Plate discipline helping Carlos Gonzalez make an early impact in Rockies lineup

Mar 31, 2018; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Colorado Rockies right fielder Carlos Gonzalez (5) hits a single against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the sixth inning at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado Rockies three-time All-Star Carlos Gonzalez was at a crossroads at the end of last season. 2017 was the worst statistical season of Gonzalez’s career, and the result had his future in limbo.

Hitting the free agent market last offseason as a 32-year-old outfielder potentially past his prime, many teams around baseball viewed Gonzalez as a shell of what he once was — including a NL batting champion and an All-Star as recently as 2016. As a result, Gonzalez was unable to find a long-term deal on the open market; it ultimately led him to re-sign with the Rockies on a one-year deal worth $5 million (with up to $3 million more to be earned in incentives).

The deal has allowed Gonzalez to play with the Rockies for an additional season while trying to reset his value when he hits free agency again in the fall.

So far in 2018, Gonzalez has done a nice job in the early going at putting together competitive at-bats and producing for Colorado. Although his .267 average is below what he might have hoped, Gonzalez has caught the attention of Rockies manager Bud Black.

“Overall, he’s got a pretty good approach,” Black said. “What I’ve seen different than a year ago, in most of his at-bats, I’m seeing him layoff breaking balls out of the zone, laying off some of the inside fastballs teams are trying to throw him. So, I think better swings on pitches he can do damage with.”

Gonzalez saw the ball well in the Rockies’ home opener against the Atlanta Braves Thursday as he accounted for three of Colorado’s four runs. Gonzalez drove home Nolan Arenado with an RBI triple and then blasted his first home run of the season in his following at-bat. Black referred to both hits as “rockets.”

Gonzalez seems a lot more comfortable this season compared to last. Although there is no one reason to explain his struggles in 2017, the pressures of playing in a contract year understandably could have contributed. Gonzalez seems a lot looser so far this season and seems to be happy playing in Colorado again. With his lightening up a bit, his approach at the plate has also improved. He seems far more poised and disciplined, which has helped the Rockies so far in the young season.

“I’m seeing the approach that can’t change from at-bat to at-bat,” Black said of what he’s seen from his right-fielder. “He’s in a much better spot.”

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