Did Tito's weird love affair with Will Brennan sabotage Oscar Gonzales?

 He was the hero of last year's playoffs.  As a rookie, Oscar Gonzales came out of nowhere in the 2022 season to provide a much-needed right-handed power bat to the Guardian's line up.   

Gonzales hit eleven home runs and twenty-seven doubles with forty-three RBI in 362 at bats for the season.  He also hit for average - just under .300.    Yet, a slow start to spring training was allowed to completely derail Oscar's momentum from 2022 and to place him in an odd platoon with mid-level prospect Will Brennan.

Oscar Gonzalez (52649752374) (cropped)
Oscar Gonzales finds himself the odd man out after being a 2022 savior.

Brennan has totaled only 20 homers over six minor league stints.  His career minor league batting average is .296 -- exactly what Gonzales hit in the major leagues in 2022.

Brennan has moved quickly through the Indians farm system.  He improved at every step in the minors and had a good AAA campaign in Columbus last year.  But it was not the kind of season that warranted forcing his way onto a playoff-level team's roster and relegating Gonzales to platoon duty after his promising 2022 season.

Did Brennan have the kind of 2023 spring training that should have catapulted him into the Guardians' line up?  Not really.  

Brennan hit .271 with one homer in spring training.  His on base percentage was under .300 and he registered 8 strike outs in 48 at bats.   Yet, Tito cared so much about the kid that he asked management for early permission to tell Brennan he'd made the Guardians' opening day roster to calm him down.

Francona's affinity for Brennan appears to be more than just an appreciation of what he can do on the field.   Brennan has serendipity on his side.

An eight-year-old Will Brennan left a lasting impression on Francona when at a game in Kansas City he asked then Red Sox skipper Terry Francona for his autograph.   After receiving Tito's autograph, Brennan asked if he could get Dustin Pedroia to sign something for him and Tito made some unfriendly comments.  Apparently, the memory has invested Brennan with some good will.

Too bad for Oscar Gonzales that his dad didn't get Oscar seats close enough to the dugout to ask a manager for his autograph.

Because of the presence of Brennan on the major league roster and Tito's desire to get him at bats, Oscar became a right-handed platoon hitter. He saw limited at bats against right-handed pitchers. Gonzales' total at bats were sporadic and he never got into a rhythm at the plate. 

Did it make sense to make Gonzales a platoon player?  Again, not really.

In 2022 Gonzales hit .308 against right-handed pitchers with 6 home runs and 23 doubles.   He had almost twice as many at bats against righties as compared to lefties.  Gonzales hit a higher percentage of home runs per at bat off of left-handed pitching, but was statistically better against righties in almost every other category.

Brennan was first reported to have made the team as a bench player behind Straw, Kwan and Gonzales.  Tito had different plans, however, essentially making him the third outfielder from the jump by platooning him against right-handed pitching. There are just more right-handed starting pitchers in the MLB.

It probably didn't help that Brennan produced some fools gold at the beginning of the season only to become a Mendoza line level hitter who lacks power.

With Gonzales and Brennan struggling and hitting an identical .191, the Guardians chose to keep Brennan on the major league roster and to option Gonzales to the minors.    Maybe it would be easier to stomach Brennan's continued existence on the major league roster if it came down to a "what have you done for me lately" choice.   But in Brennan's case, the answer to that question would have been a big fat nothing at the time of the decision to option Gonzales to triple A.

Upon optioning Oscar, Tito made a comment about his lack of plate discipline.   While that is true, Brennan has a similar amount of strike outs in a similar number of at bats, while lacking the power upside.  Like Gonzales, he doesn't really draw walks either.

Maybe this is the right choice.   Maybe Gonzales returns to triple A, refines his strike zone a little and regains his success from 2022.   But to be honest, this feels like more a farewell than a see you later to the man that elated the Guardians' post-season crowd to sing-alongs with Spongebob Squarepants.   It also feels similar to the Indians of old parting with guys like Brandon Phillips, Gio Urshella or Yandy Diaz to give time to inferior players.   Okay, maybe more like a Jesus Agular-level mistake -- but that one still stung for a few years.   

What we seem to be finding out is that Will Brennan is one of Francona's guys while Oscar Gonzales is not.  I'm just not sure this that is not the case for emotional (as opposed to sound baseball) reasons.

Did Tito's weird love affair with Will Brennan sabotage Oscar Gonzales? Did Tito's weird love affair with Will Brennan sabotage Oscar Gonzales? Reviewed by AT Dawgger on 1:43 PM Rating: 5

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