2012 Red Sox Player Preview: Adrian Gonzalez

Gonzalez is gearing up for year 2 in Boston

The Red Sox traded for Adrian Gonzalez last season to do something that they had been trying to do since Mo Vaughn left the organization – acquire a power hitting All-Star first baseman to be a rock in the middle of the lineup for the long term.  Gonzalez did not disappoint in his first season with the Sox although he may not have shown what he was fully capable of after having shoulder surgery before spring training.  Gonzalez signed a 7 year, 148 million dollar contract early last season and it looks like a steal considering the contracts signed by fellow first basemen Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder in the off-season.  You could probably argue that Gonzalez will be the most productive of the three over the life of their respective contracts.

Here’s a look at Gonzalez’s 2011 season (career highs in parentheses):

Games: 159 (162, 2008)
Average: .338 (.338, 2011)
On-Base Percentage: .410 (.410, 2011)
Slugging Percentage: .548 (.551, 2009)
On Base plus Slugging (OPS): .957 (.958, 2009)
Home Runs: 27 (40, 2009)
Runs Batted In: 117 (119, 2008)
Runs: 108 (108, 2011)
Doubles: 45 (46, 2007)
Walks: 74 (119, 2009)

2012 Outlook:

As amazing as it seems we may have only seen a glimpse of what Gonzalez will bring to the table last season.  He had bouts with fatigue in his shoulder last season as he missed most of his preseason workout regimen due to the surgery.  As a result he had periods were he would spray the ball to left field and hit home runs in bunches but then the power and the opposite field swing would go away for stretches.  With a healthy off season expect Gonzalez to be more consistent with his power.  One thing you could see from Gonzalez’ transition from spacious Petco Park to the hitter-friendly Fenway is that he used his superior hitting skills to find the holes that weren’t there in San Diego.  He only hit over .300 once in his time in San Diego, in 2006, but he managed 38 points over the .300 line in his first year in Boston.  A lot of that was the wall but a skilled hitter like that also utilizes the unique dimensions of Fenway to his advantage.  One thing is for sure – the transition from the N.L. West to the A.L. East looked to have gone pretty smoothly for Gonzalez.

Gonzalez does it with the glove and the bat

Gonzalez is a whiz with the glove.  He won his third Gold Glove last season, his first in the A.L.  Only the Rays’ Casey Kotchman had a higher fielding % than him for American League first basemen.  He’s the type of guy that you hear about how good he is defensively when he’s on another team but you don’t really appreciate it until he puts on your team’s uniform and dazzles in the field.  As I said in the Pedroia preview, you’re not going to find a better defensive right side of the infield in the majors.  Don’t expect Gonzalez’ defense to regress for a long time.

For those worried about Gonzalez having a little less power than they anticipated last season there is no need to worry.  Gonzalez will start the season at age 29, which is the first of the three prime years for an offensive player.  Generally most good hitters hit consistently well from ages 29-31 and many put up the best offensive numbers in their careers during this period.  Gonzalez should be a year settled into Boston and the American League, a year removed from his shoulder surgery, and a year into the prime of his career.  All of that tells me that Gonzalez should be ready to break out power-wise this season.  I think 40 home runs could be a realistic number for him this season, but would expect him to come in somewhere in the mid 30’s when all his said and done.  I’d expect another 100 RBI season from him as he will likely still have Pedroia and Ellsbury hitting in front of him and perhaps an improved Crawford as well.

Gonzalez, like the rest of the team, hopes to put the disappointments of 2011 in the rear-view mirror

Gonzalez took a lot of flak at the end of the year for his comments regarding it being “God’s will” that the Sox didn’t make the playoffs.  He also did some mild complaining about the schedule.  I think the comments were overblown by the media and a fan base that was looking for every reason to rip the team as possible.  If a guy is religious, than so be it.  I’m guessing he’s been that way his whole life and it hasn’t taken away from his drive or ability on the field up until now and there is no reason to think it will in the future.  The truth is that A-Gon probably did not set the tone in the clubhouse that he could because it was his first year and there were other guys already there.  With the retirement of Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield you could expect Gonzalez to emerge as more of a clubhouse leader this season.  Gonzalez has only been to the post-season once in his career, in 2006 which was his first season in San Diego, and will be dying to get back, especially after the collapse of last season.  A-Gon should be one of the guys who will be extremely motivated to get the Sox back into the post-season after last year’s debacle.

I, like Theo Epstein, had been a huge Adrian Gonzalez fan for a while before the Sox finally went out and acquired him.  He showed us why he was such a great pick-up last season and I expect him to only get better from here on out.  Obviously the post season is the ultimate goal and I would be shocked if Adrian Gonzalez didn’t do everything in his power to ensure that the Boston Red Sox are playing in October

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About evonsports
30 year old sports enthusiast and aspiring writer from Boston.

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