Meaningless Spring Stats: The Yan Gomes Example

Every year it happens in spring training: A previously unknown (by the general fan population and mainstream media) minor league player posts dazzling statistics in spring training and everyone starts singing the praises of said player.

This year it happens to be catcher Yan Gomes, 24, in the Toronto Blue Jays’ spring camp. After Tuesday’s game he was hitting .474 with a slugging percentage of .842 in 19 at-bats. A very impressive performance but this is also a very small-sample size. Check out the Twitter love for Gomes as fans interact with Toronto sports radio personality Mike Wilner.

You’re kidding, right? @CharliePride78: @julianmktr The Jays would be STUPID if they don’t at least put Gomes on roster, as bench plyr!!!

Sample size, please. @CharliePride78: @Wilnerness590 @julianmktr The guy can play 3-4 different positions, he seems 2 be a gr8 hitter!!!

To get a better read on the backstop we have to look to his minor league career, as well as his scouting report. The problem with Gomes, who was drafted out of division II Barry University in the 10th round in ’09, is not his raw ability as much as it is in his approach. His mentality at the plate is what I like to call ‘hack-tastic.’ In his first full season in pro ball in ’10 he walked just 12 times in 259 at-bats. On the plus side he more than doubled that in 2011 at double-A (hitting just .250) but it remains to be seen if the approach sticks.

He’s a free-swinging player whose overall offensive ceiling is limited by his over-aggressive nature, which prevents him from working himself into hitter’s counts and getting better pitches to drive. One of the reasons that spring training stats are more or less useless is that players like Gomes often appear late in games against other minor league players and pitchers – or appear in split squad games which, again, feature a lot of minor league players. As well, big league pitchers are often “working on things” or getting themselves into game shape so you often don’t see the same pitcher that you’d see during the regular season.

Gomes has certainly opened some eyes this spring, rightfully so or not, but he faces a stiff challenge in reaching the Majors in an organization that features a young stater at the big league level in J.P. Arencibia (whom Gomes played with at Tennessee before transferring to Barry), as well as four highly regarded catching prospects: Travis d’Arnaud, A.J. Jimenez, Carlos Perez, and Santiago Nessy. Defensively, Gomes entered pro ball with a reputation for being an average-at-best fielder at the college level. He probably doesn’t have the defensive chops to be an everyday player behind the plate but could probably stick as an offensive-minded back-up who can also play a little first base and third base.

I’m sure it’s been an exciting time for Gomes but fans also need to remember that there are reasons why they haven’t heard about a four-year pro player before in the mainstream media. Scouting reports tend to lie a lot less than small-sample size statistics.




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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.


38 Responses to “Meaningless Spring Stats: The Yan Gomes Example”

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  1. AL Eastbound says:

    Well said. Pump the brakes.

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  2. Garrett Gualberto says:

    Well said. Spring training is just the foreplay to the season – it can be fun, sometimes very exciting but it doesn’t mean you’re going to make it to the the show!

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  3. Steve says:

    Perfect example. As Anthopolous said just yesterday, Gomes is still in camp along with Jonathan Diaz. Both are future utility guys, and they are playing that role in camp. Anthopolous isn’t pumping the tires on this, so hopefully that stops some of the loony Jays fans. (I am a Jays fan)

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  4. Walter says:

    As I recall, Jake Fox led the MLB in homers last spring, but he was mysterioulsy absent from the regular season leaderboard.

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  5. sc2gg says:

    I look forwards to Yan the Man as much as I look forwards to the Jays prorated record of 130-32 at the end of the season.

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  6. Danya says:

    It’s unbelievable how there are people running Major League Baseball franchises this instant who don’t understand the truths laid out in this post. I’d like to force every member of the San Francisco Giants brass to read this.

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  7. adohaj says:

    “He’s a free-swinging player whose overall offensive ceiling is limited by his over-aggressive nature”

    tell that to Vlad!!! he should be on the roster he is a gr8 plyr….no excuses!!!!!

    The format of a twitter comment seems to relate to the intelligence of the person. I just can’t figure out how though…

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  8. Mike Newman says:

    I am a Barry University grade and former member of the baseball team. Yes we are DII, but the Sunshine State Conference can probably compete with most non-major DI conferences and probably the lesser teams in those as well. I do hope he has the opportunity to represent the university as a MLB player at some point, in some capacity.

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  9. Frag says:

    I didn’t even know that Gomes was getting so much love by Jays fans. Good read.

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  10. Someanalyst says:

    As another commenter pointed out on a Jays site, Yan Gomes could totally turn into a poor man’s B.J. Surhoff. Very useful thank you very much. I think he’ll see some AAA time this year so we’ll see if he can hack the breaking stuff.

