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Milwaukee Milkmen sign former big leaguer Miguel Gomez

He’s a pure hitter without a true defensive home.

Cleveland Indians v San Francisco Giants Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Milwaukee Milkmen had a pair of former big league ballplayers suit up for them during their inaugural season in 2019. Former Indians and Blue Jays hurler TJ House was a rotational stalwart for the Franklin Nine before getting dealt midseason to Kansas City. Later on in the summer, the team inked Manny Corpas — who pitched in the World Series as a member of the Rockies in 2007 — out of the Pecos League to join the bullpen for the final month of the season. Corpas is set to return to Milwaukee in 2020, and he will now be joined by another player who has previously reached the show — soon-to-be 27 year old infielder Miguel Gomez.

Unlike the highest-profile international free agents, who typically sign as soon as they are eligible once they turn 16 years old, Gomez agreed to his first professional contract with the San Francisco Giants in late 2011 shortly before his 19th birthday. He was originally a catcher when he began his career, but never really took to the position and spent his first three seasons in the Dominican Summer League as he and the Giants searched for a defensive home. But after batting .315 and .318 (with wRC+ marks of 153 and 135) during consecutive seasons in 2013 and 2014, the Giants finally decided it was time to bring him stateside in advance of his age-22 season.

Gomez continued to pile up base hits at every stop he made while climbing up the minor league ladder. He batted .319 with a 119 wRC+ in the short-season Northwest League in 2015. The following year, his first at the full-season level, he hit a combined .330/.363/.519 in 467 plate appearances split between A-ball and Class A-Advanced. It was on to Double-A Richmond in 2017, and after torching opposing pitchers to the tune of a .305/.330/.458 slash in 78 games, the Giants decided to skip Miguel over the Triple-A level and call him up directly to the majors.

Gomez made his debut as a pinch-hitter on July 7th, 2017 against the Marlins, and two days later he collected his first MLB hit, a pinch-hit RBI single off of Kyle Barraclough. He didn’t get much run with San Francisco in 2017, earning a start only four times in 22 games played before going down with a knee injury in August that effectively ended his season. He accumulated 34 plate appearances and recorded eight hits, including two doubles, along with a .242/.235/.303 slash line (yes, you read that right — Gomez drew zero walks and had a lower OBP than batting average).

Gomez returned to Double-A to begin 2018 and was there until mid-May, when he received a return call to the big leagues. Once again, he served mostly as a bench piece, starting two games and appearing as a pinch-hitter in seven others. He recorded four singles in 15 plate appearances before getting booted back to the Double-A for another four weeks. At the end of June, he advanced to the Triple-A level for the first time, where he would finish out the remainder of the campaign.

Gomez hit for a decent enough batting average in 63 games for Sacramento, finishing at a .273 clip in 236 plate appearances. But he only walked twice and hardly hit for any power, as evidenced by an .095 ISO. His .273/.280/.368 slash line translated to a well below-average 65 wRC+. With a new front office regime lead by Farhan Zaidi put into place in San Francisco following the conclusion of the 2018 season, the decision was made to move on from Gomez and he was outrighted off the 40-man roster and granted free agency, concluding (for now) his affiliated baseball career.

His MLB slash line of .250/.245/.292 is not much to write home about, but Gomez’s work across the minor leagues provides a much better idea of what he’ll bring to the table in the American Association. In 506 games and 2,052 plate appearances across seven seasons in the Giants’ system, Miguel finished with a .307/.339/.455 slash line along with 45 home runs and 121 doubles. All together, it adds up to a 121 wRC+.

Baseball America heaped praise on Gomez’s hitting ability while ranking him as San Francisco’s 23rd-best prospect following his MLB debut season in 2017. “Other than Christian Arroyo, Gomez is the purest hitter in the Giants’ farm system,” BA’s scouts said at the time. “Gomez projects as a plus hitter with average power thanks to excellent hand-eye coordination.” Baseball Prospectus referred to him as “a bad-ball chaser with the ability to produce consistent contact nonetheless” in their Annual prior to the 2018 season.

Putting the ball in play is the name of the game for the switch-hitting Gomez when he is at the dish. He recorded a mere 12.9% strikeout rate in the minors, though that was accompanied by an anemic 4.1% walk rate. Even so, he has always had a knack for finding holes in the defense, posting a career .335 batting average on balls in play. Miguel hit 17 home runs during in 2016 but that is so far the only season that he’s topped double-digit dingers, and his solid raw power perhaps plays down a bit because of his approach. Gomez is more of a ground ball and line drive hitter who doesn’t often lift the ball into the air, which can make it hard to clear fences. He has been a regular source of doubles, however, and it’s hard to argue that he should change his approach for more fly balls after he hit over .300 in five of his seven minor league seasons (and .291 in another).

The biggest reason as to why Gomez is no longer in affiliated ball is likely the fact that after all these years, he still hasn’t found a place on the diamond where he can thrive defensively. Standing at 5’9”, he is considered to short to play first base. He has spent some time at third base but most of his defensive reps have been at second. A plodder at 206 lbs, BA described his work at the keystone as “below-average defensively thanks in part to his heavy feet, below-average speed and poor range.” Fortunately the Milkmen will have the option of utilizing him as their designated hitter, where he can let his lumber do the talking.

If his career numbers in the minors are any indication, Miguel Gomez has the type of hitting profile to flourish in the American Association in 2020. His addition should provide yet another high-impact bat for the Milwaukee Milkmen, who so far during the winter have done a marvelous job aggressively revamping their starting lineup for the upcoming season.

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference