During Purple Row's phone interview session with Colorado Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd and owner/team president Dick Monfort on the Thursday edition of the Press Box with Kiz and Burns, O'Dowd made a statement that flew under the radar a bit, but stuck with me: Carlos Gonzalez has performed better in centerfield than in left field.
Now, taken by itself, one would probably tell me, and rightfully so, "Who gives a s***?" But, the context in which O'Dowd made the statement boosts its importance dramatically.
It came after one of the show's hosts asked O'Dowd about all of the trade talks involving incumbent centerfielder Dexter Fowler. O'Dowd expressed that the Rockies weren't actively shopping anybody, but went on to say that the team has the pieces in place in the event that they do deal Fowler, which of course, would require the right return.
Eric Young Jr. is an intriguing everyday option, which has been discussed here at length as of late. His skill set appears to play well on the road, which would obviously suit the Rockies well, so regular at-bats will be key for the 27-year-old speedster. However, he has not passed the eye or metric tests in center field, and it hasn't even really been close. That's where Gonzalez comes in.
Ignoring the absurd notion that a player can more easily get injured in center field than in left, you'll see that Gonzalez is much-better suited to play there. In 2008 and 2009, Gonzalez was well above-average in both UZR and total zone rating at the position, and while still below-average in the ensuing seasons, his numbers were better in center field than in left.
Gonzalez clearly lost a step last season, which can likely be attributed to his lack of aggressiveness, something that he won't be able to avoid if he is manning the middle of the outfield. The issue now is how the Rockies will weigh perceived injury risk against defensive results, while also taking into account that Gonzalez should improve offensively with a healthy Troy Tulowitzki in the lineup.
Just how much the Rockies can get in return for Fowler is a big key here; if they are able to get starting pitching help, moving Gonzalez to center and having Eric Young Jr. get a good amount of at-bats in left may help the team improve quite a bit in all three facets. If the Rockies DON'T move Fowler, this is obviously a moot point.
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