Adrian Gonzalez has been a model of consistency for the Dodgers since being acquired in 2012.
Carl Crawford‘s contract might be horrible, but remember that taking that on allowed the Dodgers to acquire Gonzalez for a relatively small price.
Gonzalez put up exactly the types of numbers we all expect out of him last season. He posted a .275/.350/.480 triple slash with 28 home runs and 90 RBIs, both of which led the team. It was his third consecutive season with over 20 homers and 30 doubles, but the first time in his Dodger career that he failed to surpass 100 RBIs.
Gonzo struggled in Spring Training last season and some wondered if it would finally be the year that Gonzalez began to show his age. So naturally, Gonzalez homered five times in the teams’ first three games, including three homers on April 8th. He failed to sustain his .769 batting average through that point, but didn’t dip below .300 until mid-June. He hovered in the .290 range for a while, but struggled down the stretch and finished at .275.
2016 Role and Steamers Projections
Since being traded to the Padres, Gonzalez has been a middle-of-the-order bat and a rock at first base. He’s played in at least 156 games in every season since 2006, so his durability has always been good despite having major shoulder surgery and ongoing neck issues. Adrian should absolutely be the Dodgers’ everyday first baseman and will hit in the middle of the order.
Steamers is expecting regression out of Gonzalez, as they project a .272/.337/.456 triple slash with 25 homers and 85 RBIs. The most shocking projection is only 142 projected games played, which would be his lowest since before he was an everyday starter in 2005. These projections seem a bit low, considering nothing in his game really points to regression. He doesn’t hit the ball softly, his BABIP is pretty normal, he hits line drives at a pretty good rate.
What Could Go Wrong?
Gonzalez missed the first couple Spring Training games with neck issues. While he’s been durable throughout his career, he will be 34 in May and there’s always a chance he begins to slow down. Gonzalez has never really had a down year, but with aging athletes, there’s always a chance.
While the Dodgers are rightfully lauded for their depth, but first base is one of two positions where their depth is lacking. Scott Van Slyke, Justin Turner, Yasmani Grandal and Chase Utley are all on the team and all played first last season, but if Gonzo goes down for any extended amount of time, they might not be the best option. The Dodgers finally have a great first base prospect in Cody Bellinger, but he only reached High-A ball last year and is at least a year or two away from the Dodgers. He’s the heir apparent to Gonzalez, but getting him started too early could stunt his growth.
If Gonzalez is healthy, we know what to expect out of him. Unless this is finally the year his age catches up with him, expect Gonzalez to hit the ball well and play good defense at first.
What Could Go Right?
Another year removed from shoulder surgery in 2010, maybe Gonzalez regains even more power. He’s been a consistent 20+ home run hitter for the last three seasons, but was a consistent 30-40 home run hitter with the Padres. It’s unlikely given his age, but that would be a best case scenario for him.
The only concern with Gonzalez will be his health, so hopefully that remains up to par. A few extra off days could help him finish the season stronger, so maybe a few more days off against lefties would benefit the team down the stretch. The Dodgers are a team with a few gigantic question marks, but Gonzalez surely isn’t one of them.