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    • bluejaysstatsgeek says:

      Precisely. He’ll start at AAA this year and get playing time at 3B, 1B and C. Eventually, his versatility could earn him some time up with the big club if his bat remains productive in Vegas. If so, and the Jays need a short-term replacement, he might get called up because the organization would want d’Arnaud to play everyday rather than backup in Toronto..

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  11. Adam says:

    Really, excitement shouldn’t have even been generated for this guy. His K/BB ratio last year was a putrid 0.25 and his K rate was even worse than Anthony Gose.

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  12. Yan will be the everyday 3rd baseman in Toronto by June.

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    • Bluebird in Boulder says:

      Lawrie to second base!

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      • Beach T-Bird says:

        Lawrie should play wherever he wants, including pitcher. He could just tell Farrell before the lineup is written, hell Lawrie should do that too. Yan should be nice to him if he wants his shot. Get him girls and whatnot ’cause Brett seems kinda shy.

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  13. Canadabaseba says:

    Give the kid some credit…
    He had two doubles off Cole Hamels and one off Contreras, I don’t think those are minor league pitchers.
    I’ve been watching Gomes since he had an impressive year last year. Always fighting for playing time behind D’arnaud, he always seems to produce with the little time he gets.
    You also have your facts wrong about he’s defense to me that’s his most valuable trait… Last year he threw out over 36% of base runners.
    For him and his career I doubt this sprig was anything but meaningless. His ambition to get playing time will pay off- like John Farrell said he will at in the big leagues.
    http://jaysprospects.com/2011/08/23/go-go-gomes/

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  14. Bob Knowles says:

    He sure does seem to have a lot of people talking.

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    • Canadabaseba says:

      Just pointing out the good qualities in the kid. I don’t understand why you can’t just say he’s had an impressive spring. Such a pessimist. I would wish anyone who has worked as hard as him and gotten the short end of the stick the best of luck. To each their own I suppose.

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      • Canadabaseba says:

        His comment was directed at Steve not you Bob.

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      • Steve says:

        No, never said he didn’t post impressive spring numbers. And fellow Jays fans get way to worked up over numbers and not evaluations that its sad and embarrassing. Yan has been one of my favourites and he hasn’t gotten the chance he deserves be it in Dunedin last year or New Hampshire this year. Not that I don’t wish him luck, I just loath 90% of my fellow fans of the Jays.

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  15. TtD says:

    He’s a fringe prospect whose hit well enough in fractured pieces of playing time. If he can play 3B at a consistant level as well as catch he may see some time with Toronto as a utility guy and work from there. He’s never really been given a chance to prove himself fulltime in the minors, so he’s still an utter unknown in terms of ability, but the swing has some potential at least.

    Really the only major reason he’s getting attention is that he could be the first Brazilian major leaguer, it’s a good story to waste spring print space.

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  16. everdiso says:

    Many Jays fans have a bit of a crush on 1B M.McDade, but Gomes hit just as well as him last year in AA at the same age (but with more patience and power), and seems to have stolen what most thought was McDade’s slot at 1B/DH in AAA this year with his hot spring, as McDade has now been sent down to AA.

    Not sure the catcher position is important when discussing Gomes.

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    • Sniderlover says:

      Jays fans have a man crush on McDade?

      Not sure why Jays fans are getting so excited over fringe prospects where there are actually good ones.

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    • JayTeam says:

      They’re both fringe prospects, but not the same age. McDade is almost 2 years younger. Plus LaCava has already said it will be Cooper and McDade splitting time at 1B/DH.

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  17. AIS says:

    The Jays have been digging Yan’s chops for a while now. They sent him to the Arizona Fall League for more seasoning last year, and he has spent much of his minor league career backing up the likes of D’arnaud et al. As a result he has worked himself around the diamond, earning playing time with his bat. After having seen him this spring, Yan could be a useful piece to several team’s puzzles if the timing is right and the wind blows his direction. Yan didn’t exactly come out of nowhere, for hardcore jays fans that is.

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    • Steve says:

      You do realize the Jays sent Kevin Ahrens to AFL too right? I like Gomes, and he has some ability with the bat, but at best he’s Brandon Inge without the defense at 3rd.

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  18. Ryan says:

    I’d rather see Gomes backing up JP. Is any fan excited to see Mathis starting 50 games?

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  19. G8R says:

    The author and most the commentors have no clue. Yan Gomes is a diverse player, great athlete, who can catch, play the corners, and hit. This leads to long careers because the roster can be filled with another two other players

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  20. Joe says:

    Gomes just got the 1B gig on the MLB club after raking at AAA. Sometimes sample size means the kid can step up when given the shot…

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  21. George says:

    I hope he gets a couple AB’s. By doing it, he’ll be the 1st ever Brazillian player to appear in the Bigs. Watchout folks, the “Seleção” is coming =]

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