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Rolando Gomez: Top Angels Prospect #30

This piece kicks off the Halos Heaven's 2010 Top 30 Angels Prospects Series.  I will try to publish about one entry a day. Some will be extensive - I've seen about a third of these guys play and there's significant video available online - while other player reports will be sparser summaries of stats and what other news sources have to say about them. 

30) Rolando Gomez, 6/18/89 - SS, Arizona Rookie League

.304/.408/.464 with 2 HR's and 12 SB's. +7 bat, +5 glove

Ranking in a Nutshell: The Halos snagged Gomez in the 11th round of the 2008 draft, luring him away from a college commitment with a tidy $450,000. He is fast, packs more punch than his 5'7" frame would suggest, and shows the actions and range of an MLB shortstop.  His numbers in the AZL screamed leadoff potential. On the other hand, he strikes out more than he should, he committed 18 errors in just half a season, and he's still a long, long way off.

Track Record:  Thin. His slash stats were promising, but floated atop a .385 BABIP that will likely not hold up in full season ball.

Win the Lottery Ceiling:  With his short stature and a lead-off man's skill set, it's impossible not to go all teary-eyed thinking of David Eckstein, though Gomez' current 14.8% walk rate and 19.9% K-rate reflect a hitter more in the Chone Figgins mold. 

Scouting Report: (below the jump)  

Players who overcome short statures to build MLB careers tend to have one thing in common: they rarely strike out. 5'6" David Eckstein K'd in just 7% of his career plate appearances. Dustin Pedroia, also 7%.  Maicer Izturis, 10%. Jimmy Rollins, 12%. At 15%, Figgins' career K-rate appears to be the upper limit of this sort of player, but remember how quickly folks turned against him in 2006 and 2008 when he couldn't maintain his usual exceptional batting average on balls in play (BABIP). If you're not built to drive the ball a mile, then you simply have to put the ball into play to contribute. 

Through June and July of 2009, 5'7" Rolando Gomez' K-rate was 26% (to put that in context, Brandon Wood's 2009 K-rate was 18%). Gomez' production over that period was outstanding - he knocked an extra base hit every 8 PA's - but he won't produce beyond rookie ball if he fans anywhere close to a quarter of the time.  In this video, put together before the '08 draft, you can see the reasons for both the K's and the power. Gomez' swing path isn't especially long - he does a good job of bringing his hands to the ball quickly - but it is pull oriented, with uppercut and a high, lofty follow through.  He does a good job of incorporating his lower half, but the mechanics involve a lot of moving parts: he starts with average separation between his front and back feet, but before beginning his stride he pulls his front knee almost all the way back to his back knee. This movement keeps his hips closed and curls his lower half, creating torque that adds to his power, but it also lengthens his stride when he swings, which again, contributes momentum and power, but could also hinder his ability to adjust to offspeed stuff and pitch location. It's a beautiful cut, showcasing premium coordination and bat speed - the Halos handed him nearly half a mil for a reason - but he still managed only 2 HR's in Arizona, so his priority going forward has to be limiting his K's.

He changed his approach in August, cutting the K-rate all the way down to 10.6%. The increased contact seems to have cost him his pop - his isolated power dropped from .216 to .093 - but again, if the K habit returns it will kill his production in more challenging hitting environments. I'd like to see him stay around 10% or less in the Midwest League next year.

Gomez' other contributions are extensive: he showed good range and enough arm strength to rate as a +5 glove at short according to TotalZone. He was patient, walking in 15% of his PA's. He showed no platoon split, mashing lefties at a .930 OPS clip.  He hit tons of groundballs and a decent number of line drives, which should support an above average BABIP.  He stole 12 bases at a solid 75% success rate. And, to complete the small ball package, he was a perfect 9 for 9 when bunting for a base hit.  Put that together, and you have a ceiling similar to David Eckstein's, with the added bonus that Gomez hits from the left side.