Carlos Gonzalez Will Be 2011’s Matt Kemp

Matt Kemp shot up fantasy draft charts after a big 2009 campaign to become a trendy first round fantasy pick last season.  He had a decent year overall but it wasn’t the type of year that drafters hoped for.  Carlos Gonzalez had a big 2010 campaign and will likely rocket into first round territory next season.  Inevitably, comparisons will be drawn between Gonzalez and Kemp but I have to question whether they will be justified.

Prior to the 2010 drafts, Kemp had played a couple half seasons and two full seasons.  In the 2009 breakout season, he got everyone’s attention with these numbers:

          .297 AVG, 26 HR, 34 SB, 97 R, 101 RBI

For comparison’s sake, Gonzalez will have played a couple half seasons and one full season prior to next year’s drafts.  In this past breakout year, he posted these numbers:

          .336 AVG, 34 HR, 26 SB, 111 R, 117 RBI

There are some slight similarities between the numbers but Gonzalez had a much more impressive fantasy season in his breakout year.

In 2009, Kemp had a high BABIP of .345 but he was a fast guy throughout his career and traditionally had a high BABIP so it wasn’t out of the question for him to maintain that.  Instead, his BABIP fell closer to league average in 2010 (.295) bringing his average down with it to .249. Though his power improved slightly, he stole 15 less bases (partly from being on base 30 times less overall). His team also got worse around him which ruined RBI and R opportunities for him, causing those stats to dip too.

For Gonzalez, we shouldn’t expect the .336 average to stick around in 2011. His BABIP was .384 which is way above his career and league norms (3rd highest in league). Next season, his BABIP could drop to his ’09 level of .333 and his average would drop to around .284 again. Or, it could drop to Matt Kemp (and league average) levels of .295 which would be disastrous and cause him to likely hit below .250 next season.

The power is real though and there’s no reason to think he can’t maintain his very high ISO that he’s previously had. That means the 30+ HR’s are here to stay. His 20+ SB’s should stick around too as he’s always been a good basestealer. If his average drops, the on-base opportunities might fall too which would lower his RBI and R totals but he still should be close to 100 in both next season.

If we’re going to think about worst case scenario, you might see Gonzalez produce a line like this in 2011:
          .245 AVG, 30 HR, 20 SB, 85 R, 90 RBI

That’s extremely similar to what Kemp actually produced in 2010 (for the record, Kemp was still valuable and the 66th most valuable player in the league).  It would be a disappointment but I think a lot more would have to go wrong for Gonzalez than it did for Kemp.  What might be a more conservative estimate for 2011 would be:

          .285 AVG, 35 HR, 25 SB, 95 R, 105 RBI

Those would still be first round numbers and certainly nothing to complain about.  If you target Gonzalez with a first round pick in 2011, you may want to temper expectations away from another .330 average though and expect something closer to the stats above.

It will be interesting to see what the projections systems tabulate for CarGo in 2011 and to see where his average draft position will be.  The second half of the first round feels right but he may have done enough for people to reach and take him within the top 6 picks.

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