This morning, the Astros officially announced AAA Fresno’s Tony Kemp would be the newest rookie making a debut for the Astros in 2016, behind now RHSP Chris Devenski and 1st base/DH Tyler White. It wasn’t the decision I expected, but it makes some sense. Kemp is an infielder and outfielder, and is a left handed hitter that will likely make it to base more often than not. I’m not sold on his hitting capacity in the majors, but that’s one of the tests when being brought up to the MLB. With this call up, Luhnow made some strong remarks about the future of the OF, and specifically Carlos Gomez. This may bring some relief to the struggling Gomez, who isn’t working his issues out on the field as hoped.
In the long run, this move is hard to decipher. Immediately, there’s a chance for a new, fresh player to inject some energy AB and in LF, while letting Gomez take a time out. It won’t be permanent, so don’t take out your Gomez is gone pom pons just yet. Kemp is still a year or two away from regular starting potential, and his earlier projections had him entering the MLB in 2017. This is an early call-up, and a quick fix injection to a team that just needs a few things to go the right way to start consistently winning both on the road and at home. This doesn’t signal permanency, but it does open the doors for a few different directions that the club can go, as far as position players in the outfield.
One door that it opens is some possible time off for the seasoned veteran in CF to get his head back in the game. And guys, we want Gomez to get over this decline. The spirit of the Astros fanbase seems to point to Gomez having an attitude problem without the stats to back it up. There doesn’t seem to be any real chatter coming from the clubhouse to substantiate this, but Gomez has certainly grown more defensive as his season has regressed. He’s a fun, spirited player to watch and root for when he’s playing well, but the hate as he’s going through this slump is uncalled for. No fanbase should ever root for one of their team’s players to fail.
Additionally, Gomez came into the Astros with a very impressive potential in CF to replace Marisnick. Let’s not forget that. He’s still outperforming Marisnick in CF and AB (barely AB, though). He’s still a better option at CF until he starts sliding defensively as well. There is no player in the farming system that can come in and replace the hole he would leave. The outfield can be moved around to fill these gaps, but Gomez is being paid to fill this gap through this season. You can complain about how terrible this aquisition was (Milwaukee didn’t celebrate the departure) but Gomez was given a short contract to see what he could do for the team, and while he’s here, we should root for him to give back.
Gomez will either rebound or he won’t, but Tony Kemp is not going to be anymore than what Gomez was – a stop gap with some potential. This isn’t the difinitive answer moving forward for a team with a horrendous stranded RISP rate per game, starting pitching rotation with a bottom of the barrel ERA, and team BA lower than opponents played. It opens up the opportunity for Gomez to sink or swim, and also opens up the eventual opportunity to option Marisnick down to see if he can finally get the work he needs AB (although that clock is ticking as well). This also affords Preston Tucker the opportunity to work on his own consistency AB, and provides some novelty relief infield, as Kemp has previously played 2nd base.
The move also trends toward the belief that A.J. Reed will soon join the team to give Tyler White some help at 1st base. The clubs trend toward utilizing Marwin Gonzalez heavily at 1st shows the need to have support brought up at 1st, with White not being the immediately clear starter for the position. And we can’t forget the overall struggles the team has had both AB and on field (as well as pitching). In fact, the entire regression of the team (with the exception of Altuve, who is having a landmark year and is the only consistently bright spot in the line up) speaks more of personnel issues than any one player could produce. As the club’s personnel scrambles to stop the hemmoraging of the 2016, there’s got to be a point to where that management is called into question.
I will still stand by the prediction that this doesn’t mean an end to Gomez’s career with the Astros. Motivation, perhaps, is a player in this call up, with an opportunity for Tucker to gain some consistency AB, or for Marisnick to be optioned down to do the same. Gomez may get some time off, but he’s not going on a permanent hiatus. So, while this all plays out and falls into place, perhaps it would be a good idea to get behind struggling players that have already proven they can be a positive force for a team, instead of singling them out and booing them off the field for playing par for the course of the team so far? Gomez at his best would be a far better option than Kemp in his rookie year. So let’s stop hoping and praying for an implosion, and instead start rooting for a trade to work out for once.