Carlos Gomez has received heaping platefuls of criticism, most of it deserved. His offensive shortcomings are well-documented, and there’s no need to rehash them here. At this point, Nyjer Morgan’s promotion to everyday centerfielder seems all but inevitable. Although I don’t think that’s likely to happen yet this month, Gomez has not turned the promise of spring training into anything tangible. If he continues to slide, his replacement is a foregone conclusion. Is there still a meaningful role for Gomez on this team?
As a left-handed bat, Morgan’s placement in a lineup dominated by right-handed hitters is especially appealing. But Morgan has not been nearly as effective against left-handed pitching (.203 career batting average) as against righties (.309). In that sense, Gomez is actually more productive than Morgan, though Morgan edges Gomez slightly in on-base percentage (thanks undoubtedly to his willingness to work the count for an occasional walk). I could foresee a platoon situation in which Gomez actually becomes the starter against lefties. Of course, that does not solve the problem of where to bat him in the lineup; number two hitters generally need to get on base a greater-than-.300 clip.
Gomez is almost useless of the bench offensively, though. As a sub, he has a career batting average of.167, on base percentage of .258. Gomez is not the guy to call on when you need a critical run from a pinch hitter late in the game. Although pinch runners are not often used, Gomez would be an ideal candidate, as his speed makes him extraordinarily dangerous on the base paths and can really throw the pitcher off, especially in a tight game.
Because Gomez plays slightly better defense than Morgan, I could also see a situation in which Roneicke would sub him in center to try to preserve a late lead.
I think there is still a role for Gomez on this team even if he continues to struggle at the plate. I know it has been said over and over, but he’s a young guy with a lot of raw talent. You could do worse than Gomez as a fourth outfield option.
That is not to say that a stint in the minors wouldn’t do him good. Sometimes losing your job and accepting a demotion can be just the shell shock your system needs. That doesn’t appear likely, however; the Brewers briefly considered such a move following Gomez’s concussion in August 2010, but decided against it. Plus, I believe Gomez would have to clear waivers because of his service time. It looks like Gomez is here to stay. Given what he can contribute outside being an everyday starter, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.