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Friday, June 13, 2014

Mulliniks’ Moustache #19 – Anthony Gose

Anthony Gose - Blue Jays centrefielder of the future?
If Winston Churchill was a baseball fan* – and alive in 2014 – surely his famous quote: “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma” would have been used to describe Anthony Gose. *My five seconds of Wikipedia research tells me he wasn’t. THEREFORE IT IS FACT!

Much has been made about Gose, the young speedster and he of the tantalizing baseball skills. On July 29, 2010, he was one of then-new-wunderkind-GM Alex Anthopoulos’ first acquisitions, swapping slugging first baseman Brett Wallace to the Houston Astros for a then 19-year-old Gose (as a maybe-only-interesting-to-me aside, Gose was actually traded with his current Blue Jay teammate J.A. Happ from the Phillies to the Astros before immediately being sent to the Blue Jays for Wallace).

Immediately following the trade, Blue Jays’ front office staff spoke glowingly about his skills. However, given that he was only 19-years-old, they preached patience, explaining that Gose needed a few seasons (at least) of seasoning and several hundred minor league at bats before we would be seeing him on then-SkyDome fake grass.

It’s now almost four years later. Gose has been called up several times, but has yet to establish himself as a bona fide major leaguer. In fact, he’s been nothing short of maddening to watch and follow. Big, looping swings, wildly flailing at off-speed pitches. He seems to think of himself as a power hitter, and while he does have some obvious pop (and remember that first career homerun in Boston?) home runs are not his forte. He has to learn to hit breaking pitches because teams already know that he’s waiting on fastballs, therefore they’re not throwing him any.
Alex Anthopoulos
At times he’ll put it together and make solid contact and that’s when the magic happens and you see why Anthopoulos was so enamoured with young Gose. The second that bat hits ball, you know there’s a chance something noteworthy will happen. You stand up and pay close attention. A simple ground ball? In the blink of an eye, that’s an infield hit. Doubles down the line are triples. And when he’s on base? Gose is a straight-up game changer, seemingly able to steal bases at will and disrupting pitchers at the mere possibility.

I haven’t even mentioned his defence yet. Mike Wilner has claimed, on multiple occasions, that Gose is the best defensive centrefielder the Blue Jays have ever had. That’s heady praise when you consider the centrefielders the Blue Jays have enjoyed: Vernon Wells, Otis Nixon, Devon White. Even Colby Rasmus is nothing to thumb our noses at (if only he’d play a few feet deeper! C’mon Colby!!). Although, when you see plays like this one, you can see where Wilner is coming from:

And now, after all the praise comes the proviso, the pin prick to the over-inflated balloon. Basically, Anthony Gose can’t really get on base. Too many strikeouts, not enough walks or contact in general. When he does get on base, though, he can blow a game open. I’m circling my ultimate point here, hoping that all of you, my super-smart readers, get what I’m trying to say without me having to say it. Okay, enough foreplay, here it is: to me, Gose seems to have the prototypical make-up for a fourth outfielder – pinch runner, late-inning defensive replacement and spot starter.

This is not to say that I’m in favour of “giving up” on Gose by any stretch of the imagination. Good teams become great teams based in part on their bench, and any team’s fourth outfielder will be an integral part of said team. I’d even go a step further by saying that the Blue Jays making Gose their fourth outfielder is putting a ton of faith in him, especially considering that his minor league stats are so lackluster.

Some have said Gose needs more consistent playing time and at-bats to “put it all together”. That, of course, would mean that he gets sent back down to AAA Buffalo – again – when Rasmus makes an inevitable and imminent return from his current stint on the disabled list. I don’t agree that sending him down is the way to go.

What is Gose going to do in Buffalo this time that he hasn’t done during his previous 2177 plate appearances in the Blue Jays organization? (431 with the Blue Jays, 1046 in AAA, 587 in AA, and 113 at A+) He sulks when he’s sent down, which he will invariably do this time as well.

A good fourth outfielder will see in excess of 400 plate appearances in a season. Think about one-time Blue Jay Rajai Davis and his three years with the Blue Jays – he averaged 105 games played and 395 plate appearances. I’d say Gose brings
Rajai Davis, now a Tiger
more to the plate than Davis, so those numbers will go up in regards to him. Injuries to fellow outfielders, spot starts, lefty/righty matchups, those at-bats will add up. I think Gose will benefit more from time in the Major Leagues then from an extra 200 frowny at-bats in Buffalo. Davis bided his time and learned and eventually he convinced the Detroit Tigers that he was a legit Major League starter. Maybe Gose can do the same thing (minus the “going to the Tigers” part). Gose won’t hit free agency until 2020 so there’s still plenty of time for him to get some on-the-job training.

As I’ve said before, eventually we have to accept the fact that players just are who they appear to be. People continually say “Gose is only 23-years-old.” Well, that’s great, but they’ve been saying “Gose is only 19, 20, 21, and 22-years old” as well. That’s been the narrative for the past 4 years. If you don’t learn something after 4+ years, chances are you’re not going to get it at all.

The Bunting Wonder
Otis Nixon
Please note that Gose’s “4 years” includes time in the minors – A, AA and AAA, Winter Ball in Venezuela – and parts of three seasons with the big club, all with different hitting coaches. By my count, that’s at least seven 
hitting coaches since joining the Blue Jays organization. SEVEN! Frankly, if a coach was going to get through to him and teach him how to consistently make contact, it would’ve happened by now. A player with Gose’s speed should have ONE goal in mind: make contact. That’s it. People shit all over bunting, but if the end result is a baserunner, then I say go for it. The aforementioned Otis Nixon, Brett Butler and scores of others have literally built careers on this skill. I made a joke about it previously, but I truly believe the Blue Jays should hire Nixon as a Bunting Coach and have Gose be his shadow for a couple months.

One final note: check out Gose’s career stats at the major league level, which conveniently, works out to almost a full season (and for posterity’s sake, his 162-game average).

As always, all awesome information is taken from baseball-reference.com

The stat that stands out to me? Way, WAY too many strikeouts. If he’s hitting 35 homeruns then that number of Ks is acceptable, but Gose is obviously not going to ever be that guy.

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