Before I begin this article, in place of the necessary disclaimer, allow me to flash you back to mid-May of last season. In case you don’t remember, the Cardinals minor league affiliates started their seasons late, which is why we’re flashing back to mid-May and not mid-April. Through his first seven games, journeyman Max Moroff had come to the plate 34 times and gotten on base 22 times, which included three doubles and four homers. His slash line was .538/.647/1.115 for a 345 wRC+.
Max Moroff was promoted to the big leagues, and promptly struck out 10 times in 16 plate appearances. Now, I believe at least a couple of those plate appearances were injury-related, but he does have a career 36.5% K rate in his MLB career (260 PAs), so it wouldn’t exactly be out of the norm for him to be unable to make contact against MLB pitching. This is not a criticism of their decision to promote him - they needed an infielder - but simply to illustrate the small sample size we’re dealing with.
With that out of the way, Moisés Gómez is off to an insane start that is worth mentioning. Gómez is doing it at Springfield, not Memphis, but also he’s not 28, which makes it infinitely more interesting. We did not need to learn Max Moroff was a AAAA player, we already knew that. Gómez is not known, at least hypothetically. He could become something.
I’m in paragraph four and haven’t actually told you what Gómez has done. Through 8 games, Gómez is batting .433/.469/1.100 line. As of this writing, I do not have his actual wRC+, but I can tell you that a 3 for 5 day yesterday made his hitting line worse, if you can believe that. His OBP barely improved, but his slugging declined 100 points. He has a 285 wRC+ without yesterday’s 3 for 5 day (which were all singles), it probably won’t decline much from that. Just an unfathomably good start.
Here's Moises Gomez's homer from last night. 106 MPH off of the bat. His 6th of the season in 6 games. He hit this a mile high pic.twitter.com/WKTKH4HJc2— Kyle Reis (@kyler416) April 17, 2022
It is important to note that Moisés Gómez is new to the Cardinals system. He was a recent minor league free agent. So if you don’t know who he is, that’s perfectly normal. If you’re someone who doesn’t check the Cardinals daily updates or follow Kyle Reis on Twitter, chances are pretty good this is the first time you’ve seen his name. And even if you have been made aware of his hot start, you might not have thought anything about it.
Moises Gomez is a slugger. His 4th homer of the week, 5th of the season. pic.twitter.com/KnwgKjuE7p— Kyle Reis (@kyler416) April 16, 2022
Gómez was signed absurdly young by the Tampa Bay Rays in April of 2015. He was signed out of Venezuela and as such, he played his age 16 - yes age 16 - season in the Venezuelan Summer League, which I believe is a lower talent level than the Dominican Summer League. Which itself is already a league whose stats need to be taken with a grain of salt. But he had a 153 wRC+, which was enough to get him sent to the United States for his next season.
He stayed in rookie ball at 17, being sent to the Gulf Coast League and struggled. Nothing too bad and again, he’s so young that he’s even young for this level, which is hard to do in a league of 18-year-olds, so I don’t think the Rays were too concerned when he had an 81 wRC+. He was sent to the Appy League at 18, and his numbers did improve - a 97 wRC+ - although it did come with a below average BB rate and a .342 BABIP. But it was enough to land him on “others of note” from John Sickels from the extremely deep Rays farm system of 2018.
He broke out in 2018. At 19-years-old in Low A, Gómez hit 19 homers in 122 games. He had a 131 wRC+. One future issue emerged in the process and that was his inability to make contact consistently. He struck out 26.6% of the time. But he had great power. Not only did he hit 19 homers, he doubled 34 times and tripled seven times. He hasn’t come close to that .223 ISO in any other season of his minor league career.
On Fangraphs list of prospects for the 2019 season, Gómez was ranked 13th. No small feat on that list by the way - Wander Franco (#1), Vidal Brujan (#4), Brandon Lowe (#5), Jesus Sanchez (#6), Nick Solak (#9), Shane Baz (#10), and Nate Lowe (#12) - to say nothing of the injury-derailed Brent Honeywell (#3) and Brendan McKay (#2), plus current Cards prospect Matthew Liberatore (#8). He was a legit prospect.
His one issue in Low A became a real big issue in High A. His strikeout rate rose from 26.6% to 33.5%. He did see an uptick in his walk rate, from 6.6% to 9.8%, so that was a positive change. But not enough to make up for that K rate. It also didn’t help that his BABIP dropped from .350 in Low A to .302. Even still, he had a 106 wRC+ thanks to his power. His .182 ISO was a noticeable drop, but I’m assuming like Palm Beach was for the Cardinals, the Rays High A stop is also a tough place for hitters.
Then the pandemic happened. He was understandably not included in the 60 player pool, although I don’t think he was invited to spring training either. Nonetheless, he did get an invite to spring training in 2021 and he was sent to AA. Things went poorly. His offensive performance absolutely cratered. His strikeout rate rose even further to 38.2%. Worse for him as a player was that he lost his power. His ISO dropped to .138. He hit just 8 homers in 301 PAs.
The MLB site says that the Montgomery Biscuits released him, but he had also spent parts of seven seasons on a minor league team, so I’m pretty sure he was automatically declared a minor league free agent. He played six games in a Venezuelan Winter League, where he batted .381 with a homer and .435 OBP. He did also strike out 5 times in 21 PAs. The Cardinals signed him in November, before the lockout.
And now you’re up to date. To to the extent that we can read into 8 games, what can we read into these 8 games based on his history?
His main talent as a prospect, and some may even argue his only real thing that made him a prospect seems to have returned: his power. His power was such that a 33.5% K rate with a non-elite walk rate or an especially good BABIP still gave him an above average hitting line in High A. Fangraphs Prospect Report, which I’m not sure is up-to-date has his raw power as a 60. These six homers didn’t come out of nowhere.
On the other hand, that would be really my only conclusion. His plate approach numbers don’t really indicate he’s a different hitter. His 28.1% K rate right now would be a serious improvement, but also he’s on an insane hot streak and that’s almost certainly going to rise when he cools off. I would be pretty surprised if he doesn’t land above a 30% K rate. He also only has walked twice in 32 PAs, which I’m more forgiving of, because when you’re this hot, you’re not thinking walk. Maybe not the best mindset to have, but he did have 9% walk rates in High A and even when he was terrible in AA last year. A walk tomorrow and he’s got an 8% walk rate.
But I will also say that he’s back on track with his development from three years ago. But being this type of player at 20-years-old, about to reach AA, is a very different thing than being this type of player at 23-years-old at AA. Which is why he’s not really a prospect, at least not yet. Maybe he can improve his strikeout numbers, or at least maintain them at the level they’re at.
It’s honestly not that hard to imagine him being able to crack the MLB on the strength of his power, though it is genuinely hard to imagine that being with the Cardinals. He’s just in the wrong system. They have his type of player all over the system. Jordan Walker, Nolan Gorman, Brendan Donovan, Luken Baker, Alec Burleson, Malcolm Nunez. These are real prospects who are going to make the majors on the strength of their bat and not their defense. How is he gonna crack through this group?
I do love a good story though, and he’s a good story. Plucked from minor league free agency, he improbably becomes a prospect again (hopefully anyway). Just a guy who has absolutely no business being anything but roster filler, but insanely cracks through. Jose Martinez, Jeremy Hazelbaker, and more in his age bracket, Lane Thomas. So I will be rooting for him.