It was a match made in fantasy baseball heaven. Put a 40-home run slugging first baseman into Boston's Fenway Park and watch the fireworks fly. That is exactly what happened the first season Adrian Gonzalez was in a Red Sox uniform during the 2011 season, the first year of a monstrous contract that he signed soon after coming over in a trade with the San Diego Padres. In fact the first half of 2011 fell into the ridiculous realm when it came to the stats that Gonzalez was putting up in his new home environment. Gonzalez sat at the All Star break with 17 home runs, a crazy 77 RBI, and an even crazier .354 batting average. Flat out Gonzalez was the best hitter in baseball to that point in the season and he was realizing all of the heightened expectations he had when he first headed east to Beantown.
Unfortunately the good times did not keep rolling for Gonzalez as he fell to 10 home runs and 40 RBI with a .317 average in the second half that season as a shoulder problem cropped up, sapping some of his power. Still a .338 average and 27 home runs with 117 RBI could still be considered a monster year and with that impressive stat line under his belt, Gonzalez was now a lock first round pick in 2012 drafts. This of course is where the story gets funny. For some reason or another,. the Adrian Gonzalez who cracked 40 home runs while playing his home games in Petco Park while with the Padres or even the one who hit 27 the year before in his first season in Boston was now a shell of his former power-hitting self. His fly ball rate took a nosedive and his K rate spiked as well. Gonzalez seemed lost at the plate and took his funk all the way to the All Star break as he sat there with an unbelievably bad 6 home runs with a .283 average. Where did all the power go? What on earth was going on? How did Gonzalez go from power-hitting first round pick superstar to a light-hitting James Loney? No one seemed to have any answers, most of all the player himself. However it didn't stop some from wondering whether Gonzalez was feeling the heat playing in such a big time market like Boston when the team got out of the gate poorly and never turned around their season. Gonzalez also was blamed as being one of the chief perpetrators who openly went to management to complain about the managing style of Bobby Valentine. Either way, Gonzalez was causing more than a few ulcers for his fantasy baseball owners, who no doubt felt severely burned for using a first round pick on his weak bat.
Despite all the chaos, Gonzalez became a big time value trade target for smart fantasy baseball owners who saw an opportunity to take advantage of his panicked owners and who smartly felt that it was only a matter of time before his bat would come around. Well that is exactly what happened as Gonzalez would go on to hit 12 second half home runs with 63 RBI and a .317 average. That line of course was split between Boston and his new home in Los Angeles with the Dodgers who acquired him in that blockbuster August deal. More relaxed in laid back LA, Gonzalez finally was able to let his bat do the talking and by the end of the season, salvaged his name with 108 RBI and a .299 average. Sure the 18 home runs were way down but Gonzalez' pace in the second half was very solid.
Fast forward to present day and many fantasy baseball owners don't know exactly where to place Gonzalez in their draft projections. While no longer a first round pick, Gonzalez in my opinion still merits much respect at the draft table who could be a tremendous bargain in the third round. At 31 years old, Gonzalez is still smack in his hitting prime and is a very good bet to up his power numbers across the board this season in a stacked Dodgers lineup. Sure the home ballpark has always favored pitchers but don't forget Gonzalez was able to hit 40 homers while in Petco which is a massive accomplishment in and of itself. While his days of hitting that mark seem to be over, Gonzalez surely has enough pop in his bat to approach 30. The best bet is to project 25 and anything more than that is a bonus. The RBI's have always been there as he still managed 108 in his worst year ever last season. Count on something again over the 100 mark with 120 being a realistic possibility given all the talent who could be getting on base in front of him. Finally, the batting average has been very good the last few seasons and Gonzalez is a .294 hitter in that area. So .290 sounds about right on target.
All in all, I am still an Adrian Gonzalez fan and see a very attractive value play for the new season. I will gladly take a guy who will hit .300 with 25 home runs and 100 RBI and who qualifies both at first base and the outfield any day of the week and twice on Sunday. This is a very safe place to invest your draft money as Gonzalez' history is just too good to think he will fall off any time soon.
2013 PROJECTION: .293 26 HR 115 RBI 82 R 2 SB