If you're interested in symmetry, here's something for you. On May 6, the Astros released Fernando Martinez. On that same day, Carlos Gomez led the world in Wins Above Replacement, making him something like the best player in baseball, at least for the first five weeks of the season.
There's symmetry here because both players were Mets prospects. In 2008, Martinez was the #20 prospect in baseball according to Baseball America, and Gomez was #52. They didn't hit like superstars in the minors, but they had tools. Shovels duct-taped to crowbars, and band saws stacked atop chisels. Tools, tools, tools. And one of these days, both of them were going to put it all together and rule the outfield world. With tools. They would rule by way of tools.
It's 2013, and one is looking for work while the other is doing this:
Before you ask: .447. Gomez's batting average on balls in play is .447. So I'm going to use the powers I got when radioactive math bit me, and I'm going to predict that Gomez isn't going to finish the season with a .380 batting average or 1.100 OPS. You'll see.
However, if he lops off a cool 300 points of OPS, he'll still be real valuable. If he gives back 200 points, he'll be an All-Star. And even though Gomez isn't this good, you can extrapolate from last year's quasi-breakout, add in the good work from this year's super-breakout, and convince yourself that Gomez made it. Toolsy outfielders are spider babies, and Gomez made it through without being eaten by his mother.
The Astros took a shot with Martinez. They gave him 151 at-bats in the majors and 359 in the minors. He did okay in Triple-A, actually. But he eventually had to put his tools in a handkerchief, tie it around a stick, and walk parallel with the train tracks for a while. He won't be alone. The majors are filled with toolsy prospects barely holding on to starting jobs, toolsy prospects barely holding on to bench jobs, and toolsy prospects who will never get a chance to do either.
Carlos Gomez might not be on the path to stardom, but he's almost certainly on the path to good-dom. Good-to-have-around-dom. Glad-you're-here-dom. The Brewers took a chance on his 2012 and locked him up through 2016 at below-market rates for a plus-defender in center who can hit a little bit.
And one of these days, Gomez's success is going to screw up your team.
Maybe not Gomez specifically, but the idea of a tools-laden prospect putting everything together and becoming a contributor. Teams waiting for toolsy prospects to turn a corner are basically in an earnest pumpkin patch, waiting for the Great Pumpkin to show up. They'll do it with a smile on their face until the morning, when they realized they're hosed, and everyone else in the world has peanut-butter cups.
Teams will give chance after chance after chance to players like Cameron Maybin, Drew Stubbs, Felix Pie, Lastings Milledge, Delmon Young, Jordan Schafer, Chad Mottola, Midre Cummings, Jeff Francoeur, Javier Herrera, Brian Anderson, Corey Patterson, and Joe Borchard.
Then there's an Austin Jackson.
Chris Snelling, Jeff McNeely, Calvin Murray, Ryan Harvey, Steve Hosey, Austin Kearns, Wily Mo Pena, Chin-Feng Chen, Alex Escobar, Dee Brown, Peter Bergeron, Marc Newfeld, and Alex Ochoa.
Then there's a Carlos Gonzalez.
It's why Aaron Hicks will get chances until he's 30, even if he never produces. It's why Brett Jackson will be eagerly snapped up if he's ever a change-of-scenery player on the trade block.
One of my favorite quotes of the last couple of seasons came from Brewers GM Doug Melvin. After the peak of Yoenismania, when everyone was freaking out over Yoenis Cespedes's Christopher Cross-scored informercial, Melvin talked to Ken Rosenthal:
Gomez’s tools are so impressive that Melvin says if you put him in a tryout camp, he’d generate the same type of buzz among scouts that Yoenis Cespedes did last winter.
Gomez and Cespedes are the same age.
For some reason, this little tidbit put everything into perspective for me. The powers-that-be are watching guys like Gomez attack batting-practice pitches, zip around the bases, and glide in the outfield. They're watching these players who are forever two vowels away from figuring out the entire Sunday crossword, hoping something clicks. Most of the time, nothing happens. Occasionally, you get a Carlos Gomez.
Gomez isn't this good. But he probably isn't going to be that bad anytime soon. He developed into a two-way threat -- three if you count his speed -- and he's reasonably priced for a team that needs exactly that. Your team will watch a player like Gomez, and it'll encourage them to play tools-player lotto again and again and again.
One of these days, they'll hit. But there will be a lot of missing before that. Literal missing and figurative missing. Don't blame your GM; blame Carlos Gomez. When tools speculation finally pays off, it makes a team feel even smarter, for some reason.