Cleveland Guardians: It's not time to panic about Oscar Gonzalez... yet

Apr 4, 2023; Oakland, California, USA; Cleveland Guardians right fielder Oscar Gonzalez (39) reacts
Apr 4, 2023; Oakland, California, USA; Cleveland Guardians right fielder Oscar Gonzalez (39) reacts / Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

It almost doesn't feel right publishing this just because it is so early in the season. It's pretty unfair to make broad assessments of a player's season just eleven games in, but hey, let's do it anyway to Cleveland Guardians right fielder Oscar Gonzalez.

The 25-year-old Gonzalez has quite the interesting hitting profile. The 6-4, 240-pound right-handed hitter looks like a prototypical power bat, but as Cleveland fans know, that hasn't really been the case to this point.

In his rookie season, Gonzalez hit groundballs about 50% of the time, and was ultimately rewarded with a .296/.327/.461 line. He maintained a .345 BABIP, which suggested a bit of luck, but he still had a .279 xBA and could really crush the ball when he got into one - after all, he did hit 27 doubles and 11 homers in 382 plate appearances.

Gonzalez doesn't strike out like a player of his size, nor does he really ever walk. So he's essentially always putting the ball in play, which lines up with Cleveland's brand of baseball. But that means there are going to be times where Gonzalez is perhaps a bit more unlucky and balls simply won't find a hole.

The case in point to start 2023 is that Gonzalez sports a .200 BABIP and .240 xBA, which suggests that his .161 batting average stands to improve here soon - hopefully. He's still hitting the ball hard, but he's also hitting more grounders and fewer line drives to start the season.

All this is to say that Gonzalez is off to a disappointing start, and it looks like he's about to lose some playing time to Will Brennan against righties. The interesting thing there is that Gonzalez actually hit right-handed pitching better in 2022 - .308/.337.470 against righties and .266/.304/.440 against lefites.

So very quickly, Gonzalez is finding himself in a bit of a squeeze, which may or may not affect how he approaches the playing time he does get moving forward. The Guardians are in a good enough place offensively right now that Gonzalez's early struggles haven't affected them much, and once he does lock in, the team will be that much better.

Given the small sample size of this year, there's a very good chance Gonzalez will sort himself out soon and be just fine and a very capable bat towards the lower portion of Cleveland's lineup. It's just not time to panic about him. Not yet.