Saturday, December 4, 2010
Everybody loves Adrian
By Joe McDonald ESPNBoston.com
No matter who you talk to about Adrian Gonzalez, the common theme among players, teammates, coaches and scouts in the majors is that the soon-to-be newest member of the Boston Red Sox is going to rake in the American League.
The left-handed hitting first baseman is a good defender and potent at the plate. His presence in the Red Sox lineup will be a major addition to the club, especially at Fenway Park.
"Everything you've read about Adrian Gonzalez is true," said a National League scout. "He might hit 45 to 50 home runs [for Boston]. He hits a lot of balls to left and left-center field, and those are outs in San Diego, but they'll be off the wall, or over the Monster at Fenway."
Adrian Gonzalez will have to adjust to the American League, but the ballparks will serve him well.
"He'll put up some monster numbers, no question," added the scout.
Gonzalez has hit 30 or more homers in each of his past four seasons even though playing at Petco Park wasn't really conducive for his power numbers.
"Even though he hits 30 home runs a year, he'll hit more at a park like Fenway and other American League parks," said the scout.
With Gonzalez in the mix, that means Kevin Youkilis will switch back to his natural position across the diamond at third. Even though Gonzalez's presence means the end of Adrian Beltre's stay in Boston, the Sox won't lose out defensively because of Youkilis' ability to play third.
"Gonzalez is a great first baseman, a Gold Glove-caliber first baseman," said the scout. "He's got a good approach to hitting. He's a total package, a big-time player. He's a big run producer."
Gonzalez is a solid contact hitter and won't strike out a lot. More importantly, especially at Fenway Park, Gonzalez is a solid opposite-field hitter and doesn't try to pull the ball that often.
"Playing at Fenway Park, or some of the smaller parks, a lot of those outs at San Diego will be home runs in the American League. His power numbers are going to go up, and his average is going to go up," the scout said.
Gonzalez has a career .295 average against right-handers and is still able to have success against lefties, posting a .262 mark. He has the ability to hit the ball the opposite way off a southpaw, and he won't give in during an at-bat.
"I've seen him face hard-throwing lefties and breaking-ball lefties, and he hangs in very well," the scout said. "He's not an automatic out or anything like that against a left-hander. He battles left-handers very well."
There will be an adjustment period for Gonzalez since he'll be switching leagues again. He played only 59 games for the Texas Rangers (2004 and 2005) before he was traded to San Diego prior to the 2006 season.
"He might struggle early just because of new pitchers he hasn't faced before," said the NL scout. "That's typical of everybody. Once you go into a new league, you don't know the pitchers or their tendencies. It might take once or twice around the batting order to at least figure out what they're trying to do to you. He's a smart hitter and he doesn't give away at-bats."
Red Sox outfielder Mike Cameron played with Gonzalez in San Diego, and he knows what type of impact he'll make in Boston's lineup.
"After losing Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre, this is the best scenario," Cameron said. "Youk will move from first to third and we won't lose anything. Having Adrian [Gonzalez] is pretty big, and now we have two solid, big left-handed hitters in our lineup with [David Ortiz] and Adrian. This is big."
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Cameron began his career in the AL before switching leagues to play a total of seven seasons in the NL with the Padres, Brewers, Mets and Reds before signing with the Red Sox prior to the 2010 season. He knows there will be an adjustment period for Gonzalez.
"I would think there are some adjustments he'll have to make, like everybody [who switches leagues]," said Cameron. "And then, too, the stakes are a little higher now. That's not to say they weren't high in San Diego, but now [winning] is expected to be done all the time. Now, it's about making sure he's comfortable, so he can go out and do his thing."
Cameron believes Gonzalez will fit in nicely with the Red Sox, both on and off the field.
"Oh, yeah," he said.
Padres first-base coach Dave Roberts is a former Padres teammate of Gonzalez's and an ex-Red Sox player. Gonzalez spoke with Roberts, one of the heroes of the 2004 World Series team, and asked him what it's like to play in Boston.
"He's at the peak and prime of his career, which is going to be great," said Roberts. "I've talked to him numerous times about my experience in Boston, and I knew if this opportunity did present itself, he would be very excited to be a Red Sox. I think a lot of him as a player and as a person. Boston is going to be an amazing experience for him."
Gonzalez has proven himself to be a workhorse, which fits the mold in Boston. He's missed only 11 games over the past five seasons.
"Adrian's a character guy," Roberts said. "I've been around a lot of guys who are boisterous, but Adrian is more reserved. He's more even-keeled and just wants to go out there and play every single day."
Because Roberts has spent time in both organizations, when he learned what the Padres were getting in return for Gonzalez, he seemed satisfied with the deal.
"I think it's a great deal for both parties," he said.
"[Fans] are going to enjoy watching [Gonzalez] on a nightly basis," Roberts said.
Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.