Saturday, January 30, 2010

Smoak, Edmonds / Carlos Gomez

At least a couple of readers were wondering about Justin Smoak, who wasn't included in the previously published projections for 2010.  I will be adding him to the next forecast set to at least reflect the chance that he appears this season at some point, even if only as a September call-up.

Smoak rose through the Texas farm system rather quickly last year, hitting .328 at Double-A Frisco with 6 home runs and 29 RBI in 183 at bats and then looking much more challenged after the promotion to Triple-A Oklahoma City, where he batted .244 with 4 home runs and 23 RBI in 197 at bats.  A first round draft pick in 2008, Smoak is a switch-hitter who despite last year's Triple-A slump, projects as being close to ready for the majors.  The new projection won't offer him much playing time (think around 50 at bats) but in terms of ability, he forecasts out as a  .260 type hitter with 15 home run and 70-75 walk skill right now, at least over a full season of big league playing time.  Of course, at twenty-three, there's still much room for improvement beyond that and I expect him to eventually develop into a medium level power hitter with an excellent batting eye.

In the National League, there's a threat to one of our bargain pick forecasts as Jim Edmonds came out of retirement to sign a minor league deal with the Brewers.  The challenge here is to Carlos Gomez, who had previously been projected to be the regular center fielder and for whom we were projecting a return to his former speed glory.

Minor league contracts often don't pan out and especially when dealing with players who are clearly beyond their prime, they're used as insurance policies to back up established current players or to bridge the gap between the present and the year or two before a well-regarded prospect is ready for the majors.  However, immediately after this deal was signed, many online sources were reporting that Edmonds was told by the Brewers that he'll get a chance to play regularly in the outfield.

With Ryan Braun and Corey Hart already holding down the corner outfield spots, that makes center field the only position where Edmonds can really pick up a decent number of at bats and so there's the problem for Gomez.  I'll be watching this situation closely as spring training gets underway but if this is true, Gomez's forecast could drop back to playing time more in line with what he saw last year.  For me, it's not about whether Edmonds can contribute.  In fact, I'm rather doubtful that he can and if he goes out and starts the season hitting .230 or .240 something over his first 50-100 at bats, I think that would end the experiment.

For me, the threat to Gomez isn't so much about Edmonds replacing him as much as if Edmonds really was told he would get regular playing time, it seems to certify that the Brewers are doubtful that Gomez is the guy they want playing center field on a regular basis.  We'll see.