In 2011, Milwaukee Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez got off to a slow start at the plate. The club adjusted by having the right handed hitting Gomez platoon with left hander Nyjer Morgan. Morgan hit .304 in 119 games, and although Gomez hit only .225 for the season, he hit .278 against left handed pitching. With both players possessing good speed, the number two slot in the batting order was reasonably solid and productive.
As expected, the Gomez and Morgan center field platoon returned in 2012, and I was hopeful of the same or better production. Gomez got a off to an excellent start and was hitting .295 on June 1st. It looked like Gomez might finally be having that breakout year that was annually predicted for him but had yet to occur.
Unfortunately, Gomez has cooled down considerably from his hot start and was hitting .240 on July 17th, or about the same as his lifetime average (.242). He has yet to finish a big league season with an on base percentage over .300, and his OBP in mid-July this year is down around the .280 mark. At 26, Gomez could yet develop into a better hitter, but if he can't get his batting average and OBP up, his future will be as a defensive replacement or other reserve role.
Unlike Gomez, Morgan got off to a terrible start in 2012. He was hitting .189 on May 18th and didn't drive in a run until June 1st. He began to hit a little better in the second half of May and into June, but has faded in the first half of July with just three singles in his first 23 at bats. His season average was .227 on July 17th. The size of Morgan's drop in production is surprising, and it is also more costly to the Brewers' offense since Morgan gets more at bats in the platoon than Gomez. Both players have made base running errors this season as well.
The Brewers have gone with a lot of different batting orders this year due to all the injuries they've had, but generally either Gomez or Morgan bats second, and occasionally one will hit leadoff. Milwaukee's diminishing hopes of a return to the post season are not helped if the number one or two hitter in the batting order is hitting .235.
Besides Gomez and Morgan, the Brewers don't have a lot of options for center field. Norichika Aoki has played games there, but with Corey Hart getting most of the starts at first base, Aoki has become the regular right fielder.
This could provide an opportunity next season for Nashville Sounds center fielder Logan Schafer. Schafer was called up to Milwaukee in September last season, and played well in the Cactus League this spring. Schafer was hitting .281 in 89 games at Nashville, and will no doubt be brought up again this September. The left handed hitting Schafer, who turns 26 on September 8th, could have a good shot at making next year's Opening Day roster, either as the starting center fielder or in a platoon with Gomez.
A Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network, Mark Hudziak has been a fan of the Brewers since they moved to Milwaukee in 1970.
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