for power, got on base, stole bases, and played outstanding defense. This all added up to a monster season (7.4 WAR per Fangraphs, 8.5 per BR), a level beyond what any current Astro has produced.
The Astros and fans hope that a fully healthy Gomez can return to that elite level this season. He got off to a slow start in 2015 and injuries nagged him all year. He’s certainly taking his offseason conditioning seriously if his Instagram feed is any indicator:
The biggest question outside of his health is whether he’s still an elite defender. His advanced defensive numbers were off the charts in 2013, but were only slightly above average the last two seasons. Just going by the eye test, he didn’t make plays after joining the Astros that Jake Marisnick had made look routine.
He has several factors going in his favor for a rebound this year. The first is his assumed return to full health. The second is a full spring training to acclimate to the Astros and work with the coaching staff on his defense and outfield positioning.
Gomez enters 2016 in a contract year and with a chance to greatly impact the Astros’ season. A return to his 2013-14 form would go a long way to help the club’s goal of winning the AL West title. A down year would leave the club with a lot of unanswered questions moving forward at a key position.