February 11, 2011
OK, you know the rules: Two experts debate the merits and shortcomings of two similarly ranked players, ideally in 250 words or less. Today we're discussing Carlos Gonzalez(notes), last year's top-ranked fantasy commodity, and Ryan Braun(notes), consensus Round 1 pick. In all likelihood, one of these guys will be the first outfielder off the board in your fantasy draft. And somewhere, Carl Crawford(notes) is fuming.
Funston opens: Yes, CarGo rakes at Coors, just like Matt Holliday(notes), Vinny Castilla and many others before him. Don’t begrudge him that fact. If this showdown was played out on a neutral field, I’d give Braun the nod. But we simply can’t discount the fact that CarGo plays half his games at the league’s most offensive park.
Last season, at age 25, CarGo and Chris Young were the only players in the 25/25 club. But he’s much more than a power/speed novelty. Look at his OPS/5x5 numbers in his three half-seasons with Colorado:
Post-break 2009 — .992/ .320/13/24/42/11 (194 ABs)
Pre-break 2010 — .878/.314/17/60/56/12 (325 ABs)
Post-break 2010 — 1.091/.363/17/57/55/14 (262 ABs)
Talk about high BABIPs all you want, but in his past nine months, he hasn’t finished a month with less than a .273 batting average. At some point you have to accept what he’s doing and stop trying to make excuses.
Last season he showed the kind of growth that should get you excited as CarGo enters his early prime (26). He worked better counts and improved his ability to hit breaking pitches. And when in No. 3 spot in the order, where he’s slated to be entrenched in ‘11, he produced 25 homers, 80 RBIs and 20 SBs in 90 games.
CarGo was the No. 1 player in the 2010 Yahoo! game. Maybe he’ll lose a few points on his BA. But there’s nothing to indicate he won’t make another strong run at .300/30/100/100/30. And it’s the 10-15 extra SBs in the end that make CarGo the choice over Braun.
Behrens responds: The argument on behalf of Braun is simple and airtight. He's 27 years old, a proven five-category star. During his four-year career, Braun's average season looks like this:
99 R, 32 HR, 105 RBIs, 16 SB, .307
He's never finished outside the top-20 hitters in year-end fantasy rank. In 2010, he placed tenth among position players, and in 2009 he ranked second.
Basically, there are zero doubts about Braun. He's an elite fantasy asset, in his prime. As an added bonus, Milwaukee's new manager intends to run wild, so you can reasonably forecast 20-plus steals.
Gonzalez is a tremendous player, too, although he has only one-and-a-half elite seasons on the resumé. In 2010, he benefited from the NL's highest BABIP, a ridiculous .384. He was hyper-aggressive at the plate, swinging at 52.2 percent of pitches (fifth highest rate in the NL) and 37 percent outside the strike zone (fourth highest). Thus, it's no surprise that he was a very tough man to walk, yet easy to K. There were just five major leaguers who struck out 120 times last season while drawing no more than 40 unintentional walks; Gonzalez was the only guy among them to bat higher than .269. He had incredible good fortune on balls-in-play, but don't expect a repeat.
Gonzalez gets a boost from Coors Field, obviously — check the home/road splits. He was Ruthian in Colorado (1.161 OPS), Oberkfellian elsewhere (.775). And he somehow homered every 11.5 at-bats at home in 2010, an obscene rate. Can he do that again?
It's possible, I guess. But with Braun, no guessing is required.
Photos via US Presswire