What's Tony Gwynn's upside?

Tony Gwynn is 26 years old and, barring some unforseen circumstances, in a month the Brewers will either have to put him on their roster or designate him for assignment. He was a second round pick in 2003, and has played six seasons in the Brewers organization.

Obviously, Gwynn becomes more interesting because of his last name. He's the son of a Hall of Famer. But the similarities between Young Tony and his father end at the last name. Tony Gwynn Sr. was a big leaguer for the first time at 22, and posted the first of his 20 consecutive seasons with an OPS+ over 100.

TGJ, on the other hand, has accumulated just 246 major league ABs over the last three seasons, and has hit .248/.300/.298 in those appearances. In the minors, Gwynn had the best season of his career in 2006, posting a .300/.360/.396 line in Nashville. In 2007, his OPS dropped from .756 to .693, and in 2008 it fell even farther, to .659. I've posted this before but it's worth noting again: Gwynn's 2008 major league equivalent was a .243/.286/.286 line.

Gwynn could probably get away with a low OPS in the major leagues if he was an elite defensive center fielder or had tremendous speed. Gwynn's speed isn't bad (20 SB, 6 CS in 2008, 137 SB and 53 CS in his minor league career), but it's not good enough to build a career around. Defensively, Minor League Splits estimates Gwynn's defensive value as 7 runs above average in center field in 2008. That's not bad, but it's not enough to make up for Gwynn's offensive struggles.

This spring, Gwynn faces competition from Chris Duffy, Jason Bourgeois and Hernan Iribarren in center field. If he can't beat them out for a spot as the fifth outfielder, he'll have to clear waivers to be sent back to the minor leagues.

Simply put, it's decision time for the Brewers. And it's decision time for you too. Vote in the poll below.

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